24 May 2016

Feeling your way through PAIA

National Department of Human Settlements' PAIA manual in Braille

It is not common to recognise 11 official languages, most nations only recognise two, but, South Africa is nothing if not uncommon. The Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000 (PAIA) gave effect to the constitutional right for each citizen to use the language of their choosing in an effort to widen access to information. However, when a blind person is confronted with a lack of access to information, how are they expected to exercise their rights? When resources stop short of catering for minorities, can one really claim an achievement of the right to access information?

SAHA was surprised and excited, therefore, to receive a PAIA manual in Braille from the National Department of Human Settlements this month. The Department sent us a copy of the manual to assist any visually challenged person wishing to familiarise themselves with the Act. We consider this publication to be especially laudable given the scarcity of vital legal documents translated into Braille and not being easily accessible by most people.

SAHA excited to receive its first ever Braille PAIA manual

After contacting the Department for further details, we were informed that the project took four months from beginning to completion. SAHA wishes to extend its heartfelt congratulations to Mr Moerane and his team at The Department of Human Settlements for persisting with the project and printing 100 copies for those visually impaired South Africans who wish to better understand their rights around access to information.

Not stopping in their attempt to widen the reach of informational legislation, the Department intends to make their full PAIA manual available through CD’s for future requesters who wish to listen to it. The intention, according to the Department, is “to make departmental information available and accessible to members of the public, thus, promoting transparency, accountability and good governance.” SAHA couldn’t agree more.