25 April 2018

Revitalising the light on access to information

Braille is progressively showing up everywhere and visually impaired or blind members of our community who read braille are more empowered to live fully independent lives. In the past, sadly many expected blind and visually impaired individuals to be fully engaged in society despite their lack of access to information. One could not honestly claim the realisation of the constitutional right of access to information when there was a lack of effort in providing resources necessary to cater for the needs of minority groups in our country.

Today, we praise our country for endorsing and being a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2008, which pioneered the universal recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities on equal basis with others. Ever since the adoption of the Convention, about 161 countries have ratified the convention. Nationally, public institutions are more and more demonstrating the efforts to provide tools, support services and utilities that accommodate all persons living with disabilities. Locally, our society is gradually recognising the need to give equal treatment to all citizens.

In April this year, SAHA received a copy of Promotion of Access to Information Act manual in braille format from the National Department of Human Settlements (NDHS). The manual was sent voluntarily by NDHS without any prior request by SAHA. We are inspired by this diligent and magnificent work done by the NDHS. This manual will assist any blind or visually impaired persons who can read braille. This will strengthen the exercise and furtherance of the right of access to information for those individuals willing to familiarise themselves with PAIA. This is a welcomed contribution from NDHS as majority of other departments seem to be dragging their feet in so far as translating the most important legal documents and instruments into braille. This publication is really commendable and SAHA admires the NDHS's efforts to meet the needs of all members of our community.

We are excited to announce that NDHS intends to make their PAIA manual available also in Audio-visuals, in addition to the existing prints in all official languages and braille. NDHS has shown its determination to uphold the Constitution by promoting equality for all and by ensuring information is made available and accessible to all citizenry of South Africa.

Any visually impaired citizen can now pick up a braille PAIA manual from the Department of Human Settlement and read without the help of technology or a reader. We can only hope that their example will inspire other government to be as proactive and progressive.