Prioritizing Safety for Youth Living with Disabilities
21 Jun 2022
South Africa, Johannesburg, 20 June 2022- Greater attention needs to be given to persons with disability by promoting full inclusion in society. The month of June in South Africa reminds us of the protests that were taken up by the youth to commemorate the Soweto Uprising of 16 June 1976.
As June pays tribute to the lives lost as well as the role played in the liberation of South Africa we must not forget the youth with disability who often do not get to celebrate the month of June like everyone else. Though International Disability Day is celebrated in December to promote the inclusion of people with disability, it is essential to reflect on the youth currently facing difficulties having disability as we celebrate youth month.
It is important that spaces are created which prioritize the safety of youth with disabilities in South Africa as it is unfortunate that they continue to be marginalized in communities. Though South Africa has attempted to be more inclusive regarding people with disabilities through access to healthcare, education as well as economic opportunities, they are still regarded as an oppressed minority.
Being subjected to social injustice as a person with a disability is no longer restricted to the areas of job creation, social injustice, or education, but it also touches on prioritizing the safety of youth with disabilities. This is in the case of emergencies but also in general accessibility to facilities within multi-story buildings, and homes, without endangering their livelihoods.
Gavin Glass, the Co-owner and CEO of Evac+Chair highlights the different ways to address this matter such that the safety of the youth is a priority, making them less susceptible in any circumstance.
Accessibility can be more inclusive towards youth with disability as there should be no barriers to prevent someone from getting to safety in an emergency. Gavin further adds that this could be avoided by having an evacuation chair on standby as persons with disability will be unable to traverse the stairs in the case of an emergency.
“The floods in KZN have proven why we must be prepared at all times. Though everyone was affected, the most vulnerable were persons with disabilities. I believe it is high time we start prioritizing the safety for youth with disabilities by making sure they are well taken care of in the case of an emergency, be it in malls, workspaces, or schools with the use of an evacuation chair”- Gavin Glass, Co-Owner and CEO of Evac+Chair
Other forms of accessibility can include the use of handrails inside stalls and an increase in width in bathroom stalls both in public and private spaces including homes. Families can prioritize youth with disabilities by being supportive at home. Gavin emphasizes that our homes should be our safe havens and families can show support by installing a wheelchair ramp, installing non-slick seating in both the bath and shower as well as wide doors and hallways to name a few.
Accessibility, however, is no longer limited to entrances and existing facilities and buildings but also in health care systems such as universal health coverage without financial hardship and access to cross-sectorial public health interventions such as sanitation services. The inclusivity and prioritization of youth with disabilities must be emphasized as June will end up becoming another meaningless month of the year.
As we celebrate youth month, South Africa should have the disabled youth at heart and find ways to break the stigma and the marginalization of the disabled.
Evac+Chair, situated in South Africa is a local manufacturer and distributor of the world’s number one Stairway Evacuation Chair. The Evac+Chair is designed to help descend mobility-impaired people/persons with disability downstairs in an emergency evacuation when the lifts for safety reasons, are shut down. With over 20 years of experience, Evac+Chair is the leading specialist in emergency evacuation, ensuring customers comply fully with health and safety regulations. Evac+Chair services range from providing specialist equipment to delivering specific training and essential maintenance.
The business is a proud brand that promotes the rights of people with disabilities, particularly when it comes to safety. It has been involved in various projects including a collaboration with Ladies On Wheels – an organization that looks into changing the narrative of people with disabilities. The #MySafetyMatters campaign with Ladies On Wheels was aimed to help create awareness about the safety of people with mobility impairments when it comes to multi-story buildings.