Approximately two percent of people are either born with an intellectual disability or will develop one during their lifetime. This figure is far higher than it should be – it is estimated that up to 40% of cases of intellectual disability are preventable. Because the brain cannot recover from injury, intellectual disability is permanent.
Thousands of South Africans live with an intellectual disability. Fortunately, the disabled can be enabled to lead fulfilling lives and to make a meaningful contribution to society. To a great extent, the answer lies in creating employment opportunities with those with disabilities.
South Africa’s White Paper on an Integrated National Disability Strategy and Employment Equity legislation has paved the way for persons with disabilities to enter and stay in the labour market. Government recommends that two percent of the workforce should consist of people who are disabled.
"The reality is that we are very far from reaching that figure as government has failed to reach even less than one percent of their set target over the past five years," reads a statement by Cape Mental Health.
"An estimated 99% of people with disabilities are unemployed and this figure is even higher for those with intellectual disabilities as they are the least considered for employment."
The reluctance of employers to employ people with intellectual disability stems partly from discrimination and ignorance, says the South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH).
Why the intellectually disabled should be employed
The SAFMH lists the following advantages of employing the intellectual disadvantaged:
- By working, the person gains respect, confidence and economic independence
- Earning a salary increases the standard of living of persons with intellectual disability
- The employer can gain from having a lower employer mobility rate and a more stable work force. A person with intellectual disability usually has a high frustration tolerance and enjoys doing work of a repetitive nature – the kind of work that often frustrates other workers.
- Fewer people are dependent on disability benefits as their primary source of income drops. The Government therefore saves on the costs of grants as well as administration.
- Employers can benefit from financial incentives. The Department of Labour offers a wage subsidy for the employment of persons with disability.
Persons with intellectual disability seldom require assistive devices and special architectural considerations.
- Work performed by all workers adds to the gross national product. The employment of persons with mental disability in the open labour market adds to the national economic growth. Income spent contributes towards the economy of the country.
For more information about intellectual disability contact Lucinda Pelston at Cape Mental Health Society at (021) 447 9040 or visit the website www.capementalhealth.co.za.
(Picture: unemployed woman from Shutterstock)