|South Africa`s Integrated National Disability Strategy: The long and winding road to uptake|
|Monday, 20 January 2014 00:00|
Last week’s blog on “Three golden rules to get research into policy” discussed the “evidence to policy divide”, offering three tips on how to cross it. Here, we look at the long and arduous journey of one national policy, from research to uptake.
Having its roots firmly in the struggle against Apartheid, South Africa’s national policy on disability has everything to do with the country’s past. The Integrated National Disability Strategy (INDS) is the product of disability activists emerging directly from the armed struggle, during which many cadres became disabled and took their struggle from politics and the military into the arena of disability. And when during negotiations for a peaceful transition to democracy, a Constitution was being
negotiated, these veterans made sure they were right there at a new front to continue their battle for equality. With an estimated seven to 12 percent of South Africa’s population living with some form of disability, the activists had enough leverage as an electorate to make themselves heard and the human rights and empowerment of people with disabilities thus became enshrined in the 1996 Constitution.
What followed was a period of research by a team that included academics from the University of the Western Cape and leaders from the disability community, and the eventual formulation and publication in 1997 of the strategy document. The INDS was lauded internationally as the most progressive national policy on disability in the world, and subsequently many government departments have adopted policies on disability. The journey from negotiation, research and writing to implementation and uptake has been a long one, and it is far from over.
At the core of the INDS is the notion of integration. Instead of following the “welfare approach” to disability, the team who researched and wrote the strategy document recommended instead the mainstreaming of disabled people across all sectors, government departments, local authorities, schools and tertiary institutions. Progress has been slow but, since then, several departments have drafted and adopted disability policies in compliance with the INDS.
The slow progress towards mainstreaming disability could be blamed on a lack of political will and in some cases even inefficiency, though these are not the only, and certainly not the biggest, factors. The INDS is a strongly symbolic document and to implement it and ensure uptake would be difficult under the best of circumstances. To do so into highly complex and structurally unequal societies may seem like an impossible task. The establishment in 2009 by President Jacob Zuma of the Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities may appear to fly in the face of the original intent of the INDS, but maybe this was a necessary step to speed up progress. Having already straddled three administrations so far, the journey for this particular policy continues.
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