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Including the “disabled” into society as a whole should be the norm, not the exception. Susan Reynard reports.

Did you know More than one billion people – approximately 15% of the world’s population or one in seven – live with some form of disability, and some 80% of those people live in developing countries. (Source: United Nations)

Musa Motha captivated audience at the 30th and final annual Dance Umbrella in Johannesburg in March. © John Hogg


t opening night of the Dance Umbrella in Johannesburg, Musa Motha, a member of the Vuyani Dance Theatre, danced solo and in a group. He is a mesmerising performer and athlete. And he has only one leg, dancing the Mayhem piece choreographed by Gregory Maqoma sometimes on crutches, sometimes not. What starts out as a surprise, a novelty even, is quickly normalised by Musa’s fluidity and interaction with fellow dancers. The world mourned the death of British Professor Stephen Hawking earlier this year in March, known for his ground-breaking work in physics and cosmology. He developed ALS, a form of Motor Neurone Disease, in 1963 at the age of 21 and famously continued to work, travel, lecture and publish books throughout his life despite being in a

wheelchair and only able to communicate by twitching a muscle under his eye that activated a computerised voice system. The more people living with challenges and limitations – physical, visual, hearing, intellectual – that are integrated into society, the more infrastructure and understanding will be the norm. Danie Marais, Universal Design and Access Manager at the National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), says, “Equitable participation in the life of the community, without restrictions or disadvantages, is a human right that extends to all areas of society and social life. It is the right of different groups of people to have respect for their social position and receive equitable treatment in society.” He says that the application of Universal Design principles is a step

forward in mitigating inadvertent prejudice against people, irrespective of their race, gender, age, faith, political or other opinion and physical and mental limitations. “Incorporation of Universal Design principles also helps in conferring independence and mobility onto individuals. Accessible features are integrated into the overall design process, resulting in better design and avoiding the stigmatising quality of accessible features that are added on late in the process or as modifications after completion. In other words, there is no compromise on aesthetics or usability,” he explains. Universal Design is high on the agenda in government, specifically the National Department of Tourism: Responsible Tourism, and is aimed at everyone, not only persons with disabilities, Danie notes. “Anybody who visits a tourism attraction should have the same experience – no compromise.” It is hard to quantify how many properties truly cater for the needs of the differently abled. Danie says a few hotel groups have embraced access for persons with disabilities, but most do not achieve full Universal Access. Some architects develop greater understanding of what is required after researching the topic. Similarly, some hotels have added universally accessible bedrooms and bathrooms, but the majority of the property may still have accessibility issues.

The Event Issue 04  
The Event Issue 04  

Issue 04 of the Event is brought to you by Film & Event Media. This month we explore the life of exhibition organisers, conferences at casin...