In an urgent call to South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, Artscape CEO Marlene le Roux asks to assist the disabled community in avoiding the Coronavirus.
The crisis, Le Roux writes in an open letter, has a devastating impact on the most vulnerable communities in the country, such as the youth and persons with disabilities. “It is incredibly important that as a nation we continue to reach out to these vulnerable persons who have little or no access to services and to provide them effectively with meaningful links to vital resources and services for their survival”.
While Le Roux appreciates Ramaphosa’s leadership in the fight against the virus, she also notes that at a recently held Zoom meeting the members of the Presidential Working Group on Disability were not consulted on the roll-out of a vaccine in the near future. This, says Le Roux, “places the health and lives of persons with disabilities in peril”.
Le Roux, who’s heading ZAM’s partner institution, the Cape Town based Artscape Theatre, was infected with COVID-19 at the end of 2020. As a person with post-polio “I now live with the prospect of contracting the virus again”. She continues: “While I am currently employed and am economically stable, many persons with disabilities, and their parents – particularly in townships and rural areas – are less fortunate and have limited access to medical attention and services enjoyed by most of the privileged parts of the nation.
The WHO only last year declared Africa free from polio due to a vaccination programme. While the vaccine was available at the time of my birth, I was too black to receive it at a white clinic and at three months old I contracted polio.
I respectfully request that we place greater priority on our vulnerable populations, such as the poor, the elderly and persons with disabilities. The recent failings of the SASSA Grant Programme – leaving thousands of persons with disabilities without grant support – are testimony to the fact that the disabled community has not been included in the decision-making process. Please do not let South Africa go on record as being a nation that systematically allows for the inhumane treatment of persons with disabilities. Please insist that those who can afford the COVID vaccine (or who have medical aid) subsidise the individuals that cannot afford it”.