Hearing Loss Laws in South Africa

December 5, 2016

Brave Beginnings: the legal foundation of equality to promote a climate of inclusion

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South Africa made history with its transition to democracy in 1994. Those who wrote the new constitution were cognisant to the detriment and pain caused by exclusionary laws and restrictions of the past.

Therefore they paid close attention to ensuring that the Bill of Rights was wholly inclusive. Many types of discrimination were forbidden, including discrimination against disability.

As a result of this legislation, disabled individuals have the right to equal access to services and facilities. This law also squarely places responsibility onto employers, service providers, and the government to make certain that their building and services are accessible to those with disability.

In 1998 the South African government produced the Employment Equity act. Coupled with this they released Technical Assistance Guidelines. These guidelines were specifically created to clarify and provide practical examples of how to foster a corporate climate which promoted inclusion of those differently-abled into the workplace.

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Know your Rights

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These legal foundations are of great importance. They are the underpinning needed to reject and if necessary legally fight discriminatory exclusion of any kind. They endorse a climate in which individuals with hearing loss or hearing impairment are able to participate in all aspects of life and help to create a climate in which inclusion is highly valued.

Legal wording in policy documents can be difficult to decipher which can contribute to individuals not understanding and accessing the full scope of their rights. Advocacy group the QuadPara Association has assembled a comprehensive guide to the law entitled Know Your Rights. It is written in accessible language and makes your rights clear.

While we are glad for the work that lawmakers have done; the truth is that on the ground, there is still plenty of work to be done and everyday battles to be won by the SuperHEARoes among us. One of whom is Fanie Du Toit, a committed law and policy activist for the hearing impaired and a bilateral cochlear implant user To see more about the services that Mr Du Toit offers, click here to go to the “Road to Independence” website.

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Baby steps, newborn screening is important

Despite of the progressive legislation, at a fundamental level South Africa still lacks the most effective way to make a difference for those born with hearing loss. Newborn hearing screening is pivotal. Without it: Types of hearing impairment that could be treated are not attended too as they are not diagnosed/diagnosed too late for suitable intervention

 - Children who might be eligible for technologies such as Cochlear- and BAHA implants are not identified.

 - Without suitable hearing devices, children may suffer developmental delays.

 - Speech and language acquisition is negatively affected.

 - Lack of access to services can have harmful effects on quality of life and future opportunities.

Research on this issue has been completed and recommends implementing existing immunization clinics as sites to conduct screenings. This would provide the vital screening & diagnosis to a far greater number of the population than is being currently reached by screening provided by private business in select hospitals. At the time of writing, there was no evidence that the government was applying this recommendation.

Wits University has risen to the challenge and proved to be a SuperHEARo by implementing an innovative new concept called the Hearing Aid Bank. This project loans amplification devices for free to small children who need them. This valuable service is making a difference for many young SuperHEARoes.

Additionally, 94.7, KFM, Cape Talk, The Bidvest Hear For Life Trust, The Netcare Foundation and Tygerberg Hospital are also working diligently to raise awareness and funds to directly address the dearth of services available to South African children.

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Room for Growth

South Africa has room to grow and improve in multiple areas. Preventable Hearing Loss which is as a result of occupational noise is still a problem in some South African industries and workplaces. This requires the attention of legal advocates and individuals speaking up.

Employers and labour unions may need to further examine company culture and ensure their workplaces are truly accessible and free from unlawful discrimination.

Other improvements such as amending existing copyright laws will also contribute toward realizing the goal of having true inclusion. This brief paper advises that this action could advance education and access to knowledge for individuals and learners in particular who experience hearing impairment.

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Raising Awareness

All those who have hearing loss or a hearing impairment in South Africa have the security of a strong legal framework to support their endeavours, which exists as one measure to prevent exploitation and exclusion. This extends to education, employment, or any aspect of service provision.

However, South Africa still suffers from a lack of awareness regarding the importance of newborn and child screening as well as education regarding interventions and treatments which can address hearing loss.

This is of utmost concern as early detection is vital to positive intervention. Just take a look at the great possibilities that schools such as The Carel du Toit Centres and Whispers Centre allow.

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Our Role

Southern ENT is committed to a world where those who are hearing impaired are treated equally. Our team brings world class Cochlear and BAHA technologies to South Africa.

We are here, offering Lifetime sidekick support. If you or someone you love has experienced hearing loss or impairment, consider sharing your story and speaking out to help make the community even stronger.

Engage, Inspire, & Be Heard!

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For any information or advice, please call our offices on 011 667 6243

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