IMPLEMENTING ARTICLE 13 OF THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES IN SOUTH AFRICA: REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS FOR PERSONS WITH COMMUNICATION DISABILITIES
Keywords:communication disabilities, victims, crime, criminal justice system, oral testimony, Article 13, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, justice, procedural and age-appropriate accommodations, South Africa, jurisdictional, human rights model, CRPD, World Health Organisation (WHO), Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977, the Children’s Act 38 of 2005, Child Justice Act 75 of 2008
Research has revealed that persons with communication disabilities are at high risk of becoming victims of crime and are often repeat victims. Most people who are victims of crime turn to the criminal justice system for recourse by reporting the crime to the police and testifying in a criminal trial against the accused perpetrator.However, persons with communication disabilities may find accessing and participating effectively in the criminal justice system difficult. This is because participation in the criminal justice system is predominantly through oral testimony and, more often than not, people with communication difficulties are not offered the correct support to enable them to participate effectively in the criminal justice system. Article 13 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities guarantees the right of persons with disabilities to access justice on an equal basis with others through the provision of ‘procedural and age-appropriate accommodations’. With South Africa as the jurisdictional focus, this chapter will use the human rights model for disability to demonstrate that all persons with communication disabilities can
and should participate in the criminal justice system on an equal basis with others. The article will proceed to suggest specific accommodations which may be made in South African courts to give effect to South Africa’s obligations under article 13 of the CRPD to ensure effective access to justice for persons with communication disabilities.