On 10 and 11 September 2019, the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, hosted a two-day training workshop on access to justice for persons with disabilities. The training workshop was convened under the title ‘Ensuring access to justice for persons with disabilities: Training for justice personnel on providing accommodations in the criminal justice system’. The workshop forms part of a wider project on access to justice, which the Centre will be implementing in South Africa, Zambia, Namibia and Botswana. Facilitators included experts on access to justice from the Centre and the Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication at the University of Pretoria. In attendance were police officers, prosecutors, magistrates, officials from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, as well as the Department of Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities.

Persons with disabilities encounter numerous barriers to accessing justice on an equal basis with others. Barriers that hinder effective participation by persons with disabilities in the justice system include communication, legal, environmental and attitudinal. One of the ways in which these barriers can be overcome is through the provision of accommodations, which is a fairly new practice all over the world. In light of this, the training workshop was aimed at building the capacity of personnel in the justice system on how to ensure that persons with disabilities are accommodated to enable them to access justice on an equal basis with others, in accordance with article 13 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Themes covered during the training include the global, regional and national legal frameworks for the protection of persons with disabilities’ right to access justice, understanding disability, barriers to effective access to justice by persons with disabilities, overcoming barriers to effective access to justice, the provision of ‘accommodations’ and communicating effectively with persons with disabilities.

This was the first workshop on access to justice that the Centre has hosted and given the overwhelming response from the stakeholders, the Centre certainly looks forward to presenting it again next year.