Removing Barriers
 
 

Programmes over the past ten years have positioned Airports Company South Africa as a leading proponent of supporting mobility within the disability sector. This has always been in support of the company's mantra of 'moving people, changing lives': a natural extension of the company's business. 

Programmes to support this sphere of social responsibility have been exceptionally successful. The Disability Trade & Lifestyle Expo and Conference has become recognised as the leading forum for advancing disability matters.

Ten years of support for Wheelchair Tennis South Africa has resulted in phenomenal success for the sport in South Africa, to the extent that our country is recognised as one of the world's leading proponents of the sport.  

Just as any programme should be reviewed and refreshed, so has the Wheelchair Donation programme been rebranded as the Assistive Devices Donation programme. The intention is to extend support beyond that of mobility to a broader disability sector. This will never detract from the importance of mobility, but now incorporates hearing and sight impairment, as well as those people who are intellectually challenged. 

Airports Company South Africa is proud of its commitment to improving the lives of a sector of society that tends to be largely neglected. The more that airport and stakeholder staff members involve themselves with projects and programmes to assist others, the more balanced our society will become. 

The Airports Company South Africa Trade and Lifestyle Expo & Conference 

The ninth annual Airports Company South Africa Trade and Lifestyle Expo & Conference took place place from 7 – 9 November 2013 at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg.  

The event was aligned with the national Disability Rights Awareness Month programme run by the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, under the theme 'The Right to Universal Access and Design: Break Barriers, Open Doors to realise an Inclusive Society for All - Action through Partnership'. 

The conference drew the participation of approximately 200 delegates from the NGO sector, government departments and private sector employer organisations. The event saw Gauteng's Premier, Honourable Nomvula Mokonyane and other high profile dignitaries from the Department of Transport, the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, the South African Disability Alliance (SADA) and Airports Company South Africa taking to the podium and taking a walkabout to view and interact with different exhibition stands. 

 
Visitors exploring the Expo

Airports Company South Africa continues to be a trail blazer, a leader in corporate South Africa in terms of private sector contribution to the Disability Sector. We challenge other corporates to follow this humble example, for the needs of this sector far exceed the capacity of any individual organisation to carry through," said Premier Mokonyane. 

Speaking at the conference, Airports Company South Africa's Zogan Opperman, Group Manager for Performance and Talent Management, said that the event provided an appropriate platform for the company to improve its services for people with disabilities. "As a responsible company we believe that this conference is a critical platform to enable all the key players in the disability sector to review our country's programmes in respect of supporting and breaking barriers for people with disabilities," said Opperman. 

The Lifestyle exhibition showcased lifestyle solutions and talents of people with disabilities, including wheelchair tennis, scuba diving, floor hockey and technical games. The conference provided a platform for people with disabilities and business and government leaders to find innovative solutions and opportunities in the areas of education, skills development and employment. The exhibition showcased an array of products and services that ranged from mobility aids, home-based care products, therapeutic services and a variety of other aids designed to assist and empower people with disabilities.                                                 

Airports Company South Africa has been the event sponsor for the past nine years. Through its sponsorship, the company has been able to create awareness of the solutions that need to be put in place to improve the environments of people with disabilities, inside and outside their living and working spaces. 

Wheelchair Tennis South Africa  

It is an amazing and insufficiently known fact that Airports Company South Africa's support has enabled the development of a South African sport to the point where it is becoming recognised as a world leader. What makes it even more admirable is that Wheelchair Tennis South Africa (WTSA) is making a really meaningful difference in the lives of more and more people. Disability tends to sideline people, relegating them to social obscurity. The growth of wheelchair tennis in South Africa has changed that for many hundreds of people who have grown their self-respect through involvement in a sport that has only been practised in South Africa for the past ten years. 

There are many extraordinary statistics about the sport in South Africa: for instance, nearly 500 people play wheelchair tennis every week in more than 50 centres across the country. There are more than 60 South Africans in the world rankings, with only Japan having a greater number. Of the world's top ten, under-18 players, six are South African – what does this say for South Africa's potential for success in the sport in the future? 

While the high profile successes of the year under review are sure indicators of the success that WTSA's management of the sport has achieved, the far less visible and underlying development programmes across the country provide the platform for this success.  

 

Coaching programmes are provided by WTSA at about 50 schools and centres throughout South Africa. In 2013, thirty regional and three national camps were held. Players were given additional coaching and competitive opportunities and the coaches and educators were provided with continued education and skills development. Players who excelled at the national camps were invited to participate in the international events hosted in South Africa. 

Two of the biggest events on the international wheelchair tennis circuit are held in South Africa. The Airports Company South Africa SA Open is one of only six Super series events held globally, and the Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open is one of only 13 events at this level globally. Both these events attract players ranked in the top 20 players in the world and also include about 50 players from South Africa.  

International competition is a non-negotiable requirement for top players such as Kgothatso (KG) Montjane, Lucas Sithole and Evans Maripa, and they spend around 20 weeks a year abroad. Up and coming players such as Leon Els, Thando Hlatshwayo, Bongani Dlamini, Sean de Hilster and Thato Tsomole travel overseas twice a year. Two juniors and a coach were sent to a development camp in Europe in August 2013: these players have been identified as having the potential to compete in the Paralympics in 2020.  

The past year was phenomenally successful for Wheelchair Tennis South Africa and its players, laying the foundation for a bright and successful future. WTSA is the first to acknowledge that the growth and success of the sport in South Africa would not have been possible without the long-term sponsorship of Airports Company South Africa.  

The past year's successes exceeded those of any previous year's to such an extent that only the absolute highlights are included in this report. However, a more comprehensive list of the achievements of Wheelchair Tennis South Africa and its players may be viewed at www.airports.co.za/wheelchairtennis

Notable highlights of South Africa's wheelchair tennis players in the past year include: 

  • KG Montjane defeated world # 3, Jiske Griffioen, to take the Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open title, catapulting her ranking to world # six

  • Wheelchair tennis was spectacularly successful at the SA Sports Awards: KG Montjane and Lucas Sithole were both honoured and recognised as Sportswoman and Sportsman of the Year with a Disability and Holger Losch was recognised as the 'Coach of the Year'. In an open category, and as the only person with a disability nominated in this category, Thato Tsomole was awarded as 'Newcomer of the Year'

  • Lucas 'Twister' Sithole became the first player from the African continent to win a Super Series title when he defeated world # 1, David Wagner, to claim the quad's singles title at the British Wheelchair Tennis Open in July

  • In September, Lucas Sithole became a household name, becoming the first African and South African to win a Grand Slam US Open title, and his world ranking catapulted to # two

  • South Africa has three players in the world's top 15: Kgothatso Montjane, Lucas Sithole and Evans Maripa

  • Lucas Sithole won his second Super Series singles title, as well as the doubles title, at the Apia Sydney International Super Series in January 2014. 

In recognition of the extraordinary growth and success of wheelchair tennis in South Africa over just ten short years, Holger Losch received the International Tennis Federation's 'Wheelchair Tennis Coach of the Year' award. Just recognition. 

There is every reason for Airports Company South Africa, its staff members and stakeholders, to take great pride in the outstanding success of the company's long-term sponsorship of wheelchair tennis in South Africa. There is no reason why the sport in this country should not continue to grow and excel, year by year. May we all recognise and rejoice in this programme that has had such a profoundly beneficial effect on members of our society who would otherwise have had scant opportunity for advancement.​

Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge (OCC)

The twelfth annual Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge (OCC) saw 1 041 people with disabilities from South Africa, Britain, Germany, Zimbabwe, Australia and - for the first time – Ghana, race along the streets of George on Saturday, 15 February 2014. Sponsored by George Airport, the Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge brings satisfaction and joy to the wheelchair users, townspeople of George and George Airport staff and their families who take part and support the event every year. 

Airports Company South Africa's commitment to the disability sector, aimed at providing access to people with disabilities, further enhances the integration of people with disabilities into society through the OCC. 

 
Gerrit Hendricks at full speed

Attempting to break records, defend titles and improve personal best results is the exclusive preserve of the serious athletes. However, the OCC is not only about records, it is just as important for the many hundreds of young and old who take part in the five-kilometre fun event. Pushed by volunteers from George townspeople and the airport staff, about 800 wheelchair users took part in this year's event. Amazingly, 99-year old Spasina Jansen, a resident of Rosemoor Old Age Home in George, led all the way in the five-kilometre fun event. Supported by George Airport staff and the 1 000 Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge volunteers, Jansen's participation encouraged entrants of all ages from all parts of the country to complete the event.  

The start of the five-kilometre event

In what was a close finish, South African champion Ernst van Dyk defended his 2013 title in the Hand Cycle Division in the Men's Open Paraplegic 42,2-kilometre Marathon, which he won in a time of 1:08:36. Andries Scheepers was a mere second behind the winner, followed by Stuart McCreadie who took third place. Maclen Dzidzienyo won the Racing Men's Paraplegic Marathon with a time of 2:01:49, followed by Elford Moyo. George Airport's Gerrit Hendricks came third in 2:14:27. Focus, strength, determination and action characterised the top athletes at the twelfth Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge.  

George Airport's involvement in the OCC represents successful collaboration between business and local government, whose combined efforts, based on principles of human rights, dignity and compassion, ensure that people with disabilities continue to have increased access to mobility and inclusion in society.  

Donation of Buses to Hope School  

Hope School, founded in 1929 and situated in Johannesburg's northern suburbs, provides quality education to more than 200 physically disabled leaners from the age of three to Grade 12. The school follows the same curriculum as mainstream schools and matriculants write the National Senior Certificate Exams.

Airports Company South Africa has been involved with Hope School for a number of years through the Wheelchair Tennis South Africa Programme, as well as the Assistive Devices Donation Programme. 

 

 
GM for King Shaka International Airport, Terence Delomoney handing over keys to Mr. Marius Crause, Deputy Principal of  the school

The company's SED committee, led by Chairman Terrence Delomoney, handed over two Toyota Quantum buses to Hope School in Westcliff in September. The buses will ensure that the school can continue to meet growing transportation needs. 

Thanking Airports Company South Africa for the donation, Deputy Principal Marius Crouse said, "Without the buses, many of the learners would not be in a position to attend Hope School as they cannot always make use of public transport with their assistive devices." The two buses have added to the school's fleet and provided them with the means to extend their transport routes, he concluded.