With hundreds of candidates involved in projects at any given time, the Disability Workshop Development Enterprise (DWDE) is helping to improve the lives of those living with disabilities. Based in Cape Town, DWDE offers disability employment support and has been helping to integrate people with disabilities into the workforce for the past 10 years. They work with businesses and assess their needs to help find suitable candidates. The candidates are in turn offered training and education opportunities. DWDE also encourages entrepreneurship projects aimed at teaching candidates the skills required to start their own businesses. This has been a particularly busy year for the organisation, that they have already completed three training programs for 80 candidates in partnership with the City of Cape Town. Sixteeen people with disabilities from as far as Phillipi East, Manenberg, Blue Downs, Hout Bay, Tokai, Khayelitsha, M/Plain, Philippi, Uitsig, Kraaifontein and West Bank were equipped with the skills to start their own sewing business in January. April saw another 16 candidates from Mitchells Plain, Khayelitsha, Western District, Southern District, Northern District, Tygerberg, Eastern District and Klipfontein District receiving training to start their own craft and beading businesses. From January to March this year, 48 candidates from across the peninsula were given the chance to experience on the job mentorship, while also learning administrative skills for a number of different institutions. Apart from these projects, the DWDE also employs people with disabilities to work at the Cape Town International Airport (ACSA), while 100 people will be employed through the Independent Development Trust’s Expanded Public Works Program over the next two years. One of DWDE’s most successful initiatives is their Jobs Fund project which ran in three provinces from April 2013 until March 2016 with the aim of increasing the employability of people with disabilities and giving employers a better understanding of disability. By the end of the project 1168 people had been permanently employed. DWDE beneficiary, Samuel Malusi from Khayelitsha, says he read about the organisation in his local newspaper. The 52-year-old, right arm amputee now works in Epping as a driver and delivers in- house manufactured school furniture. Malusi says the help he’s received from DWDE has made a huge difference to his standard of living. “DWDE changed my life. I’m a working person now.” He says they also taught him not to undermine himself because of his disability. Tanya Galada,24, from Hanover Park is equally thrilled to be working. Although she has psychiatric challenges, Tanya has been working at the Oasis bakery for four years. She got the position through the Expanded Public Works program implemented by DWDE through the Independent Development Trust. “I’m part of the mainstream workforce and financially independent,” she says proudly. Delft’s Siphokazi Qongqo,29, with albinism, is based at the DWDE Claremont office as an intern. She mentions that she has gained confidence and was awarded the chance to follow her dream of going back to school to improve her matric results. “They make me feel important,” she says, adding: “They make me feel like I’m also a human being.” This is a sentiment shared by DWDE beneficiary, Felicity Valentyne, who’s been working at the Lady Michaelis Day Hospital in Plumstead. Valentyne says her dealings with the organisation have been “most fulfilling” and that their staff are some of the kindest, most understanding people she’s ever known. Valentyne,65, suffers from mental illness. “They see what I do as valuable and have unwavering confidence in my abilities to make a contribution. This has enriched me more than I can describe.” Deliwe Mashaba,57, from Gugulethu recycles hangers for a living and has been involved with DWDE’s self-help groups for quite some time. The leg amputee says the organisation has taught her a marketable skill as part of a business cooperative. Nontombi Johanna Banda,64, hasn’t let her crutches stop her from making a valuable contribution to her community. She currently works at the Happy Valley Homeless Shelter, based in Simonstown, after completing a learnership in business management through DWDE in 2012. Banda says the organisation keeps her informed of programs and she’s been able to complete additional training to improve her business skills. In fact, she is so impressed with the work they do, Banda recommends them to everyone with a disability. “I ask them if they know about DWDE and if they don’t, I give them the contact details.” Former drug addict Taryn Hunter,32, from Retreat has a physical disability and was struggling to find work when she came across DWDE. She worked on their Expanded Public Works Program before starting her admin position at Tuv Sud South Africa in Lansdowne. The mother of a two-year-old says she owes her success to DWDE’s belief in her capabilities. “I’ve been employed for three months now and things are looking up for me. I am able to provide for my son and help my parents who are both pensioners.”Thirty-five-year-old Wiseman Fayivisi from Masiphumelele works for DWDE’s office in Claremont and says he’s very happy with the organization where he’s been able to gain more independence. Jade Arendse from Brackenfell and her partner Imraan Barodien, from Mitchell’s Plain are both hearing impaired. The two recently welcomed their hearing baby into the world. Arendse heard about DWDE on the radio and now also works at their Claremont office where she says she’s been able to gain experience as a member of the workforce and learn new skills. “It’s not always easy for people with disabilities to find work, but DWDE helps and makes things easier for them.”Arendse struggled to find work because of her hearing impairment. Despite being competent in many other areas, businesses said they did not want to accommodate someone who couldn’t speak on the phone. Now, she works as a job coach and has helped hundreds of other with disabilities find work across the country. After her own success, Arendse recommended the organisation to Barodien, who’s now found work at a local import business in Montague Gardens. He explains that DWDE makes it easier for companies to recruit people with disabilities and encourages them to broaden their horizons and consider disabled applicants. “DWDE gives disabled people the chance to lead their lives as normally as possible.” Apart from their training and employment projects, DWDE also hosts weekly open days where people with disabilities can find help looking for employment.