The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has put in place policies and procedures that manage a diverse, multiracial, and multicultural workforce from different designated groups including persons with disabilities, with the aim of utilising its human capital to its full capacity.
Mr Heinrich Johann Putter from Bizzah Makhate Management Area is one of DCS officials with a disability. He said that joining DCS in 1992 was the best decision he ever made. The decision that was reaffirmed by the overwhelming support he received from both management and colleagues when he returned to work after a head-on collision that injured his neck in April 1997.
Johann is a quadriplegia, which is the paralysis of the body from at least the shoulder down. Reflecting on his journey after the accident that took three of his in-laws and had his wife sustain minor injuries, he said it was not easy but he is thankful for his wife’s commitment. “The accident happened six (6) months into our marriage and twenty-four years later, she is still as committed as ever. She wakes up daily without fail to ensure that I get prepared for work. Apart from the support and counselling we received, what really sustained us throughout the years was our faith and belief in God,” said Mr Putter.
Putter’s wife Ina lost both her parents and her sister in the same accident. At the time of the accident her father Jerry Vermaak had been working for the DCS for thirty-three years stationed at a Dog Unit. Johann and Ina are currently staying in the same state-house she leaved in with her parents since she was four years old. “I have no idea, how I was able to go on. At one time we received such negative reports from the Doctors, telling us to prepare for the worst. It can only be God,” she said.
Johann said, “the management area at that time did not have facilities that accommodated persons with disabilities. After my injury, the Department ensured that the statehouse my family and I are staying in, the Mess, Logistics office, Medium B, and the Area Commissioner’s office were modified and made accessible for a person with a disability.
The soft-spoken Johann has been working at the Area Commissioner’s office as a Switchboard Operator since 2003. He uses a special electronic wheelchair with an estimated market value of R80 000.00, the headphones, and a pointing stick connected to the headphones as well as a special telephone stand designed by Bizzah Makhate Workshop to operate unhindered at his workstation. Mr Putter mentioned that although he can move freely from his home to the office, he still depends on his colleagues to assist with connecting his devices.
He speaks highly of the support he has received thus far, which he says has ensured that he contributes meaningfully towards the vision of the Department. He highlighted that he experiences challenges when it rains and is unable to get to the office, which forces him to utilise his annual leave resulting in his leave days getting exhausted quickly. He says the Department can also do more in advancing the technology and devices in helping persons with disabilities to deliver their duties without difficulties.