Casual Day ambassadors Benedictor Mokoena (front) and Adri Visser (back) with Alma School learner Angelique Bezuidenhout. Alma School is a school for learners with disabilities in Pretoria and one of the largest schools in the country catering to needs of disabled learners.As Disability Rights Awareness Month draws to a close, Casual Day nears the conclusion of its campaign for the year. But the work is not over, and the organisation is now setting its sights on launching its National Schools Programme for 2016.Schools across the country are encouraged to increase their involvement in the campaign by pairing up with mainstream schools in their area and pledge their support of the 2016 Casual Day campaign.Casual Day project leader Vanessa du Plessis has asked pupils, parents and teachers to make Casual Day one of the stand-out events on their calendars in 2016.Disability Rights Awareness Month began on 3 November and will run until 3 December. 3 December is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities as well as South Africa’s National Disability Rights Awareness Day.“Disability Rights Awareness Month provides South Africa with an opportunity to inspire hope and confidence in the ability of communities and the state machinery to work together in addressing the common challenges facing persons with disabilities and society in general,” explained Du Plessis.She also urged governmental bodies to ensure all public and private schools across the country made it a point to celebrate Casual Day, stating that “schools are a significant aspect of government and schools are where values and morals are inculcated”.Tshilidzini Special School in Limpopo province is the top performer in the country in raising funds for persons with disabilities.CASUAL DAYEstablished in 1995, Casual Day is the flagship project of the National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in South Africa (NCPPDSA).Each year, the project invites all South Africans to dress differently and wear the specially designed Casual Day sticker on an allocated day (this year’s Casual Day took place on Friday, 4 September) in exchange for a R10 donation that goes towards supporting the many organisations relying on the project.Since its creation, Casual Day has grown into one of the country’s leading fundraisers in support of disability awareness and creating a fully accessible and inclusive society for all.With the help of the general public as well as a number of corporate sponsors, Casual Day had contributed more than R222-million to the funding of organisations providing education, assistive devices, shelter and employment to the nearly 15% of the population who had disabilities, Du Plessis said.The total sum of money raised this year will be announced in February 2016.“It is important to note that government funding for NGOs working in the sector is inadequate – and that most of them survive on private donations, which means Casual Day is vital to these services,” she said, highlighting the significance of the project in meeting the needs of people who had disabilities.TIMELY INTERVENTIONA series of studies, said the Casual Day organisers, conducted by the NCPPDSA, Mpumalanga’s Department of Social Development, Statistics South Africa and Casual Day participant Disabled Children’s Action Group (DICAG) revealed the following:Only 42% of the children with disabilities identified in Mpumalanga’s Ehlanzeni, Nkangala and Gert Sibande districts were receiving rehabilitation. (Mpumalanga’s Department of Social Development)Only 33% of these children had the assistive devices they required. (Mpumalanga’s Department of Social Development)Around 59% of these children reported that their caregivers did not know how to apply for an assistive device. (Mpumalanga’s Department of Social Development)Children with disabilities were substantially less likely to attend school than their non-disabled peers. (NCPPDSA)Drop-out rates among children with disabilities that did attend school were significantly higher than those of their peers who are not disabled. (NCPPDSA)There were significant gaps in the child justice system in dealing with cases that involved children with disabilities for a number of reasons, such as witnesses being incompetent because of a break-down in communication. (DICAG)“These figures are shocking and saddening,” said Du Plessis, “but Casual Day brings a huge ray of hope, because the awareness campaign around Casual Day puts a public focus on the needs of persons with disabilities.“We do not only focus on children, but provide funding to the entire age spectrum. For example, Alzheimer’s South Africa raises funds for its research and awareness campaigns through Casual Day.”Through its holistic approach, the Casual Day campaign supports a wide range of beneficiaries including the National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in South Africa, the Deaf Federation of South Africa and the South African Disability Alliance.By continuously raising awareness of the plight of people with disabilities, Casual Day has made strides in transforming our society into one that recognises the positive contributions made by people with disabilities to the country.