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People living with intellectual disabilities in South Africa

In South Africa there are at least 2, 5 million people with disabilities who have an impairment leading to difficulties with daily living. People with intellectual disabilities form a significant part of this group, and have traditionally faced a number of different barriers that prevent them from enjoying a decent life and gaining access to the same choices and opportunities as non-disabled people.  The Living Link is the only organisation of its kind in South Africa and has successfully challenged these barriers by advocating for and working towards economic participation, inclusion and social justice for people with intellectual disabilities enabling them to participate in mainstream society.

According to the statistics on Disability an estimated 99% of disabled people are excluded from employment in the open labour market. These extremely high levels of unemployment amongst people with disabilities can be attributed to a number of factors:

1.    Low skills levels due to inadequate and inappropriate education;
2.    Discriminatory attitudes and practices by employers;
3.    Past discriminatory and ineffective labor legislation;
4.    Lack of enabling mechanisms to promote employment opportunities;
5.    Inaccessible public transport;
6.    Inadequate and inaccessible provision for vocational rehabilitation and training;

People with intellectual disabilities are able to provide unskilled or semi-skilled labour, can be trained to cope with highly skilled manual labour and are able to work in the open labour market.

How we originated – The personal touch

The Living Link is a non-profit organisation that supports the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities into society and facilitates their transition from school to work to independent living.
The organisation was founded in 2000 by Julia Wilkinson and Ingrid Menzel, sister and mother of Nadine Wilkinson who has an intellectual disability.  In a society that provided limited services and support for such adults, it was through dedication and perseverance that they themselves taught Nadine essential living and social skills. Their input has contributed to Nadine’s phenomenal level of independence and intellectual growth. Nadine now works and lives independently and is proud to be an actively integrated member of the community.
They were inspired to share their knowledge and allow other such adults to become more valuable members of society…and so The Living Link training center was established to provide these very special people with the opportunity they deserve.

Mission Statement

  • At The Living Link we promise to continuously develop and enhance the potential of intellectually disabled adults
  • Our aim is to nurture the opportunity for full integration and equal participation in mainstream society so improving the quality of their lives
  • We strive to facilitate growth and change by empowering our members, their support network and the community thus creating an environment of understanding, acceptance and possibility

The Living Link Values

Courage does not always roar. Sometimes Courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying "I will try again tomorrow" [Mary Anne Radmacher].
Passion: At The Living Link we are passionate about enhancing the lives of intellectually disabled  young adults through life skill development and the potential opportunity of working in mainstream society.
Empowering: Knowledge is power as Sir Francis Bacon once said : "The knowledge gained through the adult life skill training programme empowers intellectually disabled  adults to realise opportunities and achieve their hopes and dreams."
Family: Together acting as a family we will grow and achieve more than many give us credit for.
Honesty and Integrity: At The Living Link we will engage with each other, the parents and young adults honestly and with integrity to ensure an environment of trust and respect is always maintained.























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