While sharing a "be shady" snapshot wearing shades indoors today, this world sight day I found myself questioning how we treat people with disability especially in Africa.
"Let me take your hand" the voice echoed yet in my head "PITCH BLACK" were the only words that could describe this moment. During this year's entry into 2013 I had the most eye opening moment in Kualar Lumpar during a temporary blindness experience. Dining in the dark is a great way for people to experience what it feels like to be blind. You realize not only how blessed you are to have the gift of vision but above all you recognize that having a disability does not mean that it is the end of the world. During this meal with my friend, we were astonished how we were familiar with some of the things that were presented to us - because it takes learning and experience and these few hours are not enough to call myself a pro. I am not! However, this world sight day I found myself questioning how we treat people with disability especially in Africa.
Having spent a lot of time in Europe, I was amazed that I could catch a bus ride or a train ride with people with disability. In fact they were so mobile, energetic and yes, normal. They were just like me. And sometimes did things better than I did! Back home you rarely see these people outside , it is like we make them become so ashamed of their condition (and even now as I write it puzzles me that I say "these people") These people referring to the disabled. A disabled person being someone who has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day to day activities.
I remember trying to help an old granny into the bus -- she didn't take it so lightly. My impatience to get her on the bus was appalling. In fact had a taken time to think about the scenario -- in about five minutes she would have been nicely seated in the bus and the bus would still have been waiting to leave. Normal people are always waiting at the call to be the dear angels to someone abnormal. Though help is necessary at times; sometimes we need to build a balance. What if we stepped back and started treating every individual as normal. This being said -- it is a necessity for the world to become conducive to the well-being of every person. How are we as nations promoting equality of opportunity between disabled people and other people?
On paper things are working and looking as great as ever. Yet I call for the day we will see more disabled people participating in driving the economy and partaking in decision- making in countries. Look at Zimbabwe in 1992 - this Act below though a great step. 11 years later -- WE MUST DO MORE!
I see my aunty Jessie who has had a mental impairment for more than 30 years. I thank my strong grand-parents and family who have done all it takes to be by her side. Yet if this Act can be upgraded to be more than words and bring life to infrastructure and medical care that will assist in making the life of disabled people normal -- my aunt Jessy and many other disabled people would be making a positive impact in society. Nobody would see them as a nuisance or helpless. I learned that it begins with the most basic things -- like including ramps in public places to ensure wheelchairs are mobile.
In Zimbabwe, although law specifically prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, admission to public places, or provision of services, in practice the lack of resources for training and education severely stunts the ability of persons with disabilities to compete for the already scarce jobs. In a human rights report they stated that the law stipulates that government buildings should be accessible to persons with disabilities; however, implementation of this policy has been slow. Local NGOs worked on auditing and implementing the law during the year. NGOs continued to lobby to include albinos in the definition of "disabled" under the law. Persons with disabilities face particularly harsh customary discrimination. According to traditional belief, persons with disabilities were considered bewitched, and reports of children with disabilities being hidden when visitors arrive were common. I call for the times when we can be proud to work par and par with people with disability and see through that disability but above all I call for the day African countries can implement health care, schools and infrastructure that can push this mindset!
I had the opportunity to learn and meet with some of the amazing disabled people throughout my life and they are doing great and amazing things today.
ZIMBABWE DISABLED PERSONS ACT, 1992:
To make provision for the welfare and rehabilitation of disabled persons; to provide for the appointment and functions of a Director for Disabled Persons' Affairs and the establishment and functions of a National Disability Board; and to provide for matters connected with or incidental to the foregoing.