Thursday, 18 February 2016

I am a voice

It is one thing to speak and another to listen. I could not agree more with Winston Churchill when he asserted that ‘‘Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also, what it takes to sit down and listen.’’ In my few weeks of placement, there is seemingly no gainsay to the fact that society, especially the Tamale community, must have the ‘‘courage’’ to listen to the plight of People with Disabilities (PWDs) in the society. Upon our interactions with many PWDs over the past weeks, their woes are far away from mitigation if not solved. Whereas most of them are refused employment, the few fortunate employees struggle to retain their meagre jobs such as cleaning, shop attendance, dishwashing, etc.

To some, the 2006 Disability Act, which intended to change their story, has been nothing more than an exquisite calligraphy on a slab. What about the 2% District Assembly Common Fund? That, according to most PWDs, is a story they could never finish telling. In fact, in the words of Zak who is a PWD, ‘‘It has been a curse more than a blessing unto us.’’ He explains that the 2% common fund, which seldom reaches their pockets, has been a point of reference by some individuals and organisations when PWDs contact them for support. I was fortunate to meet Mr. Awal Zaccariah Mohammad, a visually impaired teacher trainee. He cannot go back to school because he has not been able to pay his school fees for the past two semesters. Awal has no job even though he volunteers as a pupil teacher in one of the community basic schools since he has a passion for teaching. He dreams to host radio programmes to help sensitize the public on disability rights but his dream dwindles by day due to lack of opportunities.

Miss Ayisha’s story is of no difference from other educated PWDs who are struggling in society. She holds a bachelors degree in education even though visually impaired. She complains that after going through the education system, which seemed topsy-turvy for her, getting employment has been another hurdle to overcome. My encounter with her has been one of my best moments on placement. She is amazing! From dialling of phone numbers by keypad sounds to recognizing of friends and family just by the sound of their footsteps. It is incontrovertible that it takes intelligence to live life in such manner.

Meet Hamzah! He has a mobility disability but makes the nicest of sandals and flip-flops. I am officially his number one customer because I love his products. He works with other female PWDs at the resource centre. The latter make nice bags, purses, doormats, etc. from pieces of cloths. All of these are gorgeous crafts made by these people society seems to stigmatise and look down upon.

Disability is indeed not inability. PWDs say ‘‘Give us the chance to prove our ability.’’ I find this assertion expedient so I stand to be a voice for it. Why don’t you, who is reading this blog, join me in this quest to create a better society for all persons living with disabilities? Add your voice! Be a voice! Let us change the world!  

Mershack Asiedu-Yankey

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