People living with disabilities deserve a chance

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I recently attended a conference at a local church where I saw a couple of paraplegics (paralysis from waist downwards) that were being lifted to the first floor.

The building is no doubt a magnificent piece of art, but whoever did the architectural design forgot to put ramps and other features that would ensure smooth access for people living with disabilities.

We seem to take life so much for granted and forget that whilst you may be walking about in very good health today, the situation may change a few moments from now, after falling or being hit by a car.

A disability is a condition or function judged to be significantly impaired relative to the usual standard of any individual or group. The term is used to refer to individual functioning, including physical, sensory, cognitive impairment, intellectual, mental illness and various types of chronic disease.

Not so long ago, a Highfield woman declared to her son that she would not accept a girl with disabilities to be her daughter-in- law.

So bad was the drama at this household that it resulted in the boy and girl eloping and eventually getting married at the local magistrates courts. They have since gone to SA where they are running a successful business.

Sadly however, the mother-in-law who hated her so much fell off a moving vehicle last year and broke several parts of spinal cord. She soon joined hundreds of Zimbabweans in the category of quadriplegics.

The woman she detested so much invited her mother-in-law to come and live with her and her husband. Many years ago, one of Zimbabwes finest television broadcasters who graced our televisions fell from the second-floor balcony of an Avondale flat and broke his spine.

Godfrey Majonga was adored so much and when news filtered about this freaky accident, it was like a fictitious story. He is now confined to a wheelchair, but that has not deterred him from engaging in serious business.

Majonga is a projects deputy director at Danhiko, a centre that caters for disabled people. He is also chairperson of the recently established Zimbabwe Media Commission.

He however has a very supportive Ugandan wife, Grace Muwanga Majonga, and two daughters. Their house had to undergo various adjustments so that Majonga could access all the rooms without being lifted up.

I also heard a story of a man who was injured in a car crash in 2003 who suffered various spinal fractures. He was at St Giles for many months undergoing physical exercises. The wife was invitedso that she could be counselled just before he was discharged. She flatly refused to do anything for him.

Freddie made me suffer because of his girlfriends. One of his girlfriends died in the crash that damaged his spine. Why doesnt he go to the women that he spoilt with cash day in day out?

She actually told authorities that Freddie would die because she was not prepared to activate his bowels to release human excreta. And true to her words, Freddie died hardly a month later because of neglect.

When the authorities decided to do a follow-up on this patient, they were shown a grave where Freddies remains had been interred. This now brings me to the issue of buildings that are not accessible which I mentioned earlier on. This applies to public buildings and our own homes.

I work at a building that has three floors which are only accessible to able-bodied persons. Some able-bodied people also struggle to reach upper floors. How do these people express their concerns or air their views and concerns if they cannot reach their intended destinations?

And how often have we seen people living with disabilities on our buses? The bus crews actually charge these people wheelchairs for which they regard as excess baggage.

I once saw a woman who was walking on crutches being denied entry onto a bus because she was taking too long to board.

Go to private taxis and not this bus. The woman wept uncontrollably. The bus sped off as it splashed rain water that had collected at the bus terminus. A Good Samaritan offered her $10 for her to pay for a taxi back home.

Benhilda Marume is a young and vibrant Zimbabwean woman living with physical disability. She was involved in a car accident and broke her spinal cord which left her paralysed.

According to Ekwisa (E Knowledge for women in Southern Africa), Benhildas central nervous system was seriously damaged which made her lose control of her bowels and bladder, which are a serious inconvenience when in public.

She has and is still facing emotional, psychological and physical abuse in the community when she needs to be helped in any way, Ekwisa says.
The last time I interviewed her over six years ago, she wanted to become a broadcaster.

Yes people, let us give these people a chance. People living with disability include albinos, people with hearing and speech impairment.

According to a Unesco sponsored report as a contribution to the World Summit on social development held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in March 1995, disabled people have traditionally been marginalised in social development discussions.

The report says despite important advances at international level, the situation for the vast majority of the worlds disabled people remains bleak.

People living with disabilities are generally defined as special or different and the concept of integration has been based on changing the individual to conform to society rather than promoting social change that liberates, empowers and incorporates the experience of people living with disabilities, the report says.

I would like to hear voices of people living with disabilities. Please kindly contact me on the address below.

Feedback:rmapimhidze@newsday.co.zw