My hope for people with disabilities in Ghana is that I want lots of my colleagues to be out of the street. Getting out of streets means providing them something concrete to be done to earn a living. I’m hoping if we get the necessary financial support to all these people including myself, unemployment among persons with disabilities will completely reduce.
I was born in 1975. As my mother told me, at the age of three, some ailment attacked me and I was sent to the hospital. Unfortunately, they gave me an injection, and I’ve been paralyzed since that time. I was using a stick, but at the age of seven, my mom heard of a hospital, which was St. Joseph’s, and I was sent there for my first operation to on my right leg. Later, I was again sent to another hospital for another surgical procedure for the left leg. Since then, I’ve been using crutches and calipers.
Most often, being a person with a disability, people think if you go near to them, your disability will affect them. Some people have a thought that it is a curse. Others also think that it’s because of maybe the mistakes made by my parents. Others also think that God knows why he has created me to be like this. Whenever I get closer to them, they send me away. But I usually get acquainted with them, though, because I have a zeal that I have not caused anything and that it is not by the mistake of my relatives or parents.
When my schoolmates were playing, I did play with them. I did not use my crutches. I used my hands. I was somehow crawling. I was active. When there was any activity in the school like singing, I had a voice to sing, but because I couldn’t march and you had to be in a cue marching to the platform, I would be rejected. Sometimes I sat back and said, “Why have I been in this situation? Why have I been in these shoes?” That’s how it affected me.
When I was going through the senior high school, the structure was not all that friendly to me. So together with my parents, we brought it to the school authorities. Where I had to be posted to, it was a storied building. When we brought it to their attention, they brought me down to the ground level, which helped me to pursue my secondary education.
Afterwards, I’ve been unable to continue. I’m still in the house. First and foremost, the reason was financial constraints. Entering into the secondary school I had one reverend father in my hometown, who sponsored me throughout my three years. He was paying my fees, and the other activities, those were being sponsored by my mom. After completion of the school, my mom didn’t have anything to help me pursue a tertiary institution.
I knew I could not sit by the roadside and indulge myself in social vices. I had a talent of repairing shoes, so that was the work I started doing, but a time came that the work was no longer coming. I had competitors who were going around, which I was not able to do. So I decided to stop.
When I came here to Accra, I did not fold my arms. I stayed with my aunt for about a year. I discussed with her that I had seen some work that other people were doing, which I believed that I could do if I had the means, which was changing coins for the Tro-Tro drivers. I would go for coins from the bank and give them to the commuters – the drivers and their mates. But the time came that I had to stop because I could not be moving around collecting coins, so I decided to work with a friend, and finally that work collapsed too because the friend wasn’t all that loyal to me. So everything went into the drain. Since 2008, I haven’t gotten anything to start on my own. I’m still struggling to start something.
What is the biggest challenge people with disabilities face? What is successful in helping them?
The biggest challenge confronting persons with disabilities is that we don’t have the basic knowledge of what education is and this is crippling most of our members. And then also, we don’t have any publicity in terms of advertising us. If you want to advertise yourself, what goes in is very much. We don’t have much in our accounts to use, but we are doing a lot. The little opportunity we are getting, we do excel.
Did you go through any discrimination in your marriage?
Yes – not only on the side of my wife’s relatives but on mine too. Being a person with a disability, I am expected to marry an able one, but when I met my lover, she was in the same shoes as me. So both of the families were saying no. They were saying that we needed to find someone able. So we are not officially married, but I live here with my wife and kids.
Do you encounter discrimination in this community?
I do face one or two challenges in terms of the discrimination and attitude. The nicknames are not being imposed on me, but they look down at me, but I ignore their comments. And quite recently, because I’ve been speaking on TV, some people have stopped saying things.
There is also a district assembly fund for people with disabilities, and I play a vital role in accessing that fund for those in my community, so if a relative is having a fellow person with a disability, and they get to know that this is what I am doing, then they get to know me.
If a person with a disability comes to you for advice, what do you say?
I usually tell them that disability is not inability, and becoming a disabled is just a twinkle-of-an-eye, so he or she shouldn’t so much worry that people laugh at them because those who are laughing or mocking, they don’t know their future. Nobody knows what is going to happen tomorrow. Disability can be everybody’s lot at any time. And people with disabilities should try as much as possible to associate themselves with these disability groups, so they can feel proud.
How do you think Ghana moves forward?
I have little faith for that. Since the passing of the disability act in 2006, it has not been implemented. Nothing concrete has been achieved. We have been crying for them to implement it, but the authorities are not giving us an ear.
What is your hope for the future and for people with disabilities in Ghana?
My hope for people with disabilities in Ghana is that I want lots of my colleagues to be out of the street. Getting out of the street means providing them something concrete to be done to earn a living. I’m hoping if we get the necessary financial support to all these people including myself, unemployment among persons with disabilities will completely reduce.