I remember a time I was in a city house, and that day, my house started burning. That time, my calipers had spoiled, and I couldn’t run away without the calipers. I was around twenty years old, and the people around the house, they were all running away, and they left me alone. I didn’t have anyone to pick me. That day was a very serious day in my life. I didn’t know what to do. The fire was coming. I think God is the one who supported me. I found a broom. If I saw the fire coming, I would just sweep it back. That was how I was managing – small, small, small.
I was born in Ghana, and unfortunately, I was injected in that time, and I saw that I became disabled. I had malaria, and I was taken to the hospital and injected when I was one and a half years.
Since then we came to Accra and I visited a place called 37 Military Hospital, then they directed me to the Kaneshie Cripple School. They gave me something called the calipers, and I started wearing calipers and then crutches. As time went on, I started by the grace of God to attend schools. When I finished school, I decided to learn work. I learned tailoring from Kaneshie Cripple School. I was there in 1982 as a student. I finished the school, and in 1991, I was a teacher at Kaneshie Cripple School. I taught tailoring for about four or five years. I left there to Nigeria. I married a woman, and we had about three children.
How we met was wonderful – one day I was going to Kaneshie and I saw the girl coming. The girl was very nice and I liked her, so I called her and told her straight-forward, “Hi sister, you are very nice, I want to make a friend with you.” And because I was a very confident guy by that point, I succeeded with her. So in fact, as time went on, we got three children.
Did you suffer any discrimination in marrying that lady?
Yes. It’s not easy at all. The lady’s family said that if they allowed their daughter to marry me, and if we have babies, they’re going to be disabled. They said so many things. Her friends said, “No, don’t marry this disabled guy. Otherwise, your offspring will also be affected.” All the time, I used to tell her. No – it can’t be. I was not born as a disabled. Don’t worry. Along the line, I got to know that she changed. She had a divided mind. She was trying to misbehave and some things. The family would not allow me to perform the marriage rites as custom demands.
She loved me, but the family was not ready to accept me.
She used to sell doughnuts, and sometimes, when she went to sell the doughnuts, I saw that some things were going on. Her life was changing towards me. I could see that she had gotten a different mind. She told me one day that she was going to visit a certain pastor, and when she left, she didn’t come back again.
I tried my best to hold onto her so that everything would go okay. I treated her very good. I know the person I am. If you see my children now, we have very nice children. But she left here ten years ago.
At the time she left here, our last-born was only four years old, and look at me, I take care of three children. The eldest was ten years old by then. She is twenty-two now.
It was not easy. I am the one who cooks for them now. I close work around two. I cook for them after they come home. I walk them across the main street to school. Around two, I close the shop and go and search for them, and bring them home and prepare some food for them. If the work is so tough, I have to bring the gas stove into the shop so I can cook at the same time I am working, so I could feed these children. They were not going to school at the same place, so I would have to divide myself into three places at PTA meetings. It was not easy at all. It was very tough.
This is my father’s house. I live with other people. Sometimes, things are not going smoothly. At times, they abuse me verbally. Once in a while, they will like to say something. I try to control my heart all the time, so I can live with them.
I’m very popular in this community though. I’m a very good tailor, so everyone likes me. They’re very nice with me.
You said you’ve traveled to Nigeria and Togo and Burkina Faso, could you compare your experience as a person with a disability there to your experience in these countries?
It’s a bit different. I remember a time I was in Burkina Faso. I was trying to cross a street, and then a certain car stopped for me so I could cross the way. That person was a police man, but in Ghana, at times, the police won’t even stop the cars for you. They will want you to force with the able ones to cross the streets. That was a surprising thing to me.
And then in Burkina Faso, the buildings, they had made them in a certain way so if you have a wheelchair, you could move inside very easily. Their houses were accessible. In Ghana here, we don’t have things like that. You can’t even climb into the ministries. There are steps – first floor, second floor.
They have made places that you can travel easily. It’s a very big difference. We don’t have places like this in Ghana. Even our national theater isn’t like that. They need to make a place so we the disabled can climb inside and sit there, so we can feel comfortable. In Ghana, if we are building houses like that, they don’t think about things like that.
What’s the most difficult experience you’ve had?
If you are a disabled like this, during your life, it is not easy to achieve something you want to achieve because I’m not fast like other people. At the same time,I force myself to achieve the things I can do.
I remember a time I was in a city house, and that day, my house started burning. That time, my calipers had spoiled, and I couldn’t run away without the calipers. I was around twenty years old, and the people around the house, they were all running away, and they left me alone. I didn’t have anyone to pick me. That day was a very serious day in my life. I didn’t know what to do. The fire was coming. I think God is the one who supported me.
I found a broom. If I saw the fire coming, I would just sweep it back. That was how I was managing – small, small, small. All of the people ran way. I crawled – small, small, small – to the streets. Many people were there because they heard I was in the house, but they couldn’t come. They wanted to see how I would manage to escape. There was a young lady, an eighteen year old lady, she was the one who entered and pulled me out.
What is the advice you would give if a person with a disability came to you?
My advice is just three. One, you have to put your faith in God. Two, don’t play with your work. Three, if you are crossed with any partner and you want to do a marriage, you have to open your eyes very well because it’s not easy at all.
So many dangers, maybe you are a lady, and maybe this guy sees you, and he just wants to enjoy you. But maybe because you are a disabled, you allow him in because apart from him, you may not have someone else. You just accept them. So many things. If you have a disability and you are in marriage, there are many dangers. Be very cautious.
How would you explain disability?
Disability is just an accident.
What is your hope for your own life and for your children’s life?
Just last night, I was thinking about this issue, watching some television. I want to see myself at least by the age of fifty years, I want to see myself have my own place, so I can feel comfortable. I want to see my children going very nicely with their jobs. At the same time, I don’t want to struggle all the time. I want to make my shop very, very standard to attract apprentices or workers, so that someone can work for me. I wish I could expand.
(A) What is your hope for disabled persons?
I see danger. There are so many things to be done. There are so many things we don’t know. Education and disabled rights in Ghana, there are so many things we don’t need. It goes against us. In the future, disableds in Ghana have a problem – because our leaders have folded their hands. We have no idea about our rights or how to fight for our rights. So there is a danger. They can undermine us.