27. Elvis


People thought my disability was a curse or a waste, but we are all the same. It’s just a challenge. Our disability does not count. It’s about our minds. Disability is not inability. All the media in the countries, they got to know that this guy can talk, so they always call on me.

I was born, and when I was five years old, I got a disability. I was born in Ivory Coast, and I was sent to my grandma in Togo to take care of me. She was able to send me to the hospital as a patient to work.

It was polio. I asked my parents, and according to them, I was sick, and I got an injection and that was the end. The result was polio. My grandma is Togo-ese, and my father is Ghanaian. My father sent me to my grandma. I started walking small there.

Thank God, my grandmother said you have to school. And I did. At six, I went to primary school, and at twelve years old, my grandma passed away. By then, I was using one stick to go to school. I schooled in French. We went to school three times during the day. You go in the morning and close at twelve, and then you break and go again and close at five-thirty, which was hard for me.

From the school to my house was a far distance – many miles. My walking was very slow. When there was rain, my books got wet, so I would need to change the book and re-copy all of the work from my friends. When I got to sixth primary, this was when my grandma passed away, and the same year, my disability became severe. I had to crawl all the way then. I moved by crawling. When it was like that. My father was far away, he used to send money, but nobody took proper care of me then.

I decided to follow people into fishing. There, I got something small to feed myself. After a time, I became a master in fishing, so I would go fishing alone. For ten good years, I did personal fishing. Then there came to a time, I was growing, and I was a very nice guy by then, and I realized I was going to die like this.

I knew definitely that I wanted to marry someday, so I got an opportunity to do this work and find my way. I communicated with my father. I was the first born, so seriously, my father came and asked, “What do you want to do?” I told him I want to go to electrical technician school – to become a technician with the television and radio. So my father contacted his senior brother, who is a senior master in this area. He was employed here. His brother said, “Okay – you should bring me. We will do something about it.” When I came, he said there was no way that I could come to the technical electronics school. So I needed to learn shoe-making or sewing – if I was going to stay with him.

When I came here, they said all the training schools were full, and the money that my father had left me was small money. So by then, someone served food in the house – my cousin’s wife. She served cooked rice. So I decided I had to help this woman, so I could get something. I started cooking and selling rice with the woman for eleven months. In the whole area, I became a wacce and rice seller. It was stationed in one place, serving customers.

When the eleventh month was over, there was a vacancy so I learned sewing, and I completed it. I did the examination and everything, and then I said, “Let me go to my father in Ivory Coast.” By then, I was pregnant with my lady. In Ghana, before I left for Ivory Coast, I was close to thirty. I had met this woman, and I had proposed. She agreed, and we were dating.

It was youth. When I got her pregnant, there was no way I could run away from this, so I said let me go to my father and get money and take care of you. I was doing my sewing work, and my work was far from my house, so I had to perch around and spend my money. At the end of the day, I told my father, “Let me go back to Ghana now.” My father went to town went to town, and someone told him that there were disabled sports around. “Can you join them?” he asked. My father used to give me money for training.

I did disability sports…track and field. Since I was born in Ivory Coast, I had some small chances there. They selected me as the one of the track and field athletes to participate in completions. There are so many countries all over Africa that participate. Truly, it didn’t go well for me. I was last. In 2001, they selected me to go and participate again with fifty-seven athletes, and I was second the next year.

I came back to Ghana. There was nowhere to work. I was looking around. The work was not coming. As a person with a disability, you need to establish yourself, but here in this country, no one is looking to establish any person with a disability. Even people don’t like mingling with us. When they see you coming, they think you are coming to beg for coins, and they won’t mind you.

So work was not coming. I had no option. It was very hard for me because I was the senior brother to my brothers and sisters in my family. I was very active in this Ghana Society for the Physically Disabled, and soon they they opened the chalk factory. With me being a vibrant guy in the society, they called me and said I should come and help them.

By then, we still did sports. You know – advocacy is my side. Anywhere I get, I talk about this advocacy issue. When I’m going to training like this, everyone asks me, “Why are you going to training? Why are you going to training like this? Why not reserve that money to buy yourself something to eat at the end of the day?” I pay for my own transport, and when I don’t have money, I have to wheel myself to the stadium. It is about 10-30 km.

Around 2004, I started at the chalk factory and I’ve been heading the chalk factory until today. With the sports, we had an invitation to the U.S. to a basketball cup in New York for the Greater Accra team. So I led my people by the grace of one person, who bought our tickets, and we went to New York where we went to a village for persons with disabilities and able people. We went to play basketball there. I got my first international experience.

Coming back to Ghana, the nationally disability sports groups said come and work with us, and they took me as a national PRO of Ghana Society of the Physically Disabled Sports. Besides that, I’m still an athlete.

In 2010, I was selected to go and participate in para-cycling in Burkina Faso. I was first in the whole of Africa in my class. Based on that, I am a very active authority in sports today. When they send information to members in terms of sports, they consult me and reach me first before it goes down to the members.

People thought my disability was a curse or a waste, but we are all the same. It’s just a challenge. Our disability does not count. It’s about our minds. Disability is not inability. All the media in the countries, they got to know that this guy can talk, so they always call on me.

There are so many provisions in the disability act that people don’t know about. Should we wait for the law before we do something that will benefit us? If we wait for the law, we will be late! We will continue to be late.

There’s something called the 2% Common Fund for persons with disabilities. I chose to be a member on the advising team. It’s effective in our sight, but the government authorities, the social welfare, the assemblies, they are not doing well for the money to reach our people. They take their own power. There are guidelines for all this. But we don’t want to give up. We will continue to lobby and move forward.

Everyday media people come here to ask what is going on the ground. The government should know that people discriminate against us. That is why they put this law in to protect us, but still it is not working. We want to enforce the law, for the law to benefit people. If the law is not working today, anyone who becomes disabled in the future will suffer. We have to challenge this. This has caused suicide in some of our members. The hardship is too much. For example, a woman, people discriminated against her, and she didn’t know where to go, so she hung her head and met her death. This was very sad.

Media is on our side, but sometimes, they misunderstand issues concerning people with disabilities, and they use them in a negative way. For example, CRC – cripple rapes cripple, that was the headline. They thought it was funny. They were saying it, the way people were saying it, as if it was funny. We went to them and told them to stop publishing it, but they had already published it. When they want to publish something about us, they should talk to us first. Nothing about us without us. We know the way we feel. We understand it. Nobody can talk about disability without disability. They should come to us.

Have you been successful with getting people with disabilities into the media?

I know two for now, but they also lack information. They don’t come to the office for information much. The sensitization is not really working well.

Did you face any discrimination concerning your married life?

At first, I didn’t get any discrimination. The lady was nice to me until we got all of the children, but then people polluted her mind. Where are you going with a person with a disability? So she started misbehaving. When I asked her about it, she told me I was a spy. Since she had taken this attitude, there was nothing I could do to stop her. At the end of the day, we are no longer together. We have not been together for ten years now.

Did you face any discrimination in your community?

I don’t have any neighbors – just my brothers and sisters, so I have no problem.

Discrimination is everywhere. It’s very hard. For me to get here and go home, my salary won’t reach for one week. The commercial buses won’t take my wheelchair, so one day, I got to the station and I went and talked to the driver, and they got to understand. I have to buy a seat for a wheelchair, so I have to pay a double fee – except for one driver, who will always find a space for the wheelchair and when we go to the police barrier and the police shop us and ask, “Why are you caring that wheelchair in the back?” he would defend it. That driver trained another driver, and now there are two in that station – who will fight on my behalf. Those who will take me leave at 4:20, and I have to go with them whether I like it or not. Sometimes, I get to Accra at 5:30, and the office opens at 8:30. Is that going to help my health? And then I come home in the evening?

What have been your difficult moments in life?

My difficult moments in life is when I meet a barrier. A barrier means the environment is not accessible. I meet a big gutter or big steps. Then I have to turn back. Or I have to do a big route around. I’ll be late for work as a result. The barriers are huge. The human beings around, West Africans consider persons with disabilities to be taboo.

It’s very big in West Africa. Some people don’t greet persons with disabilities – especially these traditional people, chiefs in villages. That is the reason that in the Africa here, no persons with a disabilities will be a chief or a governor. You are considered as a curse or a taboo, and you cannot be a chief or a queen mother. They say it’s against their tradition.

What role do you think sports can have in empowering people with disabilities?

Sports can serve persons with disabilities. When you look at Christian Ronaldo, the world’s best player, and Messi, the world’s best players, when you look at the captain of Ghana, we are equal. Our country doesn’t help us though. I’ve been in disability sports for nineteen years. Have you heard my name before? The nation supports other player. Why don’t they support us? We can use sports as a platform to eliminate discrimination – if there is equal opportunity. We are not in the sports ministry. Persons with disabilities are not part of it. Our country must grow in all angles. We are all part of this nation. We don’t cast half votes, so why not equal opportunities for people with disabilities?

Why do you think presently is the biggest barrier preventing the implementation of the disability rights act?

The history – almost of all the family where persons with disabilities come from, they don’t want to invest in them to pursue a higher education. We need to enforce this law. We must let anyone know that if you do something to a person with a disability, you will be sued in the course. This presidential election, they sent the issue to court. But this issue has been in the country for so many years, and no one has gone to court. Do they want to be a person with a disability before they focus on the disability activity?

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