Your inability to think well, too, is disability. Your ability to reason well, do things as the way they should go, is disability. So disability is all life. It’s part of human beings. Everybody has a disability. But when it does not manifest physically then you say you are fit.
When I was four and a half years, my parents were bathing for me and water entered my ear so it developed a boil inside the ear. It came to a time when there was fluid coming out from the ear so my mother decided to take me to the hospital, where I had an injection and I was affected by polio.
It developed over time. When it happened, it’s like where the injection took place, it grew big. It developed a boil. So for some, when the wound began to heal then the leg began to suffer.
Since it started, my parents were thinking that it was spiritual so they were seeking spiritual protection. So they couldn’t go back to the hospital for treatment so it developed and then the whole leg paralyzed. I was not able to go to school when I supposed to start schooling. When the wound healed too they didn’t send me to school early.
It affected my relationships badly, because initially when it happened, there was a problem with my mother and my father. My father blamed my mother that she took me to the mother side so I was bewitched, that’s why this thing happened. So they separated for some and I was supposed to stay with my stepmother when I was about five or six years. They were not caring for me. I stayed alone. They abandoned me. Sometimes when I would come closer to people they did not want me to come closer. When my mother came back, that is when my life began to be better.
The most difficult experience I had was when my mother decided to come and leave me with my grandmother to school. That was when I lost parental care, my mother and my father were not there to care for me, and I had to stay with my only grandmother, where I had to wash myself and do everything myself. I was just a small boy. That was the difficult moment I had. But since I continued growing and I was used to it, I think it also helped me because it made me learn a lot of things.
My happiest experience was when I had admission to school. My first day of school. Because I stayed in the house for a long time, and the first day I was enrolled in school I was older than some of my colleagues but I was happy to be in school.
Did it affect your friendships?
Yes. Even my own cousins, my own other friends in the same house we were living, most of them were not trying to come closer to me because I was a disabled. At that time it was like I was not even controlling myself, I would soil myself. So I scared them. They did not want to come closer to me. And they gave me all kinds of names.
Usually, when you go wrong, people say because of this behavior God made you this way. Because you are a wicked person, that’s why God makes you this way. And you become embarrassed. You know, nobody’s perfect. You may go wrong anywhere. When you go wrong, people say because of the wicked nature, God saw your wicked nature and that’s why he decided to cripple you.
Why do you think people believe that?
I think it’s a superstition. People believe in some things. Initially I was also believing it. I was believing that disability does not come by chance; it comes maybe through accidents or your mother or your father doing bad. But since I grew and I started learning I realized that it happens anyhow. It can happen to anybody at all.
What are the biggest barriers for persons with disabilities in Ghana?
In general, people don’t regard persons with disabilities as human beings. For instance, if you want to cross the road, the motorcycles and the cars don’t respect persons with disabilities. When you want to board a car, they don’t respect you. When you go to the hospital, nobody cares for you. You will be there and they do all things without considering that you are also a human being and you need to follow the right channel. So people don’t consider persons with disabilities as human beings; that is the general problem. They’re thinking that disability is a curse.
When you want to board a car, does it stop for you?
Yes, but sometimes when I hold this stick, if it is a private car, they are thinking that the car cannot accommodate the crutches so they pass by. They’re not very big but when you see it in the distance, they thought it cannot enter. Earlier on I was using the long crutches. You would not be able to get any taxi or any small car like this; you’d have to board a bigger bus.
What can be done domestically to improve the lives of persons with disabilities?
I think we have to embark on a lot of education and then advocacy. In various schools there should be all-inclusive education where persons with disabilities join able people and they school together. Then they understand that we are also the same like them. Education and then advocacy will do so that their mentality that if you are a disabled person then you are cursed and not part of human beings, it will be eradicated. I have been trained on inclusive education, what we should do and how we should handle persons with disabilities in schools.
What can be done internationally?
I think they need to actually send the delegations down and then take a survey of persons with disabilities and their needs. And then try to see how best they can help them. Rather than assuming or listening to what people publish about them. “Oh, everything is well with persons with disabilities.” They have to come down, send people to come and study the environment to know what is wrong with persons with disabilities, and then try to tackle it.
If you meet another person with a disability, what would you tell them?
My advice is that disability is not the end of a human being. If you are disabled, it doesn’t mean that that is the end of your life. You just have to keep encouraging yourself and gradually you will be used to everything and it will work.
What does disability, in general, mean to you?
Disability is the malfunctioning of any part of a human being. So if any part of a human being is not functioning well, you are disabled. Almost everybody is disabled. When it is not manifested, then you consider yourself to be fit. But when it manifests and people can see you, you say “this person is suffering from this”. Your inability to think well, too, is disability. Your ability to reason well, do things as the way they should go, is disability. So disability is all life. It’s part of human beings. Everybody has a disability. But when it does not manifest physically then you say you are fit.