The Cry of the Physically Challenged.
You need a brother, without one you’re like a person rushing to battle without a weapon.’ – Arabian proverb
It is the commencement of another semester. It is not the semester itself that bothers me much. It is the tussle and troubles that my colleagues and I will go through again that has become my source of worry. I am already late for my first lecture. I have been standing in front of my place of residence for forty minutes now waiting for a shuttle or taxi to pick me. It seems the commercial vehicle drivers are more interested in my able bodied colleagues more than the physically challenged. Not even the numerous lucky ones around with their own cars will be generous enough to give us free rides to the lecture block. My problems continue when I get to the Faculty itself. How to climb those steep and numerous staircases will take me all my strength and another decade to accomplish. I nearly shed tears when I saw my sister who uses wheelchair stuck up at the mouth of those frightening staircases. When I enter the classroom, how to find a place to sit is another problematic package in itself. The case in the hall is no different. I was allocated a top bed in my room because the other three are of the same family as me. I don’t know if they want me to fly before getting unto my bed. The case at the washroom is worse. It takes almost one hour to bath in cases where water is not flowing in the bathhouse. I mostly don’t visit the lavatory because I can’t afford to sit on the toilet seat that has been soiled with all kinds of things. My legs can’t support me to squat on it either. People are so wicked and careless that they don’t think about the discomfort they create for us when they do such things. I wish I would be able to go to the library but the staircases scare me off. I can’t go to the bank because their air-tight doors are nightmares for me. Did I make a wise decision by pursuing further education? I hope you might be wondering who I am. I am the physically challenged person out there who struggles day in day out because my disability was not factored in and is not being factored in when policies are being made.
It is time the appropriate authorities factor in the case of the physically challenged when structural and other policies are being drawn up for tertiary institutions and other institutions in the country. It is time new buildings on campus are made disability-friendly. Our libraries should have materials that can help our blind brothers to also seek knowledge to the level they want to. Their blindness should not be a hindrance to their desire to further their education. Buildings should be designed in such a way that wheelchair users can drive themselves comfortably to lectures and back to their places of abode. As we are in a period of great technological advancement, let our tertiary institutions set the pace by facilitating their various institutions with disability-friendly materials that will allow physically challenged students to also live and learn like any normal student.
The great emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte once said that ‘in life, we are all either born kings or pawns’. Simply put, we are all not born equal. The mere reason that someone is born with a defect in a part of his body is not enough or acceptable reason to exclude him or her from the necessities and the few luxuries of life.
It very sad and appalling when one observe how some people treat our physically challenged colleagues with some unwanted level of disdain. These kinds of treatment leave a lot of piercing and unanswered questions on the minds of our brothers and sisters. Is it their doing to be born blind? is it a fault of theirs to be crippled? Why can they not be treated like any other person and accorded the needed respect and geniality. Why can they also not be aided to pursue those wonderful dreams that everyone else has? Why should they be stigmatized and ostracized of a sort?
It is time that as a nation which have so many times boasted of unparalleled hospitality, we come home to the never-ageing adage, ‘charity begins at home’. If we cannot treat our own people with the basic requirements of life, then where lays our so-called internationally acclaimed warmth? It is good news in itself that our democracy is growing gradually. However one thing we must not forget is that democracy is not just about freedom of speech or NDC and NPP waking up every morning to argue over mostly needless issues. It is also about embracing everyone in the society and making them feel part of it. As a country we keep doing the kindergarten kind of merry-go-round with such issues. We keep talking about getting our brother off the street and getting them to do something meaningful with their lives, yet most of our actions drive them to the streets.
To my physically challenged brothers and sisters, I have a small pocket of advice. No one owns your life. There is more to life than practicing self-pity all your life. Life is what you make out of it. If Fanny Crosby and Helen Keller were able to do it in their days with such high level of limitations, you can go steps further. Do not let your handicap be a barricade to the future that lies ahead so bright and so promising. Forge ahead, keep hope alive, turn your misfortunes into tools of motivation and when you get weary on the way, just pause and sing praises to your Maker. With hard work you will surely live to see your name written in gold.
A society that harnesses all resources available to it and put them to good use, always see massive development. Therefore in our quest to develop as a nation, let us harness all resources available by bringing everyone on board and give them the necessary push. A responsible society is a developed society.