By Elvis Musirinofa
Disability has been a subject matter and has recently created a space within the interdisciplinary divine as most non-Governmental Organizations, religions and even Countries are trying their best in working towards the shaping and defining issues surrounding disability.
People with disabilities are said to constitute about a billion which is around 14% of the global population. This population is not included in various activities and positions because of various barriers.
People with disabilities share most basic needs with able-bodied in their society they live but they are not included because they are stigmatized, excluded, dehumanized within their Society and this lives a huge gap to move beyond identifying the challenges affecting people with disabilities into societal inclusion.
In the communities, there are two groups of people i.e. disabled and able-bodied. Between these two, there are some sort of tensions existing. This has resulted in serious problems mainly to the minority disabled people’s community.
Researchers have it that this disabled people’s community makes up 10% of each community’s total population and a disproportionate of 40% of those disabled people’s community are living in poverty in most of the developing countries.
They are suffering from stigma, prejudice/discrimination and denial of access to essential care services e.g. health, education and jobs. Their needs are overlooked, marginalised, deprived of freedom and their rights are violated.
When it comes to Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) matters, their rights are often been overlooked as they are denied the right to establish relationships and to decide when, where and with who to establish a serious relationship with and also to decide when and with who to have a family with.
Many have been subjected to Gender Based Violence (GBV) e.g. forced sterilization, forced abortions and forced marriages resulting in them experiencing physical, emotional and sexual abuse and all other various forms of GBV.
Disability cut across so many areas and the word itself is used in everyday life however majority don’t really appreciate it. Most people in the community think of a physical challenge when this word ring in their minds but I therefore feel the need for me to define the word. Again, Researchers are of the view that everyone has a Disability.
As such many now have confusion as to what exactly Disability means and it’s therefore crucial for us to know what we will be referring when we say persons with Disabilities.
According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, people with disabilities are those “. . . with disabilities and they include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory [such as hearing or vision] impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”
In the communities we live, we can see that there is a serious tension between the disabled and non-disabled” community that is being attributed from the fact that people with disabilities are viewing the mainstream as their main source of their challenges. To end these challenges, the disabled people’s community is now of the view that for them to achieve good results and to also to achieve a subjective wellbeing, they have to fight their battles alone without assistance from the mainstream.
To some extent, such a belief is justifiable. Can a lion be entrusted to safeguard against a goat kid? The answer is a big NO since the mainstream will never be seen speaking against themselves as the main source of the challenges disabled face.
The mainstream in return, to the actions of the disabled will decide to apply the sit back and relax approach. Some end up sabotaging disabled people’s activities. This is resulting in the disabled losing right battles. Since the mainstream reached the climax, people with disabilities have therefore lost hope and accepted their position as second class citizens and they no longer have the voice to stand against oppression.
A few members from the mainstream community driven by the hearts are trying also to address the same challenges through representative advocacy which stands as another process for addressing inequity and disparities by bringing issues of disabled people’ disparities to the forefront of the agenda for decision makers through building awareness, visibility and public momentum behind disability issues.
However, their advocacy efforts are proving to be meaningless as they are failing to involve the disabled.
Representative advocacy plays a role in mitigating the challenges disabled persons are faced with but for it to be meaningful it requires the involvement of the disabled.
The challenges people with disabilities face are being further worsened but the misconceptions that the mainstream has on disability. Most of the people from the mainstream have wrong beliefs in Disability as it is evidence by various disability models such as the Charity model, medical, moral/religious and the economic model of disability.
To begin with the Charity model, it assets that PWDs are being seen as victims of circumstances which should be pitted and they are victims of their impairments. The situation is tragic and they are suffering therefore able bodied people should assist PWDs in whatever way possible as they need special services (Duyan 2007). From this Disability model, PWDs are now being tested as objects of deco which is really not acceptable.
Secondly, the Economic Model as another disability model, views disability as a challenge to productivity. The model dehumanize a person with disability as someone who is somehow with missing parts. This has resulted in in discrimination against PWDs by employers who are opting able bodied.
More so, we have the Moral/Religious model of Disability which happens to be the oldest model and it regards Disability as a punishment from God for a particular sin or sins committed by the parents of the person with a Disability. People now therefore believe that some Disabilities are as a result of lack of adherence to a social morality and religious proclamations that warn against engaging in certain behaviours.
A belief that it’s a result of an act of transgression against the prevailing moral and religious edicts. It was because of this model why we experienced such barbaric practices like killing of the albinos. In an interview with Pastor Patrick Pakai, who is the Board Chairperson of Amor Zimbabwe Trust, he said that since theological interpretations of disability shape the way in which the society relates to PWDs, we need also to reverse such misconceptions theologically.
Pastor Obert Changu, the Secretary general for AmorZIM also dismissed ancient theological beliefs supporting with a verse in the book of John Chapter 9, where Jesus after healing a blind man was heard saying “Neither this man nor his parents sinned”. Again in the book of Mark Chapter 10, we see Jesus healing the blind Bartemious, giving him back his sight. If he had sinned, do we think Jesus would have healed him?
More so, the Medical model of disability views disability as a medical problem that resides with the person/individual. Disability is regarded as a defect in or failure of a bodily system and as such is inherently abnormal and pathological with the goals of intervention being cure, amelioration of the physical condition of the greatest extent possible and rehabilitation (i.e. the adjustment of the person with the Disability to the condition and to the environment).
This negative conception of Disability has contributed to some of the questionable medical treatments performed on PWDs e.g. voluntary sterilisation and euthanasia.
The Social model in addition to the above models views disability as a socially constructed phenomenon. It is the society which disabled people with impairments and therefore meaningful solution must be directed at societal change rather than individual adjustment and rehabilitation.
Pondering on the challenges people with disabilities face, their source, and the tension existing. I felt the need for us to deeply delve into these relationships and come up with some long term solutions which can bring peace, unit and tranquility among the disabled and non-disabled communities, I also personally felt the need for inclusion as the only way forward to improve the relationships and to boost the subjective well-being of the Disabled person’s community.
A divided house cannot stand, unit among the disabled and non-disabled community can promote a peaceful coexistence, less frictions which promote the growth of the nations at large.
I call upon all members from the mainstream society to view disability with a positive angle for disability doesn’t mean inability. To the disabled people’s community, I say accept your fellow brothers and sisters who are able bodied and involve them in all your activities as it may boost their appreciation of disability. Inclusion is not only about involvement of the disabled into mainstream activities but also inclusion of the mainstream into disability activities.
Those who offer their support from hearts, don’t turn their love away. The march of Women in France was successful not only because of women’s participation but support from the males who also participated in artificial breasts pretending to be women.
To my fellow able bodied, I urge you all to involve our fellow disabled relatives and friends. Frictions are everywhere however they need us to apply a good emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills and even acceptance of our partners’ weakness. Disability doesn’t mean inability. Sometimes it’s not about the muscles but how sharp one’s mind is which can lead to success
Inclusivity is the only way for us to go and the only road to community development. According to Miss I Mariko the Disability Coordinator with the Midlands State University of Zimbabwe (MSU) she said disability inclusion ensures that no one is left behind and is a gateway to a wholesome approach to development.
Mr Mangayi Pedzisai a Lecturer at Zimbabwe Open University was in support of this view and pointed out that the world is incomplete until it fully includes people with different abilities within its spheres.
Let’s all therefore embrace inclusion and spread the gospel of LOVE. As Amor Zimbabwe Trust, we say “LOVE” the agape kind of love as the only way for us to reach greater heights in our communities.
Elvis Musirinofa is the Founder and. Director of Amor Zimbabwe Trust and is the Human Resources Practitioner and Disability Rights Activists. He once served as Volunteer Assistant at Midlands State University in the Disability Resource Centre from 2014-2018.
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