Seeing the Ability Before the DisabilityBy Thabiso Makhurane -
I first discovered my passion for tackling disability issues when I volunteered at a local rehabilitation centre in Zimbabwe called King George VI Rehabilitation Centre. I still vividly remember how people kept on asking me about my reasons to volunteer at a place for the ‘izigoga’ or ‘disabled’ as they would put it. They would ask numerous questions about how I related to ‘such children,’ communicated with them, and whether I was comfortable being around kids with disabilities.
I remember one time someone was actually shocked that a deaf girl had relaxed my hair. “How can you trust a deaf girl to do your hair? Since they are deaf, they probably did not grasp the hairdressing course they were taught!” one person remarked. Everyday l would be bombarded with numerous question about the children. Questions regarding how they talk, feed themselves, learn, and if they are as human as able-bodied children.
It later occurred to me that such alarming questions were asked because the picture that society is frequently shown concerning disability is that of marginalisation, vulnerability, poverty and helplessness. Negative associations surrounding disability have lead to society viewing people with disabilities from a charitable perspective. They view people with disabilities as deserving of society’s pity and help.
However, my encounter with people with disabilities has shown me the complete opposite of these stereotypes. The children at the centre were as capable as every other able-bodied child. Due to rehabilitation they had managed to gain skills in independent living; they would cook, wash their clothes and do day to day activities that able-bodied children do.
I have had the privilege to interact with numerous people with disabilities who have become influential in society and succeeded in life. I have interacted with deaf people who are directors of successful organisations, people with disabilities who are project managers, models, TV and radio personalities, lecturers, parents, human rights advocates among many other highly admirable positions.
Such stories should be evident when disabilities are being talked about. This will help curb against the negative attitudes and discrimination often seen in today's society. I congratulate television programmes such as Fine Threads which is broadcasted on the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Commission, showcasing success stories of people with disabilities. Such platforms are essential as they help paint a positive picture about people with disabilities. It is time for those with disabilities to be shown in positive light; one which celebrates the ability in disability.
If you wish to find out more about King George VI Rehabilitation Centre and the good work they do, take a look at their website here.