A fortnight ago Edmore Masendeke of The Diary of a Disability Activist uploaded a video of his new home to various social media platforms and my initial response was WOW!!!! I was totally blown away by the house that he built for himself, a disability friendly house as he calls it. In the video, he takes the viewers through a tour of his house and explains how it is disability friendly. I was so amazed by this, what a huge milestone for a person with a disability in my beautiful country Zimbabwe. What a GAME CHANGER!!!!
Please read his post It’s Not Home Sweet Home Yet: Why I Built an Accessible House in Zimbabwe where he talks about his experience of renting and how badly he was treated by some landlords which prompted him to build his own disability friendly house.
Below is a video of his house.
The idea of a “disability friendly house” is something I had never thought of prior to watching the video of Edmore’s house. It really is something that had never crossed my mind before. Why would it? After all I’ve never had any issues in any of the houses that I have lived in.
The first time I came face to face with the fact that our family home is not disability friendly at all was back in 2011. It was a Wednesday afternoon when two of my friends decided to visit me. The intercom rang, I answered it and it was them. My two friends had come to see me. Yaaay I was so happy :-). I opened the gate for them and ran to meet them outside. I am very mobile on my own, in fact I only use crutches when I am not at home. I greeted them in the driveway, we hugged and I proceeded to lead the way to the house and that’s when the first sign of trouble came. One of my friends is on a wheelchair and there was no way she could get into the house because of the steps. I had to call for help and luckily there were people at home to help us. Thankfully getting over the three steps outside was no problem at all. However getting into the actual house was a big issue. Getting the wheelchair into the house was quite a challenge because the door is narrow but in the end it was a successful mission. Little did I know I was wrong.
I was so heartbroken as I watched my friend struggle to navigate the corners in the house in her wheelchair. The lowest moment was when she asked to use the toilet and we discovered that the door was too narrow for me to enter into the toilet with her wheelchair so she unfortunately had to use the toilet with the door open and I had to keep watch that no-one was coming that way. Thinking back at it now, that must have been a really hurtful moment for her being a visitor at a friend’s house and having to use the toilet with the door open. I’m so sorry friend 😦 .
Watching the video of Edmore’s house forced me to ponder on how people with disabilities are forced to live in houses that do not accommodate their disabilities which in turn limits our independence. For example in the case of my friend, because there is no wheelchair ramp at our house that means she had to be assisted to get into the house a very simple act that she could have done on her own. Secondly the fact that the doors in our house are narrow, it means a person on a wheelchair is then in most times confined to one room and has no interaction with other people.
Disability friendly houses shouldn’t be an option, they should be the standard. I am not sure what the laws says with regards to this but If there are no laws in Zimbabwe that ensure every building or house constructed is disability friendly, then such laws NEED to be passed. And society needs to rally behind this idea because the sooner people realise and understand people with disabilities can live independently in their disability friendly homes, the sooner we will no longer be a burden to anyone.