A few weeks ago I was so confused and puzzled when I discovered that the Zimbabwean national disability coordinator does not have a disability. Confused and puzzled is an under statement, shoooook is more like it. Yes I was straight up shook.
“No ways”, I replied to my friend. “Hol’up you just said what? That’s so messed up on every level” I exclaimed.
Weeks later I am still in shock to be honest. I just cannot wrap my head around this. Like how did that happen? Are there no qualified and experienced disability activists in the country? And how did he even accept the post knowing full well that he does not have a disability are just some of the thoughts going through my head about this. I have a huge problem with this, that a man who has no experience of disability is representing people with disabilities. It’s like having a white person to represent black people, it doesn’t work and will NEVER work.
It is unfair to have an able bodied person represent people with disabilities.
He has no first hand experience of disability so how does he know what it feels like to be a Zimbabwean with a disability? Let’s use lack of accessibility as an example. Lack of accessibility is one the biggest problems facing Zimbabweans with disability. The roads, public transport system, buildings, infrastructure, schools, churches…etc are not accessible. He is able bodied so he has that privilege to be able to enter buildings without needing any assistance.
There is no representation for us without us. People with disabilities are capable of representing themselves.
Discrimination against people with disabilities is an on going issue. Recently someone on Facebook shared how wheelchair users are expected to pay extra on public transport, that right there is discrimination. Does he know that? How can he when he has the privilege of being able to drive? By virtue of him being able bodied he CAN NEVER UNDERSTAND THE DISABILITY EXPERIENCE.
Having a national disability coordinator without a disability also speaks volumes about the general attitude towards people with disabilities in Zimbabwe. It says people with disabilities do not know what they want so let’s think for them. They are incapable of making their own decisions. They are incapable of leading themselves.
Fact is there is no representation for us without us. You simply cannot have an able bodied person represent people with disabilities; for they will never know nor understand what people with disabilities go through in Zimbabwe.