It is full on election season here in Zimbabwe, though the actual date of the elections is yet to be announced; campaigning is in full swing from everyone running for office. Being active on social media I have noticed one thing, there’s never any mention of disability issues/rights whenever Zimbabweans discuss the new Zimbabwe they envision or desire. That has me questioning do we full grasp what disability rights are in the Zimbabwean context or this is part of ZIm life that is reserved only for people with disabilities?
I cannot say that I am surprised by this lack of interest in disability rights, people treat disability rights like this foreign concept. Well I guess disability is not their daily reality so why should people care? It is so easy for any able bodied person in Zimbabwe to ignore or not care about disability rights because they are not affected by disability on a personal level or know anyone who is BUT the irony about life is that disability can happen to anyone at anytime. None of us ever chose to be born disabled but here we are. No-one ever chose to be involved in a car accident and become disabled yet there are people like that in Zim. I mean with the horrible conditions of our roads, we really ought to care about disability rights.
Have you ever thought about what would happen to you in Zim if you became disabled as a result of an accident or illness?
- Would you still be able to live in your current house, would you be able to get in & out of the bathroom unassisted?
- No you will not be able to get in and out of the house or bedroom unassisted because our houses are in accessible. The doorways are too narrow for most wheelchairs.
- Would you still be able to use public transport or you would need to depend on other people for transport?
- Depending on your disability and how much use of your legs will you still have, chances are using public transport will be an EXTREMELY difficult challenge. More so if you end up having to use a wheelchair. How would you get on and off a kombi, where would your wheelchair be stored?
- Would your current employer still keep you, would they make changes to accommodate your disability?
- Your employer would most likely replace you because they would think that you won’t be able to do your job as discrimination against people In the work place is very ramptant. As for them making accomodations for you in the workplace, good luck convincing them.
- Would you still be able to go to your favourite restaurant, bar or club using a wheelchair or crutches?
- Majority of the restaurants, bars, clubs in the city are not accessible so here I will say no.
- Would you still be able to attend church every Sunday?
- If you are a Christian think question then this question ought to make you REALLY think about your church and how exclusive it is to able bodied people.
- Would you still be able to attend all your favourite social events?
- This is a big fat NO because social events in Zim only carter for able bodied people.
Have you ever thought about what would happen if you had a child with a disability?
- Which school in Zim would your child attend, would it be a smooth process to enrol your child in the school of your choice?
- I can most 10% guarantee you that your child will probably not go to a school of your choice unless it is a private school because these tend to be somewhat inclusive of children with disabilities but good luck finding a school that is accessible.
- Would the teachers at the school of your choice be adequately trained to teach your child?
- Unless you send your child to special needs schools like St Giles, Silver Linings, teachers in both government and private schools are not adequately trained to teach children with disabilities.
- Would your child be able to play at any of the play centres in the city?
- This is an obvious no. Have you seen the play centres in the city?
- Would your child be able to participate in extra curricular activities at school?
- Unless it is a special needs school and depending on your child’s disability, your child will probably not be able to participate in any extra curricular activities at school.
- Would your family fully accept your child with a disability?
- This is really food for thought for you!
- Would you know where to go for disability services for your child?
- Chances are the answer is no because disability services are not widely advertised.
In addition to everything else we want, Zimbabweans should demand more from every single person running for office at whatever level regarding disability rights. Question them on their disability policy? How are they going to improve the lives of people with disabilities? How are they going to ensure that Zimbabwe becomes accessible to people with disabilities?
Remember that disability can happen to anyone at anytime and that’s why we should all demand more from our current and aspiring leaders. Disability rights should also be a priority.