There have been so many movements in human history. While some movements registered progress and some ‘reached’ where they were headed (their goals or objectives), some started off with a sprint while others jogged but either got lost or run out of gas.
Among the famous movements is the Civil Rights movement synonymous with USA’s Martin Luther Jnr. Many attribute current US president Barack Obama to this movement that called for equality regardless of race, sex and other factors.
Then there was the Women Emancipation movement which has also registered a sizeable achievement.
This time I would like to talk about people with disabilities. It’s said that ‘Disability is not inability’.
Disabilities could be of different types like cognitive disabilities, deafness or hearing disabilities, learning disability, mental disabilities, physical disabilities, reading disabilities and visual disabilities. You could be a disabled person from birth or you can get a disability later on in your life.
Recently, Dr.Evariste Karangwa, told The Sunday Times that Rwanda has only 39 students living with disabilities in higher institutions of learning.
“The small number strongly indicates how people with different disabilities have been segregated from the community.”
The small number could probably mean that there are few people with disabilities or among the many that have disabilities, few get an education.
If it’s the former, then that’s good but if it’s the latter, then we need to increase our efforts as a nation in supporting our brothers, sisters, children, fellow citizens in order for them to realize their abilities to their full potential.
They do not need sympathy, rather let’s be empathic to them. Before we even talk about what people with disabilities need physically, it is necessary to respect their sentiments and sensibilities and address them in a positive manner.
Spreading awareness on the need for a positive approach towards people with disabilities would go a long way in accepting them as an integral part of the society.
Parents should accept children with disability and give them all the parental care and love. Parents and society’s attitude should be one to motivate a child to move ahead. Parents should not sympathize but teach the child to be strong so that he/she is able to become successful and do anything it wants.
I guess many of you have listened to Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles’ music.They are both blind. I have watched the latter’s biography titled ‘Ray Charles’.
When he started losing his sight at 9, his mother sternly cautioned him when he was whimpering, that he should not expect any mercy from the world. He took his mother’s advice and he got where he was because of her support.
Albert Einstein, the great Mathematician and Physicist had a learning disability and did not speak until the age of 3. He had great difficulty in doing maths in school. But he’s now the greatest mathematician ever.
On December 13, 2006, the United Nations held a convention on the rights of persons with disabilities in New York. Its message was that people with disabilities should be treated as a part of society, not only on paper, but also in actual terms.
We should therefore ensure that all infrastructure, academic, health, commercial buildings, be designed with facilities for the disabled.
Maybe in future we shall have our own Franklin Roosevelt who was a polio patient and used a wheelchair and stood with the aid of steel leg braces or Beethoven, the legendary music composer who was deaf during the composition of the 9th symphony.
Maybe then we could also have our very own Stephen Hawking, a British theoretical astrophysicist who cannot walk because of the disability in his back. He became famous because he explained the origin of black holes and the way of their demise. He is married and has three children.
A Rwandan with disabilities should not be relegated to a street corner, a spot on a busy Kigali pavement or the taxi parks saying ‘nfungurira’ (get me some alms), but given similar opportunities. Let’s improve the chances for their ability.