This young man’s story paints a true picture of how disabled persons survive in Africa

At age 21, a Kenyan woman named Florence, realised that being a disabled person in her community could be an impediment to her growth – emotionally, psychologically and socially. Being deaf and dumb, she tried her hardest to work twice as hard as anyone she knew but still, she had no formal education and had no hopes for a better future except to rely on those around her for her well-being, something really hard for a lot of people who may not want to be considered a burden.

However, Florence’ story is just one of many in Africa, where the disabled person is seen as a liability, even the terminally ill are considered an unnecessary burden by many in this fast-paced world. Recently, Prince Makhado’s plight came to the limelight when he was finally granted a disability grant after fighting for it for 10 years. Life for the blind and mentally disabled 27-year old who comes from Limpopo, a South African province, has not been easy as his mother has had to quit her job to care for him round the clock.

The Disability Grant is a South African government social benefit package and it is worth R1 420 per month. To qualify for the grant, a citizen must;

Credit - SA Disability Grant website
Credit – SASSA

News24 reports that Prince’s mother, Anna Makhado had been trying to register her son with the Department of Social Development for the same number of years. The recent development, however, is due to the fact that a South African political party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), stepped into the picture. Jonas Mugovhani of the DA promised to take the Makhado family to the Bungeni South Africa Social Security Agency (SASSA) offices to find out why Prince had been unable to receive his disability grant.

The plight of the average disabled African could be downright pathetic, given the fact that they have to deal with issues like discrimination and poverty. Several disabled rights groups and individuals have tried fighting and are still fighting for better treatment and proper integration into society. For instance, people like Kenyan’s disability rights activist, Phitalis Were Masakhwe and Malawi’s ex Disability and Elderly Affairs minister, Rachel Karchaje, who both use wheelchairs, have fought for equality for disabled people in Africa for several years. To them, disability rights have more to do with equality and less to do with charity.

According to Disabled World, disabled people are estimated to make up 10 percent of the general African population, but possibly as high as 20 percent in the poorer regions. Also, the vast majority of Africans with disabilities are excluded from schools and opportunities to work, virtually guaranteeing that they will live out their lives as the poorest of the poor.

This is not okay. People with disabilities should be treated with a bit more dignity but what role can the government and able-bodied people play to make sure they are properly incorporated into society? In his research paper titled: Disability, Work and Welfare, Colin Barnes suggests a reconstruction of the words ‘disability’ and ‘work’ to begin effecting proper integration for disabled persons.

Based on a 1980 study, Barnes argues that it is not the knowledge of their disabilities which make this group of people unemployed and relegated to the background, it is however the restraint placed on them by society. “The ‘reality’ of impairment is not denied but is not the cause of disabled people’s economic and social disadvantage. Instead, the emphasis shifts to how far, and in what ways, society restricts their opportunities to participate in mainstream economic and social activities rendering them more or less dependent. Disability is redefined as ‘the outcome of an oppressive relationship between people with impairments and the rest of society,” the paper stated.

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