Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The importance of telling different stories about the disabled

Jibril Sisu
My name is Jibril Sisu and I am an International Service volunteer from Ghana. I would like to tell you about what I call ‘The importance of telling different stories about the disabled’. 
Personally, I feel the word disability means anything that limits a person’s movement or sense. However, I am a strong believer in the fact that disability does not necessarily mean inability.
Currently, in Ghana the stories told about the disabled are simplistic and incomplete. These stories of the disabled emphasise the differences between people with a disability and those without, rather than the similarities.
Disability in Ghana is seen as a curse! BUT not a single individual has ever proven scientifically that this view is fact.
This incomplete story told about the disabled creates stereotypes. Stereotypes often come from a grain of truth. However, they are simplistic representations of an issue. They make one story about the disabled become the only story.
A lot of society sees the disabled to be a liability but I believe that this is the society’s disability. The disabled are often viewed as being incapable of engaging in any income generating activities and are snubbed by most people in society.
These attitudes make it difficult to recognise everyone in our society as equals and it robs the dignity of those with a disability.
I have always felt that it is impossible to determine the colour of a person’s shirt by the look of his shadow. The worst thing about a disability is that people see it before they see you; but it is inappropriate to engage properly with a person without engaging with all the stories of that person. Why don’t we also talk of the abilities that those with a disability have too?
Stories matter. The importance of being able to tell a complete story of the disabled is that it allows a greater understanding of disabilities and the issues surrounding it. This will encourage the integration of people with disabilities into society.
Being able to tell different, complex and complete stories helps to repair the broken dignities of those with disabilities. Thus, people will realise that disability does not necessarily mean inability.
For instance, Yumba Special School is a school for children with learning disabilities, located in Tamale. The school focusses on teaching the children life skills through vocational classes and life skill classes (for example lessons in hygiene and basic morning routines). As part of the children’s learning, they make tie-dye cloths, make bracelets from clay beads and weave door mats. In our next blog we will tell the stories of the children at the school. These are stories of struggle, hope and achievement. We hope that they will add to the story of the disabled here in Ghana, and start to make it a little more complete.
I would like to end with the following thought: when we embrace different stories regarding the disabled, when we realise that there is never a single story about a person or place, then a stronger concept of brotherhood of humanity comes into existence.

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