Friday, February 27, 2015

Week 6: Reflection

'NYINBIRI' means 'commitment' in Buli.

As we head into our final weeks on the LIFE project, we’ve been reflecting on issues surrounding disability and people with disabilities, and work LIFE does to improve integration in Sandema.

Disability can be defined based on two schools of thought: ‘the social model’ and ‘the medical model’. The medical mode sees the disability as problem which solely belongs to the disabled individual. The social model, however, is based on the idea that it is society which propagates disability by creating inaccessible barriers. For example, by building steps instead of ramps, our society will in effect disable anyone who is unable to use them.  By emphasising the social model, we would create an atmosphere where able-bodied people will be able to see the difficulties that people with disabilities face daily.

Abigail showing children how to
rename a folder during an inclusive ICT support lesson
As the inclusive education policy comes into effect in the 2015/2016 academic year, we need to continue to create a culture in which the social model is given precedence. Doing so will ensure that people with disabilities are included in to mainstream society, are given an equal-footing to non-disabled people and that the community as a whole takes responsibility for improving and promoting accessibility.  At LIFE, we are working tirelessly to set the foundation for this by researching the barriers children with disabilities currently face when accessing mainstream education. In addition to this data collection, we have been completing sensitisation programmes in schools, and delivering inclusive ICT workshop groups. The work is intense, but the results are self-fulfilling.

Sanpreet leading the end session of an Inclusive Support lesson
A 2010 population and housing census report for Bulsa North, produced by Ghana Statistical Services, detailed the number of people living with a disability in the area. About 3.4% (1935 in real figures) of the Bulsa District’s total population has a disability of some kind. The most thought-provoking fact which we can take from this report is that about  52.2% of  the  economically  active  and  employed  have  a  form  of disability. Clearly, no developing society can afford to continue to discriminate against people with disabilities when 52.2% of its economically active and employed members have a form of disability. 

People with visible disabilities continue to suffer stigmatization and discrimination. Just this week, as we were on our way to a junior high school to present a sensitisation programme, Bronwen witnessed a man in an old wheelchair being pushed into a gutter by able-bodied man. She told the able-bodied man to ‘stop it’ and he pulled the wheelchair from the gutter. She thought this was the end of it, but the able-bodied man continued to irritate the disabled man by taking his hat and by holding the wheelchair as the disabled man tried to wheel away.

Such a scene clearly attests to why we must push for the creation of an environment where there are equal opportunities for children with disabilities. If children with disabilities are enrolled into mainstream schooling they will gain the same skills as their peers and, potentially, have equal employment prospects. As Kofi Annan said:
“Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development”. 
This is the message we’ve been imparting during our sensitisation programme: no-one, whether able-bodied or disabled, should be limited by a perceived weakness. If a child with a disability is denied access to an education s/he will inevitably be limited.

Most stigmatisation is fueled by the idea that people with disabilities will be unable to contribute anything to society: our preliminary research into inclusive education policy shows that parents of children with disabilities themselves believe that their children will be unable to achieve anything. Yet, the aforementioned statistics have shown that people with disabilities are able to contribute economically to society. By using the social model, where we all take responsibility for promoting inclusivity and accessibility, where disability becomes a societal problem rather than an individual’s difficulty, we will be able to ensure no-one is limited by their disability.

No comments:

Post a Comment