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Jun 29, 2017, 12:23 PM | Article By: Dodou Loum Gambia Association of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Although most people in The Gambia whose physical impairment has resulted in creation of economic and social barriers in front of them, which prevents their participation in the society and their having equal opportunities, a handful of them according to the Gambian standard are successful.  Their achievements range from being politicians, intellectuals (having acquired higher level of education), senior civil servants, business tycoons to community leaders.  As a result, they rose to prominence and became influential figures.

However, in spite of these successes they will admit that they are not completely free from the yoke of disability like all other persons with a disability. Their social ranks are undoubtedly an important resource, which when sufficiently exploited can contribute effectively to attitude change and aid quick establishment of disability friendly laws and policies to the mutual happiness and wellbeing of all persons with disabilities.  This is why such successful Gambians need to be at the forefront of the fight.

I appeal to them to come forwards and join hands to carry out their duties to the community of persons with disabilities.  I call on them to come to the battle front with full force and with all hands on deck.  Together we can remove the disability yoke on our shoulders. 

I say to them, “Hey! Brothers and sisters look in the eyes of the people who surround you in your places of work, at home, during social activities etc., the reflection of yourself which you find there may be an important person, a person of authority, a successful person, a charismatic person etc.  However, what you will always find there in addition is a person with a disabilities, a person who is less than normal, a person who need to be cured, or be cut and shaped to at least look like a normal person.  This is contrary to the concept of human diversity. Services and facilities must be received by persons with disabilities in the form accessible to them, not that person with disability has to be transformed in order to be able to receive these services and facilities.

I call on these successful Gambians with a disability to join the fight for a true disability friendly Gambia.  They can have dinner with Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Family, they can play golf with President Trump or become a top bank executive, but in the Gambia they are still a person with a disability, and this is the way they will always see it.

In conclusion, fighting for the realization of the human right for Gambian with a disability is what we need to do together openly and intensively.  However, being at the battle front does not mean standing by with a heavy stick ready to hit someone.  No.  it means  utilizing our resources effectively to win hearts and minds of those in authority through intensive awareness and information campaigns.Human right of persons with disabilities must not be compromised, and this is why the Gambian laws and policies must contain the UN convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities.

“De facto” NOT “formal equality”