In African communities, many negative traditional beliefs exist about people with impairments. Due to ignorance and a lack of understanding, they are often seen as being non-human. This means that disabled people in Africa are among the poorest and most disenfranchised people in the world. They are isolated in their own homes and frequently go without education, medical care, social interaction and even food.
Disability Africa is working with disabled children and young people, their families and local organisations in The Gambia, Zambia, Kenya, and Sierra Leone to create inclusive communities, where no-one is left behind.
We do this by promoting inclusion and by developing a range of services to improve their lives. One of the first things we do is run community playschemes.
Why? Because a playscheme will:
end a disabled child’s isolation
provide an appropriately stimulating, fun and educational environment assisting the development of language & communication, physical co-ordination and social skills
be an accessible and often, the only, meaningful and constructive opportunity for social inclusion and personal development available in a rural setting
create an opportunity for parents and other family members to interact more positively with their disabled child and begin to change their expectations of their children
change prevailing negative attitudes by providing an opportunity for members of the community, particularly young people, to meet, play with, and gain positive experiences of disabled children
provide a context for informal assessment from which we can develop services to meet the needs of the children and young people attending
Our playschemes provide a hub from which we will also provide: parents’ support meetings; training programmes for community volunteers; a Medical Support Programme that includes regular physiotherapy sessions; and a Schools’ Inclusion Programme to prepare children for mainstream schools, as appropriate.
Many people consider that children with impairments are difficult, expensive to include and 'specialist' cases. This means that disabled young people are almost always left behind. They are denied access to services, excluded from development projects and isolated from their community. Changing the attitudes of a community towards disability is the most significant step we can take – it creates inclusion and sustainable change.