Africa Disability Alliance (ADA) hosted a two day workshop in Johannesburg recently. The workshop saw a diverse number of disabled people from all over Africa under one roof to discuss issues affecting disabled people on the African continent.  

African Independent spoke to Mpho Ndebele who is ADA's Director of Programmes and International Alliance.  

"This is a capacity development workshop for Southern Africa, we have invited members of the Pan African disability federations in the SADC region,” said Ndebele, “The purpose for this workshop is capacitating them for the alliance using the draft Africa disability protocol initiated by African Union on people's rights.”

She said disabled people in Africa are still a marginalised group in every community.

"Disabled people are misunderstood, discriminated, treated as outcasts rather than human beings. That is why the draft protocol to the African charter on human and people's rights on the rights of persons with disabilities in Africa. Individual countries were experiencing difficulties such as albinism in Tanzania, amputees in DRC," she said.

Ndebele said the onus was on every government in the African continent to protect the rights of people with disabilities.

"We want the rectification of this charter across all African countries, should 15 countries rectify it, it will then become law. That's what we are advocating now, we just need 15 countries, that's when we will come with the model of disability law. It will assist countries that don’t have a disability law.”

Disability law explains how individual department will mainstream disability in their country.

Ndebele said the document is currently at a special technical committee, which consists of a group of Justice Ministers from all 55 state countries.

In January, the document will then proceed to the heads of states.

Ndebele told African Independent the workshop was beneficial as they were able to network and hear each others stories and challenges.

"Having all of us in one room supports the weight that it's important for the protocol to be rectified."

She said major challenges that disabled people face in Africa include access to equal opportunities, education and health.  

"You would find a deaf person going to a clinic, but because the clinic does not have a sign language interpreter, the dignity of the person ends up being compromised," Ndebele said.

She added that having diverse people with disabilities in one room shows the need in continuity.  

"We can change people's attitudes towards disabled people, we can advise people in our communities to reach out by doing a simple thing, ask a question, ask a disabled person how they got disabled. It’s okay to ask - it gets communication going. Speak to them, they are people just like you and I," Ndebele reiterated.

She said the biggest myth in Africa towards disabled people is that if one sleeps with a person with albinism, they will be cured or won’t have any diseases in the future.  

"Another one is that deaf people are aggressive and they can recognise you through your scent, none of this is true. They function just like you and I," Ndebele concluded.