Persons with disabilities still face obstacles in various spheres

EDUCATION ADVOCATE … Sesilia Mwahafa was born with an underdeveloped arm. Photo: Contributed

Namibians with disabilities face many obstacles in accessing essential facilities and services.

Anna Haimbili, a young woman with scoliosis, has spoken out about the misconceptions and discrimination she often encounters.

Scoliosis is an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine.

She emphasises the urgent need for increased awareness and acceptance of disabilities, advocating for more inclusive environments and opportunities.

In an interview with The Namibian recently, Haimbili underlined the struggles faced in accessing healthcare, despite the existence of an act that exempts people with disabilities from paying for medical services.

“Unfortunately, some hospitals fail to uphold this provision,” she said.

Recalling her high school experiences, Haimbili recounted the bullying and judgment she endured.

“People often make assumptions based on appearances, disregarding the fact that disabilities can manifest in various ways,” she said.

Physical accessibility is another significant challenge, as many buildings, including stores, offices, clothing shops, grocery stores, and even homes, lack adequate space and accommodations for people with disabilities, particularly wheelchair users.

Transportation presents another obstacle, which often requires additional travel companions, adding financial strain.

“At times, we’re left stranded because drivers perceive us as a burden,” Haimbili said.

Jessica Kankondi, who has a speech impediment, shares her frustrating experiences of medical care.

“Medical staff often dismiss my concerns or ask me to write down my symptoms, assuming that I can read and write,” she said.

Similar to Haimbili, Kankondi sees the need for increased awareness and acceptance of disabilities, emphasising the importance of creating inclusive environments where everyone can thrive.

“Encouraging people with disabilities to apply for opportunities is not enough, we need genuine inclusion,” Kankondi added.

Another woman with a disability, Sesilia Mwahafa, who was born with an underdeveloped left hand, highlighted the lack of accessibility in most establishments, especially for wheelchair users.

“Employment opportunities are often imagined, with people with disabilities being encouraged to apply but rarely considered seriously,” Mwahafa said.

Mwahafa advocates for education and understanding around disabilities, promoting acceptance and kindness.

She also shared the financial strain of managing disability-related expenses, including medical bills, medication and accessible transportation.

Asteria Frans, who has kyphosis scoliosis, compared the burdens of black tax and disability tax, emphasising the unexpected medical bills, medication costs and the need for wheelchair-accessible transportation.

“Disability tax is worse,” Frans said.

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