Making persons with disabilities count

By Ngor Khot Garang

Noah Night is just a true definition of “Disability is not inability”. In a country where persons with disabilities are often seen as people of no value, discriminated against and left to fend for themselves even by people closest to them, Noah is a rare kind among many or even thousands who have stepped out and proved the odds wrong.

I met Noah during three days workshop in one of the Hotels in Juba but his flawless performances in the program humbled me and left me speechless. This wasn’t even enough because there is something special about this man. Noah, like any normal person reads, uses phone and a computer.

He is blind, it is a disability but this cannot prevent him from exploiting his inner abilities. Being virtually impaired is something that comes with many challenges. You don’t really know if you are a human or not or if God really cares about you. Overlooked and treated like a half human, that is what these people have to go through.

Many people like him are no were to be seen today because they believe that they are disabled but Noah is one among few who discovered his God’s given talents.

When I first met Noah, I thought he was not virtually impaired because the way he was doing his things was enough to make someone believe that he was fine not until I saw a young girl leading him to a rest room. This time, I was aware Noah has many things to tell the world.

I reached out to him and started a conversation.  But to my greatest surprise, Noah introduced himself to me as a student of laws at Juba University, teacher at Rajaf School of the blind for nearly three years now. I have mentioned before that Noah is virtually impaired, yes. This is mind-boggling. This is a story of triumph, hope, pain and rejection but it tells of a man who stood above all these and still doing so to encourage others to do the same.

“Disability is just a label and not the end of the world. People should focus on what they can do best and go after it” Noah said with a beaming face. “This is true when people with disabilities are included and treated with love” he added. The story of Noah is not different because it is a story of how persons with disabilities suffer in silence.

“I went blind at young age. I can partially remember when but what I know is that my eyes are no longer friendly. From that time on, I became a young man with a white cane, unsure how to live my life,” Noah Night, explains. But very soon, he found a deeper purpose in life, and realized his disability didn’t have to stop him from achieving great things.

“I began to see myself as somebody not a nobody, and as time goes by, I have already identified myself as a normal human though it was very challenging.”

But as human, it was normal to feel rejected and discriminated. God was far this time because he didn’t know how to get a good job or if he would succeed in life and once again his world changed overnight: “My new life was shattered.” But he had to put his disability aside and see beyond his eyes or even himself.

He had a choice: to let his disability define him for the rest of his life, or to continue fighting. There was only ever one way it was going to go.

In reference to the word of Author, political activist and lecturer, Hellen Keller “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision”.  This is very true and it applies to Noah and he proved to be exceptionally well.

Keller,born in the US in 1880, an illness left Helen Keller both blind and deaf before her second birthday. While the services available to people with disabilities were less extensive than they are today, Keller’s mother sought out experts and ensured her daughter received the best education.

In 1904, Keller graduated from College, becoming the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts. It was at university that her career as a writer and social activist started. Today, the Helen Keller archives contain almost 500 speeches and essays on topics as varied as birth control and Fascism in Europe.

She would go on to achieve international acclaim, becoming America’s first Goodwill Ambassador, and to this day she remains an inspiration to the deaf and blind.

It is also possible for any person facing one problem or the other. Even people with legs don’t walk sometimes just because they don’t know where they are going. The same thing for those with sight but without vision. This should educate us that disability is just a label and not an obstacle to success because when we believe in our God-given potentials and make good use of them, we can make the world a better place.

Noah unlike any other purposeless person with sight has figured out his purpose in life. He is now pursuing his bachelor Degree in Laws to be a defender of persons with disabilities. He also teaches at the school of the blind, one of the hardest tasks any person with sight would deem impossible.

I think our government or donors should make sure that no money is used to build new barriers for persons with disabilities. The only way to prevent this is by including persons with disabilities in all programs, at all levels, be it private or government. Particularly at the planning stage. For example, when designing a new building or service, governments should be considering how to make it inclusive right from the start which is much more time and cost effective than thinking about accessibility at the end, as an afterthought.

Donors have important influence in the countries they partner with by making inclusion a requirement for funding, donor countries can encourage governments to meet their commitments and ensure that persons with disabilities have equal access to the benefits of development in this country.

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