They hobbled after each other and entered the compound of the Group of 77, the official home of Liberians with physical disabilities on Newport Street in Monrovia. The men, some with clutches, and the women, at least one in a wheelchair, waited in the conference room.
The woman in the wheelchair identified herself as Weedor Ndoleh, a widow and a mother of three. “I sell mineral water and small, small things to care for my children,” she said with a smile. “Life is hard for me.” Her children aged 22, 14 and 12 are all in school, she said.
Her greatest disappointment, she said “is when taxi drivers refuse to exercise patience for the disabled to ride in their vehicles…because once they know a person is physically challenged, they pull off.”
At the gathering on Friday, Feb. 2, one question that bothered many of them was, ‘What can we do to change the marginalization of those who are physically challenged? in the current government of the people?’ Another question was: ‘What could the Weah-led government do to include even the physically challenged in his government?”
To find a suitable answer to those questions was the objective of the gathering on Friday.
And to answer those questions, George K. Morris, deputy executive director for administration of an organization known as Disabled of Like Minds in Support of CDC, in a statement, suggested one of their own to be considered by President George Manneh Weah for an advisory position at the National Commission on Disabilities (NCD).
Morris, also physically challenged, added: “In order for the government to accomplish the hopes and aspirations of the disabled and make them efficiently inclusive in this government, the GOL will need an adviser at the NCD.”
On behalf of his organization, he recommended Samuel Mawen Sumo Dean, Sr. “Like the president, Mr. Dean has spent the last 10 years executing viable programs that have improved the lives of his fellow disabled compatriots,” he added.
He noted that through Dean, over 11,000 units of devices have reached physically challenged Liberians in 13 of “our 15 counties and they are valued at U$2million.”
Morris said about a month ago, the transitional team of the government paid a visit to a National Commission on Disabilities’ workshop to ascertain the hopes of the physically challenged.
“That move is a testament to this government’s desire to include the marginalized in all strata of the Liberian society. We, the disabled of like minds, highly believe in Mr. Dean to emancipate us and therefore we are appealing to President George Weah to spare us further exploitation and abuse and must appoint Mr. Dean, the right person as your advisor on disability issues,” he said.
“We are cognizant that the journey ahead will not be without its uncertainties. But we believe that you (President Weah) will do everything within your power to surmount them and change the world for all Liberians.”
Samuel Dean is the founder and executive director of the Florence A. Tolbert Advocates for the Disabled and has been influential in bringing hundreds of wheelchair carts into the country for the disabled.