WE, TOO, HAVE A VOICE

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Carl S. Victor_web.jpg

I contracted polio at the age of three months.

And since I was six I started to use crutches. I used it all my life and became an acrobat on crutches. I mastered the London underground and the Paris metro in terms of escalators, elevators, moving carpets as well as stairs.

I did not consider myself handicapped as I had the independence of my crutches, climbing stairs, going around the house, driving swimming etc. I am a physically challenged entrepreneur, a free lance journalist and run my own printing and publishing business and have done so for more then 25 years. I AM NOW MOVED AROUND IN A WHEEL CHAIR as a result of an accident which was caused by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). Even though claims documents-for compensation was presented to me, nothing ever happened. In fact they have turned my life 360 degrees around with adverse effects and so I suffer my new dispensation.

Now in a country that is not handicap friendly infrastructuraly, I feel really DISABLED. The Government through the National Legislature talks about employment or contracts for handicapped persons but has not yet put into effect these policies to enhance the lives of the physically-challenged.

There are no ramps, elevators, even access to public buildings are not user-friendly. I find out that I cannot use the rest rooms like at a restaurant, or office because my wheelchair cannot pass through the door. These are just a few of the challenges I now face with my new realities. And oh the stigma that every physically challenged individual is a bum or an uneducated beggar!

THE LEGIALATURE CANNOT LEGISLATE THE HEART, but they can pass legislation against the HEARTLESS. I experienced a situation the other day at Ecobank, where my driver had raised me up to an ATM machine and suddenly the security many shouted, “Papay there were 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 persons before you” and the lady in the line had to tell him, “Can’t you see his condition?” Incidents like this will continue to occur until legislation is passed to curtail this behavior.

The parking attendants sometimes put a boot on my car.

Laws must be passed to protect the rights of physically challenged individuals in all public and private places including courtesy to pregnant women and elderly persons. Let’s take the relatively new city-parking ordinance. The IDEA WAS BROUGHT FROM AMERICA AND EUROPE. It is a good idea for the city to generate funds but the people who brought it here to Liberia, do they not know that they should have designated area for Handicapped drivers or handicapped occupant of a vehicle, or do they assume that there are no physically challenged Liberians who can drive or own a vehicle to make this provision available?

The National Legislature must wake-up to this urgent reality and start to take serious steps to remedy the situation of people treating the physically challenged as nobodies. I demand a right to parking space; I demand express service at the bank, supermarket, and in getting in and out of public buildings and transport first. I demand me being called by my name or profession — not ‘one cripple man’ — and the list goes on.

The very Capitol Building where our representatives and senators are must have the elevators working to enable physically challenged constituents to have easy access to their leaders.

The legislators must pass laws to make it mandatory that all parents with physically challenged children must register them with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and enforce the government’s compulsory education and training to prepare them for the future. I consider myself a success story as a result of my parents efforts to provide me with hope, education, educational toys, musical instruments etc., and they will see me succeed.

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