Africans,Bad Jokes and The Paralympics

   by Danielle A. Frempong

 This and many similar jokes were posted on social media about African countries by Africans during the Olympics. While they were a mix of humor and truth, and in some way reflected the performance of the African Olympians compared to the rest of the world, these jokes could not be extended to our African Paralympians at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Having a representation from more than 80 percent of the countries on the continent and leaving the competition with more than 60 medals, our Paralympians rose to the task, defied all odds and sashayed away with their stories of success. Basically, in response to the derogatory jokes, our Paralympians were screaming ‘miss me with that negativity!’ because they were shattering glass ceilings and stereotypes and of course, breaking records.

    This year at the Paralympics, the African athletes have collectively shown that athletic excellence is spread across the continent. The Kenyan athletes as per the usual trend in Olympics, dominated the marathon races by winning gold in the 5000m and in the 1500m T11 athletic events. Still on the Eastern front, Nambal Johannes and Shikogo Ananias won silver and bronze medals respectively in 100m T13 and 100m T11 events. Our Northern Africans rose to the task and excelled in shot-put when Nouiri Azeddine from the Moroccan team won the gold medal, setting the pace for other Moroccan athletes to strive for higher excellence. South Africa left the competition being the African country with the highest number of medals although overall it came in second, following closely after Nigeria who swept away the largest number of gold medals for Africa. Our team of Paralympians were so successful this year, and we spotted some extremely unique stories. We had the youngest ever double amputee runner take away a silver medal and a four-times Paralympic participant in weightlifting, win gold and break the world record.


Meet A few of the Paralympic stars from Africa:

    14-year-old Ntando Mahlangu of South Africa was born with hemi-melia and so from birth had to rely on others and a wheelchair to get around. Both of his legs were amputated at the age of 10 and four years down the line, he holds two world records and has won a silver medal at this year’s Rio 2016 Paralympics in the 200m men’s race. For him, being a double amputee never put him in any disadvantage. In an interview with Sunday Times (South Africa), he said ‘I always had confidence in myself whether with legs or without legs.’ Ntando is what I choose to  call persistently confident and unbelievably positive. His persistence in seeing himself as equal regardless of what may seem as a limitation can clearly be seen in everything he does,especially in the way he approaches his sporting career. He is a rising star and an exceptional example of an individual whose disability does not define his capabilities.

    Another athlete who is breaking boundaries is Lucy Ejike from Nigeria. Besides being the captain of the entire Nigerian Paralympic team, she has prior to Rio 2016, appeared and excelled in 4 Paralympic Games. At the Rio Paralympics, she successfully carried a 61kg weight and currently holds the world record. Ejike’s story is simply exceptional; she was born without a deformity but soon developed polio when her parents overlooked the importance of vaccination; a tragic and avoidable circumstance. She did not stop there, her resilience and passion led her to become the captain of the Nigerian team. She is a clear example that Black  women with disability in fact can thrive wherever they wish.

  The Paralympic games truly reflect  our belief that disability is not inability. It is inspiring for us at at Dislabelled when we see African Paralympians excelling and breaking bounds. However, what we all do not see on the tarmac or on the podiums as they receive their awards is the amount of support they receive to reach where they are. Ntando for example, has been a part of Jumping Kids, a non-profit organization whose ‘dream is to provide prosthetic solutions geared for optimum results’ since he was ten. It was Jumping Kids that  helped him receive his prostheses and gave him the adequate support to learn to walk with them. While Ntando’s resilience and dedication can take him far, without adequate support from the community, he could not have realized his full potential.  That is what we  at Dislabelled are trying to obtain; we believe that as a continent, we must reach a place where having a disability does not even determine  whether or not an individual can thrive and live a completely fulfilled life. We want to build a community where those like Ntando and every Ejike can achieve their dreams.



By Nana Akwasi Awuah


In my August 2015 article on building an inclusive society with focus on persons with disability, I underscored the need to provide economic empowerment to persons with disability so that they may contribute meaningfully to national development.

The need to build an inclusive society that takes  into account persons with disability cannot be overemphasized. Ghana’s Persons with Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715) provides a broad framework for realizing an inclusive society. It is worthy to note that despite its limitations, the provisions of the Act are generally in tandem with the ‘Articles of Inclusion’ (namely 3 and 19) of the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities which Ghana became a signatory to in March 2007 and eventually ratified in August 2012. Article 3 of the Convention lays down general principles one of which is the full and effective participation and inclusion of all persons with disabilities in society. This general principle is  elaborated upon in Article 19 by casting a positive obligation on State parties to take effective and appropriate measures to ensure its realisation.

In this article, I discuss the existing legal framework designed to ensure the attainment of economic empowerment for persons with disability. In the discussion, I identify some of the challenges I have learned of as a result of my work and direct interaction with persons with disability and their families. Then I make a modest attempt to offer some suggestions to address these challenges.


Nelson Mandela’s words that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” is indubitably a truism.  

Undoubtedly, the first step to economic empowerment is education – both formal and informal. To this end, Act 715 enjoins every parent, guardian or custodian of a child with disability of school going age to enroll the child in a school. The Act provides sanctions for failure to enroll such a child by punishing that culpable parent, guardian or custodian with a fine of GHC120 or two weeks imprisonment.

The Act also casts an obligation on Government to provide free education for a person with disability, and to establish special schools for persons with disability who by reason of their disability cannot be enrolled in formal schools.


According to Ghana Schools Net, there are nineteen special schools in Ghana, some of which are private. The Human Rights Watch estimates that there are about 5 million persons with disability living in Ghana. Out of this figure, it is unclear how many are children. Assuming though that there are a million of this  population of persons with disability who are children of school going age spread across the country; it is obvious that there is an inadequate number of special schools in the country to accommodate all of them. There is therefore the need  to build more special schools to provide education to these young members of our society.


The Act also obligates the Minister of Education to designate schools or institutions in each region which shall provide the necessary facilities and equipment that will enable persons with disability to fully benefit from the school or institution. It may be observed that this provision is in itself discriminatory. In the broader spirit of building an inclusive society with full participation of persons with disability, all public schools at all levels of education ought to be provided with the necessary facilities and equipment that will enable persons with disability to fully benefit from the institution. It should not be limited to only schools designated by the Minister of Education. Indeed the situation on the ground is that there are many children with disabilities who are turned away from public schools simply on the now notorious excuse that such children require “special care” and that there are neither teachers nor facilities within the school to provide such “special care”.


It is interesting to note that per the Act, a person responsible for admission into a school or other institution of learning is required not to refuse admission of a person with disability on account of the disability unless the person with disability has been assessed by the Ministries of Education and Health in collaboration with the Social Welfare to be a person who clearly requires to be in a special school for children or persons with disability. It is an offence for a person to unlawfully refuse admission of children with disability and such a person may be punished with a fine of GHC600 or three months imprisonment or both. It is important therefore for persons responsible for admission into public schools to satisfy themselves based on the assessment from the Social Welfare that a child with disability actually requires to be in a special school. Many parents of such children are also not aware of these provisions of the law and so are rendered helpless when their children are refused admission. Thus it is important to embark on sensitization and education so that all stakeholders become aware of these vital provisions.


A curious provision in the Act (that is section 19) says that “where a person with disability has completed basic education but is unable to pursue further formal education, the Ministry shall provide the person with appropriate training.” The provision of special vocational training schools across the country shall be useful in equipping such persons with disability with the requisite skills set that will empower them either to be self-employed or make them employable.




After securing education, the expected thing to do next is to put the knowledge and skills acquired to gainful use. Unfortunately, many organizations and business entities shy away from giving employment to persons with disability. This is largely as a result of the stigmatization of persons with disability. This situation is prevalent despite the express statutory prohibition against discrimination of persons with disability when it comes to employment.


Government is obligated by the Act to grant a person (natural or artificial) who employs a person with disability an annual tax rebate of the taxable income in respect of each person with disability employed. The Act further obligates Government to grant special incentives to persons with disability engaged in business and also to business organizations that employ persons with disability.


In order to provide job security to people  who eventually come to suffer a disability as a result of their job, the Act provides that the employer in such a situation has the obligation to counsel, re-train and re-deploy the person to another section of the organization which is more suited to the person with disability. This is in addition to any other relief  that the employee is entitled to under the Workmen’s Compensation Law, 1987 (P.N.D.C.L. 187).


The Act enjoins the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to assist to secure jobs for persons with disability. The law goes further to provide that where the name of a person with disability remains on a job search list for more than two years, the Ministry shall take the name of that person off the list, and where applicable give that person appropriate training, provide that person with the necessary working tools and materials, and assist that person to access loan capital for that person to start a business. It is an offence for a person with disability to sell the tools or materials provided by the Ministry and the one who buys them also commits an offence. Both the person with disability who sells and the one who buys are punishable with a fine of GHC3,000 or a maximum of one year imprisonment or both. This is very laudable as its effective implementation shall ensure support and sustenance of persons with disability who wish to engage in their own trade or business. On the part about loan capital, it is important to mention that, there is a special allocation of 2% of the District Assembly Common Fund for persons with disability. The 2010 Guidelines on the Disbursal of the District Assembly Common Fund Allocation to Persons with Disability captures the objectives of the allocation as follows: to support the income generating activities of individual persons with disabilities as a means of economic empowerment; to provide educational support for children, students and trainees with disabilities. This is important in building  the capacity of Organizations of Persons with Disability in the districts to enable them to advocate and assert their rights and undertake awareness raising and sensitization on disability issues; and to support persons with disabilities have access to technical aids and other assistive devices and equipment.


There is the need to ensure strict adherence to the guidelines in order to ensure that the funds are applied to achieve its purpose. That way situations such as that captured in the 2012 Auditor General’s Report which revealed a misapplication of the allocated funds in the Birim South District of the Eastern Region will be prevented.


Finally, it is important to mention that there are quite a considerable number of cases where parents (predominantly mothers) of children with disability are unemployed. These single unemployed mothers find it very difficult to care for and maintain their children. From my interaction with these parents, the situation is usually as a result of total neglect and abandonment by the fathers of these children who claim that the children and their mothers are a bad omen to them.


The quest to secure economic empowerment for persons with disability should be extended to parents of children with disability. It is therefore suggested that the allocated funds should also be disbursed to support the income generating activities of parents of children with disability. Furthermore, such parents should be made to benefit from the training and incentives provided under the Act. It is further suggested that there should be a deliberate employment policy backed by legislation to ensure that persons with disability or parents of children with disability are gainfully employed. Thus, like the Petroleum (Local Content and Local Participation) Regulations, 2013 (LI 2204), it is proposed that Regulations are made to make it mandatory for businesses and organizations to employ persons with disability as well as parents of children with disability. The Regulations should provide the modalities for such employment and should also spell out the incentives and tax benefits available for such businesses and organizations




In sum, the existing legal framework, though laudable, requires a lot of improvement. It is fervently hoped that there will be a committed and coordinated plan backed by law to economically empower persons with disability as well as parents of children with disability so that the attainment of an inclusive society shall be realized.

Fidel Boamah: A story of resilience and growth

By: Danielle Frempong

It is often said that when faced with adversity the best way to overcome is to move yourself in the right direction. So then what do you do when your greatest adversity is your inability to actually move?

Meet Fidel Boamah, a Ghanaian boy who lost his leg at the tender age of seven. For 11 years, he has learned to live his life as normally as possibly, however, living as an amputee can be daunting. Growing up, he had to struggle with being excluded from some activities. During our interview with him, he tells us that his JHS classmates wouldn't play football with him sometimes because they felt 'I was too fragile and unfit.'  Though this brought him much dissatisfaction, nothing seemed worse than hearing a little child scream and crying out 'HIS LEG IS BROKEN' whenever he walked through the streets of Ghana. He found a challenge in accepting that he was different from everyone and could not do the same things they did with as much ease as they did. He says, ‘’it is very easy to give up and fall into a state of self-pity after this realization.

Dislabelled: What is the most difficult aspect about learning to do things differently from most people?

Fidel: I guess it would be acknowledging that you are different and as such cannot do what most people do as freely as they can. Most people give up after this acknowledgement but what should be done is to aspire to be able to do what everyone else can do in your own way. Adapting to the situation is key bearing in mind that your disability is another means by which you can display your potential in a creative manner.

Dislabelled: What would you say has been your greatest achievement in terms of overcoming what may have seemed like a limitation?

Fidel: Most people make mention of physical accomplishments like running or swimming or dancing. That is really important and deserves a great applause but for me my greatest achievement has been overcoming myself and I don’t mean this in the physical sense. The real battle lies in the mind, without that being able to swim is as abstract as vanishing. The voices in my head that remind me of my limitations and pull me back are the easiest to listen to which is what makes them so dangerous. Pushing past them and yearning for more is my greatest accomplishment and it happens every day I take a step with my crutches.

Dislabelled: How does society mostly accept you and does that affect your growth as an individual?

Fidel: Growing up an amputee I have come to appreciate a lot of different perspectives. Most people who see me have pity on me and say ‘sorry’ or ‘don’t worry’. Sometimes children point at me and laugh or cry or scream out “HIS LEG IS BROKEN”. While I was in Junior High School, most of my mates wouldn’t play football with me because they thought I was fragile and not fit enough. But much earlier I realised that society accepts what you show them. If you show yourself strong when they underestimate you, they respect you more. Like I said it’s the voices in your head that you should be most wary of because it’s easy to believe what they say be it verbally or physically. Because of this, I decided to take risks, like running, dancing, swimming, playing footballs and most importantly ignoring the voices etc. It’s not the easiest thing to do but because I worked hard at it, it feels very natural to play with people and ignore the voices even in my disability.

Dislabelled: Any advice to individuals on how to treat people who may be different from them?

Fidel: I can understand it when people react in shock or are overly cautious when it comes to challenged people because they care about them. It is hard to say but sometimes looking past the challenge and accepting the person for who he or she truly is could go a long way.

Dislabelled: Message for anyone who has to learn to do things differently from most people?

Fidel: I think the worst thing anyone in such a situation could do is to settle for less or be comfortable in their misfortune. Push past the discouragement and the negative treatment and aspire for more. That way you adapt and become content and less dependent on people.

Dislabelled: Who or what would you say have been your biggest inspirations towards pressing to overcome what may have seemed to be a limitation?

Fidel: God has been my strength in all of this. Growing in His word teaches me to trust and obey because there is no other way to be happy. Having faith has taught me that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me and this inexorable truth has allowed me to overcome with God as my help.

And of course, any last words I’d like to say thank you for the interview and I hope this inspires many others like me to believe in God and desire for more. Thank you.


Opportunities for Africans with Disability and for Special Education Teachers

We compiled a list of opportunities for Africans with disability and their educators. This list is by no means exhaustive. Some of the deadlines for the opportunities have passed but we have included them to make you aware of their existence. Make this go viral! Share with as many people as possible and help us Disable the label!

1) Mwalimu Nyerere African Union Scholarship Scheme for persons with Physical disability

This is a continuous scholarship awarded to university students aimed at easing the burden of university fees. Applicants are therefore encouraged to keep abreast with the webpage in order to be able to apply for the funds as and when possible.

Find out more here 

2) Autism Society of West Africa Annual Teacher and Parent Conference

The Autism Society of West Africa has an annual conference for parents and teachers of children with autism. This training is a unique and important platform for teachers and parents to be kept abreast with modern special educational methods and to let them brainstorm and share ideas to take better care of the students with disability. It is usually organised in April. Check out the Autism Society of West Africa’s Facebook page for more information.

Find out more here

3) Disability Rights Scholarship Program

The Disability Rights Scholarship Program provides awards to obtain a master’s degree to disability rights advocates, lawyers, and educators to develop new legislation, jurisprudence, policy, research, and scholarship to harness the innovations and opportunities offered by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).The deadline for this grant has passed but it is an essential opportunity for prospective lawyers, teachers and disability rights advocates.

Find out more here

4) Ghana Federation of Disability Organisations Project Coordinator

This is a job opportunity for people interested in making a change in matters concerning disability in Ghana. It is a project that is geared at  promoting inclusion and participation of People With Disabilities (PWDs) in Ghana’s national elections in 2016. It is past the deadline but people are still encouraged to apply and be on the lookout for other job opportunities.

Find out more here

5) Disability Rights Fund

DRF supports projects that demonstrate a clear ability and commitment to contribute to the advancement of the human rights of persons with disabilities, including in national development processes. Cross-disability and other partnerships (including with other human rights organizations) in-country are strongly encouraged, as are projects which address particularly marginalized sectors of the disability community.       

Find out more here

6) Annual Conference on Disability Rights in Africa

This is an annual conference held in the first week of november each year in pretoria. It is a highly informative conference that deals with problems of disability in an African context. Conference participants often include disabled persons and their families as well as policy makers and implementers from all around the world.

Find out more here

7) Dislabelled SustainAbility teacher training program for scholarships

SustainAbility is a periodic and easily replicable teacher-training program, which also serves as a platform for special educators in Ghana to brainstorm ideas and to get involved in policy making. It reels in experts and resources to keep the teachers abreast of latest pedagogy and technologies to enrich the classroom experience.After the training, Dislabelled donates the needed teaching materials to these schools. If you or your school is interested in receiving training, kindly email for more information.

8) Microsoft disAbility Scholarship

Awarded to promising high school students with financial need who plan to attend a vocational or academic college. This non renewable scholarship is designed for students declaring a major in engineering, computer science, computer information systems, law, business or a related field. 

Find out more here

9) Bennett A. Brown Scholarship

Provided by Georgia State University, this scholarship is for students with language-based learning disabilities who are registered at the Margaret A. Stanton Office of Disability Services at Georgia State. Successful candidates are incoming freshmen who demonstrate financial need.

Find out more here

10) Landmark College Scholarship

Landmark College is one of only two colleges in the USA specifically for students with learning disabilities. Multiple scholarships are available for students and are based on financial aid and merit.

Find out more here

11) UNESCO/ Emir Jabal -al-Ahmad-al-Jabal-al-Sabah prize for Digital empowerment of persons with disabilities

This prize is to recognize the contribution of individuals and organizations towards the improvement of life conditions for people with disabilities through the application of digital solutions,resources and technology. It is offered biennially 2016/2017, 2018/2019, 2020/2021

Find out more here