Until recent times when awareness has been heightened to kick against the various forms of ridicule and public stigmatization of disabled people, some persons in various societies treated disabled people differently based on the type of their disability.
A disability is any condition that makes it more difficult for a person to do certain activities or interact with the world around them.
These conditions, or impairments, may be cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, sensory, or a combination of multiple factors.
However, some disabilities are barely noticed as they usually do not negatively impact the lives of victims. Though they may more often than not are not categorized as disabilities, they still do attract societal ridicule and stigmatization.
As a way of recognizing and accepting all people with disabilities in our societies on World Disability Day, which was marked on Tuesday, December 3, 2019, GhanaWeb in this article will put the spotlight on how disability is stigmatised by society and some of the disabilities that suffer the most.
Disability is most often narrowed to capture persons under this category. This group of disabled people are unable to walk due to one or several medical conditions. It is quite common to see them mimicked in local Ghanaian movies, even though several concerns have been raised about it.
Most of such people mostly resort to street begging to earn a living due to societal deficits which subject them to some forms of ridicule or stigmatization incurred from their inability to perform many tasks.
Perhaps the most ridiculed group of people all over the world. People with partial or total hearing loss have been subjected to societal ridicule over the years due to the rather ‘funny’ sounds they make as their mode of communication.
Sometimes affected people get to miss out on whatever ridicule being made of them. Interestingly, many people who try to communicate with them may not know how offensive it could be to do that with the ‘wrong-yet-funny’ sign language.
Another popular disability which is caused by one or many medical conditions of the eye or other related parts of the body.
They are also mostly mimicked in movies all over the world. In Ghana, most movies capture them as people who mostly live sorrowful, dejected and poor lives because of their inability to see. In reality, most of such people resort to street begging to sustain them.
They could be counted as worst victims of lies, ridicule and dubious persons due to their disability.
Bow legs and knee-knocked legs
It may not pass as a disability for many as it may either be temporary or permanent. The most commonly known are the mild forms of Genu Varum and Genu Valgum which barely cause any troubles in movement. Extreme forms, however, may cause the affected person to limp or have an awkward way of walking.
In some cases, even the height of the affected person is reduced. Some forms of disabilities have varying levels of effects, while some can easily pass as normal, others adversely affect the lives of persons.
This group of persons by far are the most ridiculed people in many Ghanaian societies. While the impact in some affected persons may be subtle and thus may not affect their movement, it does not wholly absolve them from offensive local Ghanaian names like ‘bow legge’ or ‘K legge’.
While the appropriate names for bow legs and knee-knocked legs are Genu Varum and Genu Valgum, respectively, some people in Ghana would rather stick to ‘bow legge’ or ‘K legge’.
It is a medical condition but also classified under physical disabilities. It simply connotes an abnormal skeletal growth. Most of such people are often called ‘midgets’ or ‘half-men’. While these terms are the most common to describe such people, is it rather offensive.
People with such conditions in Ghana are mostly portrayed in local movies as Dwarfs, evil spirits and sometimes just some funny characters. People with dwarfism are treated differently in many parts of the world especially in Ghana.
Strabismus (Cross-eye/ lazy eyes)
Strabismus may sound quite foreign but ‘alooku me’ may resonate with many Ghanaians. This rather offensive local Ghanaian word is used to describe people have a disorder in which the eyes do not look in the same direction at the same time.
This may not be regarded as a disability by many people as they have a subtle effect on the lives of affected people. Possible factors that Strabismus include a nerve injury or dysfunction of the muscles controlling the eye. Two types have been identified by medical practitioners 'esotopia' (cross-eyes) and 'exotopia' (lazy eyes).
Stuttering is one of the most common forms of disability. Such people are also mostly portrayed in local Ghanaian movies as funny characters or people who are mostly sidelined in conversations because they make involuntary pauses in their speeches.
Such people are regarded as annoying sometimes and as such several offensives, words are carved to describe them in local languages in some parts of Ghana. This form of disability may not affect the physical strength or intellect of such persons.