“People with disabilities are still facing a lot of challenges out there; the society is depending on you to fight for their rights. We still get cases of people with disabilities being dismissed from employment; most of our buildings in the country are unfriendly to these people”.
These were the words of Kachere Rehabilitation Centre Physiotherapist, Isaac Chapweteka, when Chancellor College Disability Legal Clinic students visited the centre on Thursday. The students visited the Centre to witness some of the challenges the centre is experiencing as it carries its duties in the rehabilitation of people with disabilities due to various misfortunes.
During the visit, students were briefed on some of the activities that the centre performs in the rehabilitation of the patients.
“As you can see we always ensure that our doors are user friendly to wheelchair users, and all our toilets are designed in a way that a person with disability can access them easily,” explained Mr Chapweteka as he toured the students to the nursing department. The students were taken to the Occupational department where another Physiotherapist Dan Kagwa explained the role occupational therapy plays in the rehabilitation of the patients.
“In this department, we train patients to return to their normal life. Remember that the patients we receive here are those who have been involved in accidents, stroke or any other misfortune that their normal life in termsof memory or speech is affected. Our duty here is to bring them back to their normal position. We train them in activities like dressing, feeding, toileting even in paraphrasing,” Kagwa schooled the students.
The students were then taken to the centre’s gymnastic were the rehabilitees are given minor physical exercises. The centre has a wide range of gymnastic equipment used for the exercises.
Mwai Banda, a 3rd year law student asked Intern Physiotherapist, Tuntufye Mwambyale, some of the challenges she experiences in the rehabilitation of the patients.She lamented on the shortage of gymnastic equipment.
“We have a problem of equipment; it is not enough for all the patients. She also bemoaned the time spent on a patientas not adequate as there is a high demand for places at the Centre. Speaking in the gymnastic, Isaac Chapweteka complained that the efforts of the centre are thrown in vain when the patients are discharged.
“As you can see here, most of our facilities are user friendly to people with disabilities.Look at our bathrooms, our beds, our toilets yet when our patients return to their respective Communities they experience the same facilities they were facing before they got disabled: the same squatting toilets, and the same steps on our doors.
This throws our entire efforts in vain. This is where we want you students to fight for this injustice. Most of our buildingsare not friendly to the people with disabilities. Have you heard of incidents where wheelchair users have been forced to pay for a wheel chair in minibuses?” lamented Chapweteka.
Speaking at the end of the function, Head of Practical legal studies at Chancellor Mdala Amuli thanked the staff and the patients for welcoming the students even though they were given a short notice. Amuli urged the students to bring out all the injustices that the community is inflicting on people with disabilities.
“We have legal clinics at Chancellor College that look into these issues such as labour and disability rights. Certainly, it is up to you as students to expose these injustices. Speaking on before of the students, Bridget Kumwenda urged the fellow students to be proactive in fighting for the rights of people with disabilities. She too thanked the patients for welcoming the students.
Kachere Rehabilitation Centre is situated next to Queen Elizabeth Centre in Blantyre. The centre was built to accommodate only 40 patients but according to Chapweteka they get over 80 requests for places. He lamented that the waiting period is long when the number of people who have finished rehabilitation is small. The centre was built during the Malawi Congress Party rule and it has not been expanded. Chapweteka thanked the support the government and the donor community have been giving to the centre.
Outside the centre,the students marvelled at Mr Charles Khaula, a wheel-chair user who drives a disability user-friendly car. “This is what I call technology!” appreciated Frank Matola