Through Sightsavers’ inclusive health project in Nampula, he has been auditing health care facilities to ensure they are accessible for people with disabilities, and has led training to ensure health services are inclusive.
“I have a physical impairment that affects my leg, my arm and my spine. My arm is weak so when I was at school, I struggled to write.
“I wasn’t born with this condition. I acquired it when I was five years old. I was ill for almost a year. My parents took me to the local hospital. They did not have the money to take me to the specialist hospital, and they felt helpless. Eventually I got better, but by that time, I had developed the disability.
“I was 16 when I joined AJODEMO. Through experience I started understanding my rights, which had an incredibly positive impact on me. I knew that defending my rights alone would be difficult, but by joining a group I felt more empowered.
“My own experience as a person with a disability and as a member of AJODEMO means I am familiar with challenges to accessing essential services like health care.
“The first thing that prevents people with disabilities from accessing health services is the lack of accessibility of health facilities. The second is the attitude of health staff; that is why people with disabilities think twice before going to hospital.
“As people with disabilities, we cannot access buildings in the same way as others. For example, many buildings do not have ramps, or handrails to hold while you walk.
“Also, communication is a problem. Often, hospital staff are not prepared to – or cannot – communicate with people with a hearing impairment. For those who cannot see, the information about prescribed medicines is not in braille. So how can someone visually impaired know the dosage, or how they should be taken?
“In many hospitals or pharmacies, another problem is that the reception shelf is very high – this can be a barrier for someone in a wheelchair, and mean that other people may hear about the patient’s problem, so there is no privacy.
“There are many things health facilities can do to make sure people with disabilities – people like me – feel welcome, and to ensure our needs are considered and met.
“Mozambique has many good policies that defend the rights of people with disabilities, but they are not always implemented. The solution lies in disseminating the policies, implementing them, and then monitoring to track compliance with the policies.
“First, we need to make health facilities physically accessible, for example building ramps, handrails and benches.
“Second, we must build the capacity of health staff, with a focus on sign language, braille and alternative means of communicating, to enable them to communicate better with people with disabilities.
“Being part of Sightsavers’ inclusive eye health project with AJODEMO allowed me to take practical action to address some of these issues. For example, I took part in training about accessibility where I learnt about how to assess the level of accessibility of a ramp and rails.
“Critically, Sightsavers involves people with disabilities throughout the process of making health care more accessible for all. This is an empowering process, as we keep learning how to defend our rights every day and we have a saying in the project: ‘Nothing about us without us’.
“Involving people with disabilities is a crucial aspect of making projects inclusive, as we will be able to contribute from our own perspectives and lived experiences. That is different from having someone speak on our behalf.”
Camilo is Head of the Mozambican Association of Youth with Disabilities.
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