Worldwide mobileWOMEN in South Africa

Some of our MobileWOMEN from around the world have shared with us what living life in a wheelchair is like in their country. What you read about the differences or similarities between their stories and life in the United States might surprise you. In this installment, we interviewed Linda Brown.
Mobile Woman, Linda Brown

Please describe your disability?

I had a car accident in 2008 and broke my back at T12/L2. 
I have an incomplete spinal cord injury and use a wheelchair for mobility. I do have slight movement in my legs, especially the left leg and no bladder nor bowel control. I have a colostomy bag for my bowels and use pads or nappies (diapers) for my bladder. 

Please describe where you live? Are you in a city or rural location?

I live in a rural location in Greytown, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa with a population of just over 9,000.

Have you been able to receive, in your mind, adequate medical care in your area? Has the quality of medical care changed since the onset of your disability?

Medical care in private hospitals are adequately prepared but not the state hospitals. They are always out of medication or colostomy bags. Medical care has not improved at all, since my disability. 

With regard to wheelchairs, durable medical equipment and medical supplies, do you have access to items suitable for your needs?

I do not have access to proper medical equipment because of the high prices demanded for wheelchairs etc. 

In terms of accessibility needs, what are your living arrangements? Is your home modified  for your needs, and do you feel like you're able to live as independently as possible?
Linda and her daughter, Chante

I stay with my mother who is 70 years of age and my 12 year old daughter.. My house is not modified for my wheelchair. I would not be able to live independently because in South Africa, buildings are not wheelchair accessible. Typically, the ramps are built on a very steep angle and most elevators are out of order. There are often, too many steps and sidewalks with no curb cuts down, to cross a street.

Do you have a job or a project/activity? If so, please describe.

I do not work, as I suffer from nerve damage in my legs and back and also in Greytown, the buildings, especially the bathrooms are not wheelchair accessible. I do go to gym.

Do you have access to suitable transportation for you to get around?

Yes I have my own car with controls in it to drive around. I do, however, have to take my wheelchair apart to load it next to me. It takes time to reassemble when I get out at places. Parking is also a problem here in Greytown. The parking spaces are too small and often a non-disabled person will take the disabled parking spot. 

Do you feel that there is government support of people with disabilities, in your country?

No, I don't feel that the government has made advances to improve quality of life nor work environment, for disabled people. They aren’t encouraging for disabled people to live independently.

Describe the attitude in your area surrounding people with disabilities? Are you discriminated against because of your disability, or are you accepted?

In my opinion, I have been treated badly and I do not have any friends that come to visit or phone me. I do think people lack information about my injury and disabilities, therefore, treat me like I have some mental illness.

Are there any programs in your area that you are aware of or involved with, to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities?

No I don’t know of anything here. Maybe there are in the big cities like Johannesburg or Pretoria. 

Describe what you like to do for fun?

I love swimming, reading, watching crime series on TV. I also enjoy pending time with my daughter although it is very limited, due to inaccessible places.

What motivates you or inspires you each day?

This is a hard question. I battle everyday to find something to motivate me but I believe my faith in Jesus gives me courage to get up and go each day.

What changes for women with disabilities  would you like to see happen where you live?

More programs to assist single mothers. Houses modified for disabled people.

Is there anything that you would like to add?

Despite everything, I have learned that my disability does not define who I am. The wheelchair is an extension of me. Once you make peace with your disability, life is ok

If you are a mobileWOMAN living in a country other than the United States, we would love to hear your story and learn what your life is like there. Please contact us at info@mobileWOMEN.org.

Are you a reader living outside the US? If so tweet@mobilewomen.org with the hashtag #InternationalAccessibility to let us know how access is where you live!

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