Last night I fell asleep watching Sex Education and I was at that scene in the latest season (season four, episode seven) when Issac (who is a wheelchair user) couldn’t get to his exam venue because the lift was broken, his very elegant protest and the solidarity the other students of the other students moved me. I know it’s fiction but for a moment, I wished I had that kind of support right now. But this is Nigeria and that thing sounds very alien but I wished for a moment that I was shown that kind of regard. People do care but not enough to upset whatever little comfort or advantage they have so the best I’ve gotten is “sorry about that, it’s so sad” or sorry, everyone is going through something.” That second thing is an incredibly insensitive and stupid thing to say to someone who tells you about some particular difficulty they have. So, if you’ve ever said that to me, fuck you!
It’s very costly to have a disability. Oh I have to pay a little more to attain some level of normalcy or comfort that others take for granted. I am clumsy sometimes and this morning when one of my drugs fell to the floor, I had to remind myself to calm down before I spiral and begin to appropriate all the doom of the world as reckoning for dropping a little red tablet on the cream coloured tiles. I dropped to my knees and searched for the tablet for a good ten minutes, a red tablet on an almost white floor and when I was done, I couldn’t leave the floor because I was in a lot of pain (it was my painkiller that fell on the floor) if it was possible to double over in supine position, I would have.
I get tired of complaining that I cannot see, that my vision sometimes fails me and it’s all blurry even when I try my best. Today two women severally tried to preach to me while I was sitting on a bench outside the office of the man whom I hoped would help me with a complaint I had, A complaint I’ve had for over a year. My vision and my body doubled over in pain and I had to beg one of them with my watering eyes to please leave me alone, that all my attention was focused on trying to suppress my pain. I was not supposed to be on that bench, I had an emergency anatomy class to attend but here I was waiting for a man, to explain to him that I don’t have access to something important for school because I went and had surgery for my eyes and for almost a year, I’ve been trying to regularise myself in this school but the same problems keep coming up. It’s almost as if I am being penalised because I lost my vision and I’m trying to be a normal person.
The institution, University of Ibadan, has masked all care and empathy for its people with bureaucracy, a tradition of silence and complacency. All I get is directions from one office to another and no lasting solution. I have a full folder (which was new but is now worn) of printed letters and documents I have written, copied and carried everywhere between Lagos and Ibadan trying to explain, “I had surgery for my eyes, can you let me continue with my studies?”
And what assistance do I receive from my school? More journeys to undergo because I have to follow due process.
This disregard is everywhere, from the paucity of accessible materials on my courses that I have to manage because my mates aren’t complaining. The lecturer who asked me what I was doing here when I told him I couldn’t see. You never know how bad people are at describing things they can’t point at.
It costs a lot to be disabled, I have to pay extra for internet access because if I need to understand anything, I’d need to watch YouTube videos when I could have made notes in class, classes that I don’t see anything. I just sit and wait for time to pass. I worry when I have to write something because how do I explain that beyond a narrow field of vision, my eyesight is useless for writing.
For a while, I thought I could use technology to circumvent this, I starved and ran into debt to get myself a phone that had a wonderful camera and advanced capabilities I thought would ease some of these burdens but I was so wrong, it helps me a lot now, my phone is practically my eye, but there are just some situations you cannot whip out a camera or ask your phone to live transcribe what people are saying all the time.
Life for non disabled poor people in Nigeria is very hard as it is, it’s much worse when you are disabled. I have made my shout and it may not amount to anything but it’s much better than silence.