This is what Asisipho Peter (20) had to go through as a child. She began using a wheelchair in 2005, when she was only 5 years old. She grew up in Mdantsane, a township in East London, walking with her both legs just like any other child but her life changed dramatically.
“I lost my first leg in 2012 and another one in 2014. I am blessed with two decades of life as I am turning 20 years this year. I am a goal driven young student aspiring to be a broadcaster or TV presenter one day,” Peter told Rise ‘N Shine.She says her other passions include psychology and writing.
Despite all the challenges, Peter managed to pass her grade 12, and she is currently pursuing a tourism management diploma with Unisa.
“The reason I chose this diploma is because tourism as an industry contributes 7% towards creating employment in the country. I want to play a role in creating jobs for the next generation,” she says.
Peter is a paraplegic which means a part of her torso is paralysed. This has essentially affected all or part of her torso, legs and pelvic organs as well. “I can’t use my legs as I have no feeling in my both legs. So, because I lost both my legs this also makes me a bilateral amputee,” she says.Some of the challenges faced by people living with disabilities is that they are isolated or not admitted to participate in certain activities.
According to Journal of Disability, in November 2013 Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University denied admission to 3 visually impaired students. In January 2015, a wheelchair user’s application was turned down by Tshwane University of Technology on the grounds that the university was not physically accessible to wheelchair users.
Peter shares her own ordeal: “I learnt that being in a wheelchair can be a challenge especially if you see the wheelchair as a barrier. I learnt that for the society to accept me I need to accept myself. I learnt to love myself and believe in me. I told myself to accelerate beyond disability,” she says.
Some of the bad experiences Peter had to deal with include finding a challenge to access buildings. A variety of South African laws are obliging property owners to provide appropriate physical access to education sites for all. In practice, however, many buildings remain inaccessible to people with physical disabilities.“It’s like designers or property owners are forgetting that there are people like us pushing ourselves without being helped that also need to access those buildings. Taxis are another big challenge and the worst experience ever.
Having to pay for your wheelchair in the car hurts, even worse, being left in the rain by a taxi because there is no space for the wheelchair,” says Peter.Peter was forced later to change from a mainstream to a school for children with special needs. She says this didn’t help much as this made her feel isolated.
“Being isolated as children with disabilities has been the hardest thing because in matric you will get to interact with mainstream kids and they don’t understand us children with disabilities. Even worse, some of those kids even fear us. Lastly, transportation for my school was bad. We had no buses and struggled to get proper transportation for months on end or sometimes even for many years. Transport is still a huge problem to this day. Many times, I felt like it was the end of the road for me but giving up was not an option.”
Peter says one day she would love to write a book titled Never Back Down, Fall and Rise Up. Since the book isn’t out yet, Peter would still love people to learn that it is possible to overcome any obstacle they may encounter in life.
“The book should educate everyone about life in general, but specifically target those with special needs and their loved ones. This is because I haven’t only experienced challenges as a disabled person; there are many others as well.
That’s why I understand all the setbacks of life and failure because I have lived them,” she says. “I would love to write a book that people can relate to and understand the situation even though they haven’t been through it. The book must prepare them for the worst and still give them faith and strength to rise again,” she continues.
Peters says most people are less informed about various disabilities, as a result; she has made a decision not to judge them. “I don’t get hurt by stereotyped people. Like I said, if you lack knowledge it’s normal to act weird and pass judgement about what you see. I remain calm and show them that there is more to what you see than what is hidden.
I also educate people about my disability because I believe that the more I talk about it, the more others will share with their friends. By doing so, I believe it would be the first step to fight against having a stereotyped generation.”
“Our disabilities don’t define us. We are more than capable of doing anything. We are not disabled; we are just differently able. We are people and we matter. Love yourself and embrace who you are. Someone is looking up to you. It is possible, just put your mind to it. The human spirit is one ability, perseverance and courage that no disability can steal away,” Peter says.
She unwinds by reading, cooking scrumptious meals, listening to good music and studying the word of God. Her mantra is: “Aspire to inspire before you expire”. Her favourite book, Crushing by T.D. Jakes.