As you may recall, the reason I was in Ghana in the first place was to speak at the 5th annual AFRINEAD conference on disability.
Sitting in the conference centre at the KWAMA Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana, listening to a Star-studded group of dignitaries address the challenges inherent in developing policies, strategies and plans to increase the inclusion of persons with disabilities into society across Africa, I began to seriously rethink the focus of the keynote presentation I would give the following day.
Most of those speaking at the opening ceremony were politicians and academics and, since I’m neither of those, I began to consider what value I could add to the conversation – a message that was uniquely mine and could supplement the work the politicians and academics were doing. While, of course, bearing the theme of the conference – assistive technology- in mind.
And then it struck me – by sharing my own story, my own experiences of how assistive technology has increased what I can accomplish on my own, and also what I’ve learned from talking to HR departments and managers about employment of those with disabilities, I could provide a personal context to highlight the importance of the policies, strategies and plans that were being discussed.
And I’m really glad I did!
Every now and then as a speaker I receive feedback on a fundamental shift that my words and stories have made on a person who was listening to what I was saying; that my message held a particular significance for them as an individual. It’s probably the most powerful reminder of our purpose as speakers… at least, it is for me!
I was granted the gift of such a moment in Ghana. After I spoke one of the delegates approached me and told me my words had redefined his reason for doing the work he does in the field of assisting those with mobility impairments – that my words showed him that he was, in fact, changing people’s lives for the better with what he was doing.
So, apart from the amazing contacts I made at the conference, the wonderful people I met and with whom I shared the experience of travelling to this beautiful country, I’m grateful to the organisers of the AFRINEAD conference for giving me the opportunity of being in the right place, at the right time, to reconnect that delegate with his purpose.
I took an audio recording of my presentation but haven’t had a chance to edit it yet – if it turned out okay I’ll post a link in a future blog so you can listen to what I said.
It’s finally arrived! By the time you read this I’ll be heading off to Cape Town airport to catch my first flight on my journey to Ghana… Or even sitting in the airport waiting to board the plane.
So, as I sit staring pensively into the middle distance in the airport terminal I think it’s a fair time to reflect on how extraordinarily lucky I am to be heading off on this latest adventure.
I certainly couldn’t have done so without the help of friends and family – Craig was wonderful about helping me gather the documents I needed for the travel visa and generally in supporting me as I’ve prepared for this trip, and my friend Hillary has been not only a fountain of information on what to expect at the AFRINEAD Conference and in Ghana itself, but very generously offered to spare me the trip to get my visa at the Ghanaian High Commission.
I’ve also been overwhelmed by the wonderful support, enthusiasm and well wishes from people who appear to be almost as excited as I am about this amazing adventure I’m embarking on – almost as excited, but not quite!
I’ve pre-written articles to be posted while I’m away as I seriously doubt I’ll have time during the trip to update you on my adventure. Rest assured, I’ll have plenty of stories to share with you about my epic journey when I get back.
Three weeks today I’ll be sitting on a flight winging my way to Accra, in Ghanafor the AFRINEAD Conference. Travel is always exciting and this time I’m really looking forward to the experience of being a blind tourist in a new (for me) country, and for having the opportunity of attending and speaking at the AFRINEAD Conference.
So, rather than posting a long article about what I expect to happen while I’m there, and all that I’m looking forward to, let me just leave this article as it is – I’m going to Ghana and I simply can’t wait!
And I’ll share my experiences with you when I get back.
Now, to figure out where I need to go to get my Yellow Fever inoculation… Hmm…
A friend contacted me in response to a Facebook post I published about one of my recent speeches – one about how I use a computer and other assistive technology to help me live a full, fun and productive life despite my blindness. Essentially my friend asked if I would be willing to consider speaking on that topic at a conference in Ghana later this year.
I’m sure you can imagine my response… Would I consider speaking at a disability conference on a topic that is close to my heart? Well… umm… let me think…
Of course, yes!
The 5th AFRINEAD Conference takes place in Kumasi, Ghana in early August. What makes this conference especially appropriate for me as a speaker is the theme: Disability and Inclusion in Africa; the role of Assistive Technology’
I’ve submitted my abstract for consideration and am currently waiting with bated breath to see if I will be on the list of speakers for the event…
And, of course, an added bonus is that it will give me the chance to visit a country I’ve never been before… with plenty of potential future articles about what it’s like travelling as a blind tourist in Ghana!
Isn’t it amazing how sometimes the most exciting opportunities just drop into one’s lap?