Unique house for people living with disability

THE adage “Disability does not mean inability” now sounds like a tired cliché, but for 33-year-old Edmore Masendeke, it speaks volumes as he managed to design a house, especially for people living with disabilities.

The house enables people living with disabilities to live alone, without anyone else looking after them. Masendeke was born with cerebral palsy, resulting in him being unable to crawl, walk or do anything for himself during most of his early years.
Cerebral palsy is defined as neurological conditions which are caused by problems in the brain and nervous system.

pecifically, cerebral palsy is caused by a problem in the parts of the brain responsible for controlling muscles. The condition can occur if the brain develops abnormally or is damaged before, during or shortly after birth.

At the early age of four his parents had no choice but to commit him to an institution where they thought he would be cared for in ways that they could not.

“The past few days have been an exciting time for me. I posted a video of my house on Facebook on Monday and the response to it has been overwhelming, to say the least. “As I write, close to six thousand people have watched this video and about ninety of these viewers have shared this post. (I have never had such a response to any of my previous posts before.) Many of them have congratulated me on my accomplishment and said that this is amazing.

“If you haven’t watched the video, you are probably wondering what the fuss is all about. But my house isn’t just any house. It is an accessible house. It is a house with features and devices that enable people with disabilities to live more independent lives.
“These features and devices include: ramps at main entrance and the backyard, non-standard (wide) doors, lowered door handles and many other features,” said the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) economist.

He attended St Giles School and Rehabilitation Centre in his early years then went on to King George VI Memorial School and eventually Victoria High School. The transitions were hard with each change of school, but he eventually mastered his studies and graduated, establishing new record high marks in the process.

“School was sometimes a struggle but I was introduced to the typewriter when I was nine years old and found that it was easier for me to type than write. That discovery changed my life, because I could not only type, but I also found out that I was a writer — and a talented one at that.”

After finishing his “A” Levels at Victoria High School, Masendeke enrolled at the University of Zimbabwe, where he earned a degree in business studies and was recognised upon graduation as the top finance and banking student in his graduating class.
In 2005, Masendeke had the privilege of working as an intern at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.   Upon completion of his undergraduate studies in 2006, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe hired him full-time as an economist in 2006, a position he still holds today.

“When I began to explore the possibilities of living on my own as a disabled person in 2006, I faced a lot of obstacles, including being turned down by landlords who didn’t want me as a tenant and being ridiculed by those around me who undermined my ability to cook or look after myself.

“This, however, did not deter me from pursuing my dream; it strengthened my resolve to stay on my own instead, as I saw it as one of the ways that I could begin to challenge some of the misconceptions that people hold concerning people living with disabilities. It took me four years to find the right accommodation and at that time I left home and started living on my own — cooking and caring for myself — and have continued to do so ever since,” he said.

He added that this was an eye-opener for him on how much people living with disabilities could not be accepted as independent. 

“In 2013, I came across an advert in which a local housing development company was offering to build people garden flats upon payment of a deposit. I asked the housing development company to make alterations on its designs to make them more suitable for me and wheelchair users in general. This design was thus applied to my unit.

“Now that my house is completed, I am using it to challenge some of the misconceptions that people hold concerning people living with disabilities as I always intended to do. “I also want to use it as a platform for lobbying for the enactment of laws that promote the building of accessible houses in Zimbabwe. Sometime last year, I posted two articles on the physical and attitudinal barriers to housing faced by people living with disabilities in Zimbabwe.”

Masendeke founded Endless Possibilities, an organisation which inspires and motivates people living with disabilities not to just sit down and let the world tell them what they can and cannot do. It aims at helping them become self-sufficient and independent, just as he is.

“The challenges that I faced during my search for accommodation made me realise that not enough was being done to promote independent living among people with disabilities in Zimbabwe, compelling me to search for a suitable solution.

“Thus, the idea for Endless Possibilities was mooted. However, instead of just promoting independent living among people with disabilities, I decided to also address some of the challenges that people with disabilities face, namely lack of education, unemployment and social segregation. These challenges reduce ones’ chances of being independent in adulthood.”—Sharon Muguwu

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