Opening society’s eyes to the benefits of inclusivity
17 February 2021
By Mahlatse Mothiba
A 28-year-old disability rights activist, motivational speaker and innovator, from Waterkloof in Pretoria is breaking barriers in the world of disabilities, making it her sole purpose to change the narrative surrounding disabilities.
Megan Chauke-Adonis said that she “is breaking barriers through her efforts to ensure that all spaces are inclusive for persons with disabilities as it is a human right”. She supports and educates families of and persons with disabilities on accessing information and empowering themselves about their impairments.
Her life took an unexpected turn when she started losing her eyesight in December 2014. Chauke-Adonis was studying towards a BA political science through Unisa when her health started to deteriorate, leading to long periods spent in hospital as her team of medical specialists struggled to find what was wrong. The frustration of having no diagnosis led to depression and anxiety, and she says she “could not cope and understand why this was happening”.
In 2015 she was diagnosed with endocranial hypertension which is the build up of pressure around the brain. During the interview, she mentioned that although she was relieved to finally have the correct diagnosis, she lost her “confidence and sense of self”. Shortly afterwards, she found out that she was pregnant with her son Tshegofatso and it was during that time that she was overcome by “the fears of being a blind mommy and the reality of not being able to see some of his milestones…first smile, him crawling and (his) first steps”.
After losing her eyesight she realised that people tended to have misconceptions and a very negative attitude towards persons with disabilities. Even those around her treated her as though she had become incapable of expressing herself. Chauke-Adonis said that she also realised that the world was not as accommodating towards persons with disabilities, be it at restaurants, shopping complexes or public buildings.
Chauke-Adonis founded Disabled Women Living with Dignity (DWLD) to promote the accommodation and inclusion of persons with disabilities. Together with her team of volunteers, they have run a food drive for families of persons with disabilities, an Adopt a Boy Child initiative where they managed to get one boy a wheelchair and an electrical assistive device to help him engage with the outside world beyond his sensory and mobility impairments.
Domanatia Zondo, a volunteer at DWLD told ThisAbility that the organisation has a Back-To-School, My Education drive that “is assisting persons with disabilities to complete their qualifications in basic and higher education institutions”, by helping them register for courses and assisting them to get concessions and assistive devices that help turn their learning experience into an accessible one.
Chauke-Adonis’ husband, Skhumbuzo Adonis said that “Seeing her (Megan) lose her eyesight and being unable to stop it from happening was very challenging.” But he says he is proud of how she managed to pick herself up, and to become a social advocate for persons with disabilities.
Chauke-Adonis said that for the emancipation of person with disabilities, all relevant stakeholders need to work together to achieve an inclusive South Africa, which is why she is part of efforts to make sure there is a representative with disabilities on Unisa’s SRC.