Driving has conventionally been known to be a matter of handling the steering wheel and gear with the hand and accelerating and hitting the brake paddles with the feet.
This has virtually left a large class of persons with disability in the legs out of the driving class.
However, some persons with disabilities in the legs in Ghana are now driving, accelerating and hitting the brakes all with their hands.
One such person is Johnson Nyamekye, a project manager with the Jachie Training School, for the disabled who drives a hand controlled Hyundai SUV.
Jaws dropping with surprises on people’s faces whenever he alights from the drivers’ seat of his car has become a normal reality that greets him every day.
His car has been adapted with hand controls that allow him to accelerate and apply the brakes from the side of his steering wheel.
Walking with his braced leg in calipers with the support of a long walking stick, he offered to demonstrate to Ultimate News, how he moves the car almost effortlessly.
He told reporter Ivan Heathcote – Fumador, “It works so perfectly. The strength you use for your legs if you compare it with using your hands, it’s so soft so you don’t need all your strength to push it as people have been mingling with their legs in driving.”
This curiosity took Ultimate News to the Jachie Training Centre for the Physically Challenged where these hand driven technologies are locally manufactured by Orthopaedic Technician, Musa Baba Ahmed.
Ahmed, physically challenged himself, adopted his first vehicle in the year 1999 with metals he gathered from scrap yards after being trained as an orthopaedic engineer.
He is excited through his efforts; over 30 persons with disability in their legs can drive safely without a single record of an adapted vehicle getting involved in an accident.
“We saw the need for us to drive our own vehicles so we started trying our hands on a few innovations and we kept trying till it worked. We have seen imported ones but we are the only place where we start working from the scratch; we go to the scrap yard and pick materials one by one, we manufacture it and come out with a product like this,” he said.
Ghana’s disability Act 751 makes provision for vehicles adapted for special use by persons with disability.
In fact, such cars adapted from their countries of origin can be imported duty free with permission from the relevant ministries.
But one hurdle Mr Nyame has to deal with is the police who occasionally confront him realizing he is driving without his limbs.
“A policeman once stopped me and realizing I was physically challenged, he shouted gentleman who gave you the authority to drive? He then asked if I had a drivers’ license. And I opened my folder and showed him. He then asked me to demonstrate it and as I picked my key, started the engine and moved, he shouted “ewrade yehowa wo tumi so” to wit God can do wanders.”
So if you didn’t know, in Ghana; there is technology for adapting vehicles with hand controlled pedals for the physically disabled. Don’t be surprised to see a driver disembark from a car with either clutches, calipers or a wheel chair.
With Ghana’s strides at meeting United Nations Sustainable Development goal 8 which aims at promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth where there is full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for persons with disabilities; perhaps very soon, you might be boarding a taxi or trotro being driven by a physically disabled driver.