Journey to the BCC Center (of the Earth): Examining Accessibility Issues in Tanzania

Sayuni's custom-made wheelchair enables her to get outside and enjoy the fresh air with her friends Elias, Neema, and James!

Journey to the BCC Center (of the Earth): Examining Accessibility Issues in Tanzania
Tue, 03/20/2018
Sayuni’s custom-made wheelchair enables her to get outside and enjoy the fresh air with her friends Elias, Neema, and James!

To get to Building a Caring Community’s Pasua Center, you turn off a paved road from town, drive over a set of railway tracks and begin a long descent down a steep and unpaved path. Boulders litter the path like landmines, rendering the ability to swerve at just the right moment into an art form. To say the drive is bumpy is an understatement, and unfortunately, this description rings true for much of Moshi’s road infrastructure.

While Mosaic’s International Fellows and BCC staff typically traverse this terrain in a car, most of BCC’s clients, whose families do not own cars, complete large parts of this journey on foot.

BCC’s nine centers are spread across Moshi, which allows parents to bring their children to the center closest to their home. However, “in the neighborhood” doesn’t necessarily mean nearby in Moshi, and many parents travel long distances on foot morning and night to get their children to a center.

Moshi’s fledgling road infrastructure is a challenge for drivers and walkers alike, but for people with mobility limitations, the challenge is even more significant.

While simply driving a car over jutting rocks and exposed roots on the path to a center is difficult, BCC parents navigate these rough paths pushing wheelchairs or with their children strapped across their backs.

This is to say nothing of the rainy season, when heavy rains turn dirt roads into mud so thick that losing a shoe while trying to walk is not uncommon.

Moshi’s lacking infrastructure also restricts where people with mobility limitations can travel within the city.

For most of us, the term “accessible” calls to mind images of ramps and elevators. In Moshi, however, advocating for accessibility means going back to the basics.

Overall, the need for accessibility in Tanzania and how to achieve it is not yet a part of public consciousness, despite the fact that the nationwide disability survey in 2008 (the first attempt at widespread data collection about people with disabilities in Tanzania) revealed the seriousness of accessibility issues in the country.

According to survey data, 30 percent of people with disabilities in Tanzania are unable to access health care due to hospitals and clinics being inaccessible and due to poor road infrastructure preventing their travel to these spaces.

Many Tanzanians with disabilities are confined to their homes, with 26.5 percent reporting that they are unable to attend work or school, 16.3 percent reporting that they are unable to visit the bank, post office or other shops and 19.6 percent reporting that they are unable to access their place of worship, all due to poor infrastructure or inaccessible buildings.

Inaccessible spaces prevent Tanzanians with disabilities from accessing basic services, being included their communities and leading independent lives.

In BCC’s case, all of the spaces it operates in are lent by parishes in Moshi, and in every case, the spaces were not initially designed to be accessible.

Retrofitting a space to make it accessible can be a long and expensive process. Though many people served are wheelchair or walker users or have other mobility limitations, not all of BCC’s spaces are accessible.

However, BCC is working hard to correct this.

For example, the Majengo 1 Center was one of the few remaining centers with inaccessible elements. Thanks to the generosity of Mosaic’s donors, BCC was able to begin the process of converting the space in January.

BCC recognizes the challenges that come with making a city more accessible, but it continues to plan for the renovation of its own spaces while also advocating at every chance for accessibility within Moshi and in Tanzania as a whole.

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