Overcoming Barriers and Advocating for People with Disabilities
I always want to pave the way for the young ones coming. This is what motivated me to do the work I am doing.”Samba Jaiteh, 2021 Fellowship Alumnus, The Gambia
During his childhood, 2021 Fellowship Alumnus Samba Jaiteh of The Gambia encountered many obstacles as the only student with a visual impairment in his class. He had to rely on other students’ notes, math and science materials were often not available to him, and teachers were unwilling or did not know how to accommodate his needs. Despite the challenges he faced, Samba went on to college, earning a teaching certificate, and founded a non-profit organization that advocates for people with disabilities.
Advocacy through education
Through his non-profit, the Foundation for the Civic Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Samba advocates for people with disabilities using social media, local radio shows, and community outreach. Samba uses his platform to discuss the dangers faced by people with disabilities in traffic; city design issues, such as gutters that pose a fall risk; the importance of representation of people with disabilities in government; and the necessity of fostering independence in children with disabilities.
Samba completed his 2021 Leadership Institutes in Civic Engagement virtually at Kansas State University. This summer, Samba participated in the Alumni Enrichment Institutes, an in-person opportunity for 2021 Fellows to develop lasting connections with Americans while enhancing their skills through leadership training, experiential learning, and professional networking. He spent one week in Washington, D.C. to participate in programming led by Howard University and engage with U.S. non-governmental organizations, private companies, and government agencies. He then traveled to Jackson State University for two weeks of leadership programming.
“[The] welcoming events in Washington, D.C. and my Institute in Jackson inspired me and gave me the knowledge and ability to develop the plan of training volunteers to be great assistants and human guides to persons with disabilities,” Samba shared.
Making an impact on future generations
A teacher by profession, Samba also works at the Gambia’s only school for students who are visually impaired. Samba teaches his students how to use speech software on computers and phones, which assists them in taking notes and reading in class. Samba also initiated an annual sports competition at the school where students showcase their talents in sports as well as other activities, such as spelling and drama.
One of Samba’s goals is to visit schools across the country to educate students and teachers about disability inclusion and accommodations. Samba also plans to train law enforcement officers on the rights of people with disabilities. Finally, his team is working on recruiting more volunteers to lead advocacy projects. He plans for some of these volunteers to train as sighted guides to help people who are visually impaired navigate unfamiliar environments or large events, an idea he developed from his Fellowship experience.
Samba is determined to ensure future generations do not face the barriers and stigmatization he did. “I always want to pave the way for the young ones coming,” he said. “This is what motivated me to do the work I am doing.”
Written by Anna Dueholm.