Paidamoyo Dandadzi is a 26-year-old customer service professional from Zimbabwe’s second city, Bulawayo, who got widespread attention on social media after posting a full body picture of herself.
Paidamoyo had never done so, electing to only post portrait style photographs, to hide her disability.
Paidamoyo was born with Congenital Genu Varum or “bowlegs,” a condition generally observed in infants attributed to their cramped position in the womb. If not treated, the knees stay apart, even when the ankles are together, leading to a person’s legs appearing “bowed out.”
Paidamoyo explained some of the challenges of having bowlegs. These include: having to be in a wheelchair from Grade Four to Form Four, the inability to carry heavy things, walk more than a kilometer, and barriers to accessing public transportation.
On the post that turned viral, Paidamoyo lamented that prior to posting her photograph, she was afraid of hurtful words from social media but was amazed at the widespread support she received and continues to receive because of it.
She attributed prayers and exercise for her being able to walk unassisted today and credited her confidence to, “a shift in the media due to increasing inclusion and positive representation of persons with disabilities”, with her favourite influencers being Sinikiwe Kademaunga and Nicholas James Vujicic, who also have disabilities.
The concept of disability visibility is a contentious issue among the able-bodied and Persons With Disabilities (PWDs), with prevailing and favourable discourse surrounding the importance of awareness, empowerment, and inclusion of PWDs.
Disability is both apparent and non-apparent and not all PWDs identify as having a disability, as the concept may be negatively perceived or unhelpful to describe their experience.
The World Health Organization estimates that 15% of the world, (one billion people) experience some form of disability. The United Nations Children’s Fund estimates disability prevalence to be seven percent in Zimbabwe, amounting to approximately 914 287 persons.
Disability visibility is important. A shared experience has the power to enlighten the world and dismantle an uninformed and potentially stigmatized approach to “inclusion.”
A change of perspective, unity and definitive action are some ways to amplify the rights, talents, and everyday lives of persons with disabilities.
With the right support and systems in place, PWDS can realize their potential – beyond limits.