Driven . Doers . Changemakers
Zephania Matanga, Ph.D.
National Executive Director
Zephania Matanga grew up in Zimbabwe, the son of a farming couple with no education. At the age of five, a case of the measles left him with a permanent visual impairment. The disease has negatively affected many people in Africa, but Zephania was determined to conquer his disability through education.
“When it comes to aid, money is a helpful gift,” he says, “but it could be gone tomorrow. Education is a gift that can always be used.”
After receiving an honours degree in English from the University of Zimbabwe, Zephania came to Canada in 1992 where he obtained his PhD in Human Development and Psychology from the University of Toronto. Zephania noticed that the economy of developing nations is readily discussed, but disability never enters into the picture, even though it plays a significant role.
According to the UN, the population of Africa is roughly 800 million. Fifty million are people with disabilities, and 70 percent of people with disabilities are unemployed. “Culturally, it is difficult for many people to speak of their disability, so 50 million is probably even much less than the actual number,” says Zephania.
To address the lack of conversation and action surrounding persons with disabilities, Zephania founded the African Canadian Disability Community Association, a Winnipeg-based organization that helps enable persons with disabilities, particularly those from ethno-racial backgrounds, to participate fully in Canadian life and also in developing countries around the globe. ACDCA’s focus is on the delivery of special education such as Braille, sign language, or assistive technology to help eliminate barriers that would normally prevent access to the classroom.
“Technology plays a very important role,” says Zephania. “Right now we are in the process of importing software into Zimbabwe that has voice output capabilities and can be configured to local languages so that those working with technology will not find it intimidating.”
ACDCA is also exploring the potential of solar energy. Zephania says it’s a user-friendly, inexpensive, and accessible way of powering the technology that helps persons with disabilities.
Both of these projects were funded by the Manitoba Government Matching Grant Program through MCIC.
Zephania is also a part-time instructor at the University of Manitoba and is happy to be helping people locally and abroad overcome their disabilities. “If you give someone education,” he says, “you give them freedom.”