South African disability rights activist Eddie Ndopu spent International Day of Persons with Disabilities with his wheels firmly planted on the ground, but if he has his way, next Dec. 3 he will boldly celebrate where no person with a disability has ever done so before — space.
As part of the run-up to this year’s IDPD, Ndopu, 27, announced he is working with an aerospace company and the United Nations to realize his dream of becoming the first person with a disability to travel in space. “The idea is to address the U.N. from the International Space Station for next year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities as a call to action on disability justice and to support the Sustainable Development Goals,” he explained to MTV. The cable station will chronicle his efforts for broadcast.
Born with spinal muscular atrophy, Ndopu takes great pride in pushing the boundaries of what is possible. “My biggest accomplishment has to be outliving my prognosis — I wasn’t supposed to live beyond the age of 5, and on November 29 I turned 27. I’m continuing to live a full life despite the predictions, aspersions and limits set for me both by society and medicine,” he told africanleadershipacademy.com. The first black person with a disability to graduate from Oxford, he heads Amnesty International’s youth activism program in Africa, started the Evolve Initiative and was named by Pacific Standard as one of its Top 30 Thinkers Under 30.
Ndopu has all the credentials and is a strong voice for disability inclusion worldwide. “The struggle for liberation doesn’t just end with ramps, Braille, elevators and guide dogs. I’m interested in access, but also power,” he told an MTV interviewer in 2017. “I want rights to social services but also to intimacy, joy and fun. It’s as if there’s a cap placed on the social lives of people with disabilities. It’s as if we can only demand so much, before we are told “that’s not reasonable.” It’s as if our lives are boiled down to logistics. I want people with disabilities to be powerful, fabulous and larger-than-life.”
MTV has yet to announce the details of their coverage, but to make sure you don’t miss any of Ndopu’s history-making journey, you can follow his Instagram feed.