Bikes for the World

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Redefining dis-ABLED

Mechanic Agyen Emmanuel Courtesy BNB
Meet Bikes for the World's newest partner (sort of). We have been coordinating shipments to Ability Bikes for years with Working Bikes and consulting with Bikes Not Bombs, who help set up this co-op in Ghana in 2008. July 2013 marks our first time shipping to the program from Virginia.

Ability Bikes Cooperative is a bicycle micro-enterprise in Koforidua that is owned and operated by physically challenged individuals, many afflicted by polio.

This full service repair and retail bicycle shop in the Eastern Region of Ghana imports used bikes and the staff of five mechanics, all with physical disabilities, refurbishes and sells the bikes to support the program.

John Sule Bukari Courtesy BNB
"The co-op is good for us because we are all brothers and sisters here. We share our ideas and no one is controlling someone.

I'm also very much impressed about the co-op because that one- one man, one vote. When we are in a meeting each and every one has his own vote."

     John Sule Bukari, Mechanic.

Bike shipment Courtesy BNB
Ability Bikes was established in 2008 under the supervision of David Branigan of Bikes Not Bombs. The cooperative is comprised of seven full time employees/owners, five mechanics and two administrators. Branigan helped train them for two months before turning over the shop to their proven capable hands.

"All of the members of Ability Bikes Cooperative are physically challenged, mostly from polio, and are “mobility challenged,” yet on a daily basis they run a business that provides a valuable service, increased mobility, to able-bodied people. Through these daily interactions with people in Koforidua, Ability Bikes members actively transform social perceptions of physically challenged people in society and redefine their role as highly valued," David Branigan.

Julius Amegavi Courtesy BNB
Ability Bikes challenges current social structures that are oppressive to people with disabilities. The trained mechanics in this program have proven their skill among bike owners and continue to break down barriers in society as a whole.

"I know how to do everything about the bicycle. From the time I remove a bicycle from the stand and put it on the ground I know that bicycle is a complete bicycle. The person can move it to everywhere."

     Julius Amegavi, Mechanic

Ability Bikes provides more than a full time job and skills training to its employees. Each employee shares a stake in the business. Every member is part owner and bears responsibility for the success of the shop. "Ability Bikes represents an important model for sustainable development that cultivates autonomy through capacity building and strategic technical support," David Branigan.

Agyen Emmanuel with Mirriam Oduro Courtesy BNB
Mirriam Oduro was a hair dresser before she became a mechanic with Ability Bikes. She said once she finished school she stayed in the house for a year and half because, due to her disability, she was unable to find employment. Ability Bikes employed her, trained her to become a mechanic and now she has money to support herself and her family. She has a long list of clients and excels at truing wheels. She is overcoming stereotypes, setting an example, making a difference, and providing an excellent role model for her children.

"I want my children to see me doing this work, that is my dream. I'm proud of myself because I am the only woman mechanic in Koforidua."

     Mirriam Oduro.

Check out more photos of Ability Bikes, courtesy Bikes Not Bombs.

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