Eddie Ndopu is an internationally recognised human rights advocate who has earned his place on the global stage alongside Heads of State and Nobel Laureates. Ndopu is recognised as one of the World’s Top 30 Thinkers Under 30 and one of the 50 Most Powerful Disabled People on the Planet.
He may have achieved more in young life than most of us can only imagine, and is only pushing for more.
“So about two years ago I asked myself what is the one thing I could do to change the way that society looks and thinks about people with disabilities, and a light bulb went off.. I should go to space.” Ndopu said to BBC. His plan is in part a tribute to Professor Stephen Hawking who also dreamt of going to space.
It’s hardly surprising that Ndopu counts life itself as his greatest triumph having outlived his 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 live despite the predictions, aspersions and limits set for me both by society and medicine,” he asserts in an interview with MTV. Ndopu, who will be 28 years by the end of the year, has outlived himself by over two decades.
Ndopu, who is also a BBC Outlook Inspirations nominee is “unapologetically brilliant, black, queer and disabled”.
‘I want people to be powerful, the very best versions of themselves, everything their imagination desires – beyond the ramp, beyond compliance. I want to open up talk about the emotional and personal, so we can experience the totality of our humanity.’
He recently graduated from Oxford, the first African with a disability to do so. He has spinal muscular atrophy, and his prognosis at birth was that he wouldn’t survive beyond five years old. But now Eddie is in his 20s, and has set up a disability rights NGO Evolve Initiative that promotes safer and more accessible spaces in South Africa for people with disabilities.
People with disabilities continue to face challenges with accessing institutions and social services. Despite policymakers passing laws that accord people with disabilities with rights, a gap remains between what the law says and what institutions practice.
“The struggle for liberation doesn’t just end with ramps, Braille, elevators and guide dogs. I’m interested in access, but also power. I want rights to social services but also to intimacy, joy and fun.” Ndopu continues.
“I am currently setting in motion plans to go to Space. I’ve just joined forces with the United Nations to make this happen. The idea is to address the UN from the International Space Station for next year’s International Disability Day, as a call to action on disability justice and the Sustainable Development Goals.