When albinism and the sufferers are publicly discussed, many people often find it quite disconcerting. They feel pretty uneasy. There is a significant amount of confusion and unresolved theories and arguments regarding the ‘truths’ about albinism. In Nigeria, people with disabilities—and nondisabled alike, wonder if people with albinism are people with disabilities. “How can they be categorized disabled when they can see, hear, walk, and aren’t significantly impaired?”
It has gotten quite contentions, particularly among non-scholars in relevant fields.
Yet, there is ongoing disagreement and lack of agreeability on what constitutes disability (even more controversial if we are considering including albinism as a disability). These disputations have caused the sufferers of albinism and their sufferers and families considerable hardships. While there is a growing number of people with albinism in Nigeria and around the world, more and more of them are excluded from social-economic participation. This population of people is treated as social misfits. At a time when there is a mounting increase in the inclusion of all people in societies around the world without regard for station or disability, albinos do not get a fair share.
With an estimated figure of two million albinos in Nigeria—ranked one of the highest around the world, albino people a threatened species and remain largely ‘unsung’.
Why is it so hard for society to recognize and acknowledge that people with albinos are people with special needs as do the Deaf, the Blind, the Physically-challenged? Why is it so hard? Perhaps, if disability were a mental health disorder, it would have been a lot easier to accurately categorize the condition and ‘place’ it suitably.
Albino is a congenital disorder. Might this statement of fact qualifies albinism to be included under categories of disabilities—together with hearing disability, visual disability, physical disability, and neurodevelopmental disability?
Yet, reports are rife that ignorance has made many cultures around the world to develop beliefs and misconceptions about this congenital disorder, causing an unprecedented rise in witchcraft-related killings of people with albinism in recent years.
The scope of this article will not allow for research-based information on this topic. Rather, the article is going to provide several basic information about Albino
What is Albinism?
Albinism is an inborn disorder indicated by the absence of melanin, causing vision deficiencies. Melanin, a skin pigmentation, is essential for human total development. Melanin is a dark brown or black pigment that is naturally present to varying degrees in the skin of people and animals, including hair, eyes, fur, or feathers. A person with no complete melanin is called an albino (say AHL/BEE/NO-UK; AHL/BAI/NO–US)
Signs and Symptoms
People with albinism, by common observations, generally have pale skin due to no melanin. Their skin, hair, eyes are characteristically faint, having little colour or intensity. This little colouration affects their capacity to see well. In the Atlas of genetic diagnosis and counseling, Harold Chen revealed that Because individuals with albinism have skin that entirely lacks the dark pigment melanin, which helps protect the skin from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, their skin can burn more easily from overexposure.
Afar the capacity of people with albinos to experience normal vision, they do not suffer any significant sensory impairment. Their ears are just normal; their sense of smell is just as great, and their sense of touch is just exceptional due to the fragility of skin with a low level of melanin.
Albinos and Social and Emotional challenges
With a congenital disorder that impacts their vision and makes their skin to be susceptible to significant damages, people with albinism are people with special needs. But the deck has been stacked against them for long. A 2014 South African Medical Journal found that in Nigeria, albino children experienced isolation, dodged social interactions, and were less emotionally stable. In fact, it was reported that affected individuals were more likely to drop out of school, be unemployed, and be unable to find partners.
With a fairly good amount of knowledge about albinism by members of society, individuals -disabled and nondisabled— can come to an agreeable fundamental point that says, everyone deserves dignity and respect regardless of how people look like, how they see, and what the colour or quality of their skin is. We owe that much respect to each other.