Spinal Cord Injury Association of Nigeria (SCIAN), Lagos State chapter, chairman has explained why it’s a separate group within the community of Persons with Physical Disability in Nigeria.

It also advised the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Persons With Disabilities (NCPWD) on the imperative of understanding peculiar needs of the different disability clusters in order to successfully conduct his mandate.

The Chairman, Abdulwahab Matepo, in an interview with Inclusive News Network, gave insights on why an individual with Spinal Cord Injury, (SCI) is not always wheelchair user.

He said “a wheelchair could be used by a spinal cord injured, a polio survivor, an amputee, a stroke victim or as a result of old age.

“However a SCI is different because his use of the wheelchair might have been occasioned by a traumatic accident usually caused by road traffic accidents, gun shots, or falls (e.g diving into a shallow water). Depending on the level of the injury to the spinal cord, a person with SCI could also use a frame. Characteristically, while other wheelchair users could craw, those with SCI cannot.”

Matepo gave more insight on how the sense of touch (tactile) plays a big part in separating a SCI from other communities of persons with physical disability in Nigeria.

He said “Most importantly, other wheelchair users could feel a touch but we cannot even feel a pinch below the level of our injury. The absence of sensation explains why we are prone to pressure sores, which do not occur in other wheelchair users. The absence of sensation means even if hot water spills on those parts of the body, or we sit on a sharp object or hot surfaces, we wouldn’t know, until it becomes a wound.

“The above explains the difference. Except a Physically challenged person is an amputee, he can use his upper limps (hands) but some of us can no longer do so depending on the severity of injury to the spinal cord.

“As far as the disability community is concerned, the situation is far behind minimum. For example, Rehabilitation is key to the usefulness or functionality of a person with SCI. In most cases, it is beginning again – learning a new skill, relearning how to do basic things like bathing, eating, or dressing without assistance. All these are learnt at rehabilitation centres and there’s none in Nigeria.”

The SCIAN chairperson also listed causes of spinal cord injury which defines one as member of the Association to include diseased conditions like Tuberculosis of the spine, and in some cases cancer (spinal tumor). Sports and recreational injuries affecting the spine are also classified amongst these.

Speaking on the recent presentation made by the Executive Secretary of NCPWD, James Lalu, on budgetary provisions for Persons with Disabilities to the Senate, Matepo said: “A budgetary provision in Nigeria is not a guarantee that the funds would be released. The release of the funds also does not guarantee that the right things will be done. However, if the National Assembly succeeds, and the allocated funds are released and judiciously spent, I would say it is a good beginning.”

“The Executive Secretary should see himself as representing all PWDs. This he could do by ensuring a proper understanding of the peculiarities of the different disability clusters. That way, he can more successfully carry out his mandate.

“He should also work in harmony with members of the Commission who are from different clusters, meanwhile keeping in mind that some clusters are not even represented on the Commission”.

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