By Waliat Musa
Coalition of Disability Organisations (CODO), in partnership with Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), Hope Alive for Possibilities Initiative (HAPI) and Spinal Cord Injury Association (SCIAN), has called on airline stakeholders to enhance easy access to airports for Persons With Disabilities (PWDs).
Executive Director of CCD, David Anyaele, at a one-day sensitisation programme in Lagos, said the programme focused on the need to improve airport access for persons living with disabilities in the nation.
Anyaele noted that PWDs travelling by air are often faced with lack of amenities such as ramps for persons in wheelchairs; inaccessibility to restrooms at some airports, and in some cases denied the chance to fly.
He added that a research made by CODO in February 2022, showed that many PWDs’ air travellers were of the view that the facilities are designed strictly for able-bodied persons and no special arrangements made to accommodate disabilities.
Anyaele said there had been numerous accounts of outright denial of air travel rights, as well as humiliating and degrading treatment of persons with disabilities at the nation’s airports.
Speaking on Disability Rights Act, CCD noted that easy access of Nigerian airports to PWDs is hinged on the provisions of the Act prohibiting discrimination against PWDs, signed into law in 2018 by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The group highlighted that Part II, Section 3 demands that “a person with disability has the right to access the physical environment and buildings on an equal basis with others.”
Section 14 of the Act also demands that “all airlines operating in Nigeria must ensure accessibility of their aircraft to persons with disabilities, make available functional wheelchairs for their conveyance, assist them to get on and off board in safety, and ensure they are accorded priority while boarding among other demands.”
Consequently, the group noted that logistics should be put in place to address all challenges by PWDs’ making the structures, buildings accessible to them without having aids that attract double cost
Head of Unit, Admin and Statistics Operations Department, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Geoffrey Nyianshima, assured stakeholders that the grievances raised would get to the appropriate authorities.
Chairman, Nigeria Association of the Blind, Lagos State, Salami Bolarinwa, said each airline should have trained operators handling PWDs and avoid treating them like objects of charity.
He further noted that at the formation stage of policies, not only peculiar to airlines, but in the societal design and development, PWDs are not considered or considered at the later stage, if need be.
Managing Director, Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs (LASODA), Dare Dairo, represented by Director, Monitoring and Evaluation, Oguntoyin Akintunde, noted that at times, the rights of PWDs have been infringed upon, discriminated, the security take them through various humiliations at the airports.
He further urged the stakeholders to improve facilities at the airports and create sensory rooms to help persons with disabilities.