Persons with Deaf-blindness in Nigeria are set to launch their own Association by September, Mr Solomon Okelola, the Executive Director of Lionheart Ability Leaders International Foundation, has said.
Okelola noted that the Association would be launched during the Global Usher Syndrome awareness day, in September, 2024.
Usher Syndrome Awareness Day is a global advocacy event focussed on spreading awareness about Usher Syndrome- the major cause of Deaf-blindness. It is observed on the third Saturday of September every year.
Mr Okelola said “the gathering of the Deaf-blind in Lagos State on the 31st of January 2024, was meant to be the beginning of working together to ensure that individuals with deaf-blindness not only in Lagos but all over Nigeria have access to education, health, social life and the exercise of all fundamental human rights just like others in the society.
While appreciating the Disability Rights Fund for their support over the past four years since the commencement of advocacy activities for the all-round inclusion of marginalized persons with Deaf-blindness in the nation, he noted, “I believe everyone knows that the deaf has their own association, the blind also have theirs, so do persons with physical impairment, intellectual disabilities and others. So we are working to have our own Association of Persons with deaf-blindness in Nigeria, to have a single voice that will represent us in disability affairs in Lagos State and the nation at large. That is one major goal we are working towards before the end of this year.
Going further, Okelola said, “there is the global usher syndrome awareness day, started as an annual observance by the Usher Syndrome Coalition less than a decade ago and not yet popularly known especially in Africa. It’s observed globally every third week in September.
“We hope to launch our new Association at a national conference during the occasion of the Global Usher Syndrome Awareness Day 2024. For now, it’s only in Lagos State that we have persons with Deaf-blindness in a body, but we hope to be able to identify those in other states before the conference. Already, we have a few in the Federal Capital Territory, Edo State and Adamawa, but we don’t have them in a body yet like we do in Lagos because we do not have the financial wherewithal with which to carry the work to other states as yet.”
He invited every individuals with deaf blindness to indicate interest if they want to be part of the executive council of the Association. “You can make your interest known. The association has several positions available both at National and state levels.
“We will all come together to begin the work for the all-round inclusion of persons with deaf-blindness in Nigeria.”
The LALIF Head also invited parents of children with deaf-blindness to support the work and contribute in every way necessary for the achievement of the goals.
“There will be another gathering to nominate and elect leaders who will steer the affairs of the association.”
Also speaking, Mrs Adenike Oyetunde-Lawal, General Manager, Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs, (LASODA), expressed joy on the prospective inception of the Deaf-blind Association and its consequent recognition as a distinct cluster by the Lagos State government and said she believes that it’s one of the best way to start.
She said, “once we begin recognising an association, it makes it easier for the world and most especially Lagos State and Nigeria to know you.
“The most important thing persons with disabilities (PWDs) deserve is to be seen as human beings.”
Adenike further added that Lagos State government is in the process of amending the Lagos state special people’s law 2011. She invited Mr Solomon Okelola and his team to join and explain how their cluster should be represented so that they can be included in the law.
“When your cluster is included in the law, it’s easier for us to advocate, offer support and monitor progresses. We will try our best to create a conducive environment for this policy to work for the benefit of all persons with disabilities in the State.” She said