The Star Children Development Initiative (SCDI) has urged Nigerians to accept and give People with Disabilities (PWDs) the opportunity to unleash their potential.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Initiative, Mrs Grace Alexander, gave the advice at a press conference heralding the 10th anniversary of the SCDI and a book launch on Friday in Lagos.
The book titled: “Living with the Unexpected; Cultivating Joy in Mixed of Multiple Challenges,” was written by Alexander.
Members of the SCDI along with other people with disabilities displayed placards with different descriptions suggesting inclusion of PWDs in the society.
Alexander, who described disability as a way of life, said people with disabilites have suffered neglect, discrimination and abandonment from the Nigerian society.
According to her, it is time the government and society at large totally begin to include people with disabilites in all spheres of life.
She said, “Disability as a way of life; everybody must not be the same. That a person has developmental disability or is physically/visually impaired does not make him/her a less human.
“The society should begin to realise that every living being is a human and as such deserves equal rights.
“Over 30 million people with disabilites according to research are being left behind. If the society should accommodate and support these group of people to achieve their potential; their contributions will make great impact in the nation’s economic growth and development”.
Dr Efeoluwa Akintunde, the Deputy Chairman, SCDI, called for full implementation of the Disability Law to promote recognition and rights of people with disability.
Akintunde said people with disabilites were still left behind in Nigeria because the law protecting their rights; signed about five years ago had not been implemented.
According to him, disability can happen to anyone irrespective of the achievements in life, saying that people with disabilities should be given equal rights and opportunities with others in the society.
Mrs Rose Mordi, the President, Down Syndrome Foundation Nigeria (DSFN), called for a change in the narrative of how the society perceives and address people with disability.
Mordi said people with intellectual and developmental disability (Down syndrome) had been excluded from the society.
According to her, other disabilities like the visually, hearing or physically impaired are given the opportunity to partake in government/societal activities in terms of employment, education and otherwise.
“Some physically and visually impaired individuals have been given some sort of job employment opportunities, but the young adults with Down syndrome have not been given any of such opportunities.
“People with Down Syndrome are well talented and should be given the opportunity to go to school, trained and be employed so as to be independent of their parents; while contributing to the economic growth of the country,” Mordi said.
The Project Coordinate, Iyaniwura Children Care Foundation, Mrs Matilda Otitoloju, identified cultural belief as a barrier to inclusion of people with disabilities in the country.
Otitoloju said people still believe that those with disabilities were demonic and as such a taboo to associate with them.
According to her, there is a need for massive sensitisation about disability to educate Nigerians particularly those in the rural communities about their rights.
She added that the sensitisation was necessary to break the stigmatisation associated with disability in the society.