Wife of the Lagos State governor, Her Excellency, Dr. (Mrs.) Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu has urged Lionheart Ability Leaders International Foundation (LALIF) to work with the Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs (LASODA), as well as the Ministries of Education and Health for the actualization of academic and health inclusion of persons with Deaf-blindness and other disabilities in Lagos State.
She also tasked the foundation to collaborate to train and employ Disability Support Agents in Lagos State hospitals.
Mrs Sanwo-Olu said these in a virtual meeting with LALIF on Monday the 12th of June, 2023.
Speaking on behalf of the delegates during the meeting, the Executive Director of LALIF, Solomon Okelola while congratulating the first lady and the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on their re-election to a second term in office, gave her an update of their activities since their first meeting with the First Lady on the 8th of June 2021. He informed her that with support from the Disability Rights Fund, the organization has been diligently engaged in using various avenues to search out individuals with Deaf-blindness who were being secluded in their homes by parents and family members. He said the organization presently has 37 individuals with Deaf-blindness on record, of which only 3 were gainfully employed though not finding things easy at their places of work because of the communication gap between them and their colleagues.
A few of the others, according to the Executive Director, were found in schools for the Deaf where teachers were confronted with the difficult task of teaching them as a result of the additional learning needs arising as a result of their dual concurrent disability. Majority of the individuals with Deaf-blindness, he said, were secluded at home and had never had the chance of learning anything all their lives, not even self-care, social or basic literacy skills, as a result of which they are completely dependent on others for basic needs and everyday living, and in dire need of rehabilitation services.
Okelola said “the organization has been providing whatever support services they could to the families of persons with Deaf-blindness so far identified in the State but has not been able to do much because of financial and other constraints.
Mr. Solomon Okelola also informed the First Lay that with support from the same source, the organization has been actively involved in the conduct of research and data-gathering activities to assess the level of awareness among teachers in Lagos State Special and mainstream schools about Deaf-blindness and its impact on the academic performance and socio-emotional wellbeing of the affected individuals, which he said was conducted with authorization from the State Ministry of Education; as well as a survey of the level of access to primary healthcare services, COVID-19 response and recovery efforts for persons with Deaf-blindness and other disabilities in Lagos State.
He said “the findings of these surveys, shows that teachers do not know how to provide for the curricular and extracurricular needs of learners with Deaf-blindness in their classrooms hence they are in need of training on the issue; and that persons with Deaf-blindness and other disabilities in the State often encounter severe difficulties, discrimination and stigma in their quest to access healthcare services, COVID-19 response and recovery efforts in the State.”
He quoted the example of a young boy with Deaf-blindness who contracted the deadly virus during the pandemic and how the infection spread to other family members. They were all admitted in the isolation centre but luckily, they survived the experience. This, said Mr. Okelola, “indicated the need to train medical practitioners and teachers on the nature and needs of persons with Deaf-blindness and other disabilities and how these needs can be effectively provided for in health and academic settings. He also pointed out the need for the training and employment of disability support agents, whom he said would make it easier for persons with Deaf-blindness and other disabilities to access healthcare services, COVID-19 response and recovery efforts in the State hospitals”.
Speaking further, Mr. Okelola said there is an urgent need to train medical practitioners on the causes, prevention and management of Usher Syndrome- the major cause of Deaf-blindness worldwide, so as to safeguard the health of generations yet unborn and halt the spread of the genetic condition which currently has no cure so as to reduce the incidence of Deaf-blindness in Lagos State and Nigeria as a whole. He also advocated for the State’s recognition and support of the Global Usher Syndrome Awareness Day which he said is observed on the third Saturday every September, in the quest to enlighten the general public about the causes, prevention and management of the condition and the need to ensure the all-round inclusion of affected persons with Deaf-blindness in the society.
In her response, the First Lady, Mrs Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, appreciated the efforts of the organization and gave the assurance that her office and the Lagos State government were more than ready to partner with LALIF in the achievement of the stated goals. She requested for the data of the persons with Deaf-blindness in the State whom the Executive Director said were unemployed so that the government would see what could be done.
In response, Mr. Solomon said “the information would be submitted to Her Excellency. However, he explained that the primary issue for most of the concerned individuals was not the employment but the acquisition of knowledge and skills that would enable them to live meaningful and productive lives as citizens of the State despite their dual disability”.
The First Lady assigned an aide to contact the Ministries of Education and Health about the issues raised by LALIF. She said she was happy to hear all what the organization has been up to, and requested that the organization submits its plans for the training of teachers and medical practitioners to her office so she would engage the relevant ministries to ensure the implementation of the said activities for the benefit of the affected individuals. She also said she would communicate the request for the recognition and support of the Global Usher Syndrome Awareness Day to the Executive Governor and get the feedback to the organization in due course.
She further requested that the organization work with the Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs for the training and employment of Disability Support Agents in at least one hospital in each Local Government and keep her office up-to-date in that regards.