By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has expressed dissatisfaction with the poor attention given to the plight of persons with disabilities in Nigeria (PWDs).
Speaking at the summit on ‘Disability Inclusion for Religious and Traditional Leaders in Nigeria’, held in Abuja, CAN President, Archbishop Daniel Okoh, said despite policy measures to protect them from harsh conditions of life, PWDs are still being denied access to resources that would make life easier for them and position them to make meaningful contributions to national development.
Okoh said many states were yet to enact disability laws since the ratification of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018 by the federal government.
He said: “I am also aware that about nine states in the federation have enacted disability laws to safeguard the rights of persons with disabilities with considerable degrees of implementation till date.
“All we need to do using our various positions of influence is to encourage more state governments to enact and enforce these same laws as well.”
The clergymen lamented the challenges faced by this segment of the population in their daily lives, adding that it is important that religious and traditional leaders, government officials, policymakers and development partners understand the importance of mainstreaming disability in the development discourse
According to him, “It is an undeniable fact that PWDs in Nigeria persistently face stigma, discrimination, and barriers to accessing basic social services and economic opportunities. They even face greater barriers in accessing public places, including places of worship, meetings, convention centres and public buildings.
“In Nigeria today, PWDs are likely to experience negative attitudes at family and community meetings, including name-calling, negative superstitious beliefs, and misconceptions surrounding the causes of their disabilities. These negative attitudes result in rejection, loss of respect, denial of identity or self-worth, low self-esteem and even contemplation of suicide. This, along with structural limitations and challenges, also reinforces barriers for persons with disabilities in accessing basic services such as education, health, public transportation, and social safety nets hence the high prevalence of poverty among them.
“The society takes pleasure in placing them in a sorry state only to offer them handouts and peanuts as against empowering them to fend for themselves and contribute more meaningfully to the national economy.
“Unemployment rate is high among persons with disabilities due to attitudinal, mobility-related, technological, and physical barriers erected against them by the society.
“Assistive devices are expensive and not easily available in this part of the world, which limits the mobility of persons with disabilities. In addition, many will experience frequent denial of job opportunities, employers’ negatives attitudes, inappropriate job placement, lower expectations at work, and a lack of accessible accommodation.”
The CAN president said there is the need for concerted efforts at raising awareness on disability inclusiveness which would be very instrumental in shifting negative perceptions and stigma against them.