Despite the policies to reduce the suffering of people with disabilities (PWD) in Nigeria, they still suffer different forms of discrimination in the society.
People with disabilities are supposed to be given quality education, adequate health care and priority in accommodation and emergencies, among others. Public institutions are expected to reserve at least five per cent of employment opportunities for them, but these people are still being left behind.
The PWD are pleading with government and well-meaning Nigerians to carry them along beyond 2023 general elections for equity, fairness and justice to reign. One of them who lives in Lagos, Miss Folake Shola, lamented that there was no provision for people living with disability to get employment in any organisation or access loan in the banks to enable them start business.
“Sometimes when you go to financial institutions for them to give you loan, they will ask you where you hope to get money to pay back the loan since you are disabled.” She stressed the need for banks to give loans to physically challenged people without interest.
“I have written many letters to different banks seeking for loans. I was visiting the banks for more than one year without positive result. Those in the leadership positions do not pay attention to disabled people.
“Many of our members have been trained over the years on shoe making, fashion designing, hairdressing, hair cutting and soap making, among others but they do not have money to rent shops to start business. We need support of the government for our members to stop begging for alms on the streets and other public places,” Shola said.
President, Nigeria National Persons with Disabilities Multipurpose Cooperative Society (NNPWDMCS), Taiye Titus Oloye, said disability should not be equated with inability because “there is ability in every disability.” Oloye urged fellow Nigerians not to discriminate against the PWD but to support them to make life more meaningful for them.
According to him, for persons with disability to be economically empowered they should be encouraged to come together and form cooperative societies and increase their bargaining for higher income and protection.
Oloye noted that as governments around the world cut services and withdraw from regulating markets, cooperatives are being considered useful mechanisms to manage risk for people with disabilities and keep markets efficient.
To him, the task of carrying the PWD along in the society is collective responsibility of government, individuals, corporate organisations and religion institutions, among others.
Oloye appealed to the PWD to come together and be united to get maximum support to enable those who do not have work or business among them to have something doing to take care of themselves and their families.
“Many of us are married and we have children. It is now left for us to discover those abilities and utilize them to support development of our members, the society and the nation at large. On our part, we shall make efforts that will mark the beginning of many good things for our members as we hope to increase our employment opportunities. I believe that all our members are equal to the task of making their future better. We look forward to continued support of all Nigerians and pray that God should give us leaders that will lead us to the promise land,” Oloye said.
Director, Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture, Emmanuel Audu, said the state government, through the ministry was determined to train people living with disability in cultivation of crops, catfish farming, soap making, among others to change their lives positively.
Audu stated that people living with disability are members of the society in Lagos State and reside across the communities and local government areas and government views them as important people despites their disability. He revealed that the ministry has an inclusive programme and operates in such a way that no one is left behind both able and disable within the agricultural space, where the ministry covers.
“We have it at the back of our mind that the ministry implements projects to empower people with disabilities in areas of their interest and passion. In the agricultural sector over the years many people with disabilities have benefited. Under this programme, we provide capacity building in various agricultural value chains and also provide agricultural imputes to set them up for agricultural enterprise.
“Towards this, we provide them activation assets in the area they have interest, whether fisheries, aquaculture, or crop productions to ensure they earn a living and live a decent life within the communities in Lagos State. At the same time, the programme will contribute to food security status of the state.”
The Association for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities of Nigeria (AIDDN), advocated for policies that would enable PWD to vote candidates of their choice in every election in Nigeria, especially during the forthcoming 2023 general elections.
Co-Founder of AIDDN, Adeleke Philip said good laws and policies would help the PWD to vote candidate of their choice, urging fellow citizens to support them to overcome the challenges of accessing basic social services and economic opportunities, among others. Philip explained that women and girls with disabilities are at greater risk of suffering physical, sexual and economic abuse than women without disabilities.
“Nigerian adults with disability are literate, while more than 90 per cent of children with disabilities have no access to elementary education therefore they need help and support,” he said.
Chairman, Board of Trustees of AIDDN, Dr. Ogechi Nwokedi, described the PWD as people living “below intellectual capacity” and some of them have physical challenges, including morbidity, hearing impediment, inability to speak, cerebral palsy and mental health issues.
According to her, disabled people need societal support as their parents and family members alone cannot afford their medical treatment because most of them live with the health conditions for the rest of their lives.
“There is need to create more awareness for people living with disabilities because if they are being taken care of, they will do well in the society.”Nwokedi explained that AIDDN is a non-profit making association with genuine passion for the wellbeing of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“The membership of the association is made up of parents, professionals, caregivers, advocates, non-governmental organisations and humanitarians, among others. As the voice for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who ordinarily cannot defend themselves, the association focuses on advocacy and awareness creation towards the all-inclusive society where our children with disabilities are respected, cared for and their parents are assisted to live a meaningful and dignified life.”
She listed the conditions being given consideration under the association as intellectual disability; genetic disorders like down syndrome; fragile X; pervasive developmental disorders which include autism disorders (ASD), asperger syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorders, ret syndrome, fetal alcoholic syndrome, shaking syndrome, cerebral palsy (CP), spinal bifida, hydrocephalus, microcephalus, attention deficit hyper activity disorder (ADHD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD), among others.
Nwokedi noted that most of these disabilities affect mental abilities, cognition, communication, speech, learning, reasoning, behaviour, adaptive skills like self-care, mobility and cause difficulty in day-to-day living.
“Children and adults with these condition are more prone to infections, thereby posing more financial challenges for parents. Since most of these conditions are life-long and are not treatable, parents and caregivers have to carry the burden for the lifetime of the child. Over 75 per cent of parents of these children are not financially capable to cater for the medical, educational and rehabilitation challenges of their children. The economic downturn in Nigeria and the impact of COVID-19 pandemic further increased challenges facing parents of persons with these conditions in Nigeria,” Nwokedi said.
She explained that the identified challenges have compelled her association to begin a move to provide assistance to parents for adequate medical, paramedical, educational, occupational, psycho- social and rehabilitation services for affecred children by seeking support and collaboration from relevant corporate organisations and government establishments as well as well-meaning individuals.