DESPITE the cliché that ‘there is ability in disability,’ there are still innumerable cultural, political, economic and social barriers that have served to deter full participation of persons with mental or physical disabilities in various gatherings, be it in academic circle, sports, arts, business, politics, social events and even religious gatherings, thereby hindering their well-being.
While some were born with physical and mental disabilities, some became challenged as a result of accidents. Succinctly, the doctrine of human frailty should make all appreciate that today, one may be fit, but may not have the same luxury of agility tomorrow.
This, therefore, buttresses the need to show utmost concern to the needs of the physically and mentally challenged in our society, particularly by providing them with the enabling environment for them to realise their full potentials in all spheres of human endeavour.
Individuals, corporate organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other stakeholders must, in line with their social responsibility, ensure that the needs of persons with disabilities are considered and incorporated in their dealings to salvage the restricted access of persons with mental or physical disabilities to basic human rights and whatever serves as inhibitions for them towards achieving something positive in life.
It has been recognised that domestic legislations remain one of the most effective means of facilitating social change and improving the status of disabled persons.
Thus, in recognition of the rights of physically-challenged people, the Nigerian Senate recently passed the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Bill 2016. There are numerous laudable provisions of the Bill, including but not limited to — protection against discrimination of People Living With Disabilities (PLWD), easy access to public premises/road/sidewalk, prohibition of use of persons with disabilities to solicit for alms, free education, free healthcare, right to work and employment, right to participation in politics, a National Commission to address complaints of harassment, discrimination and harmful practices, among others.
Remarkably, Lagos State is at the fore-front of recognising that there is ability in disability, and it has a Special People’s Law of 2011 to give PLWD a sense of belonging. The state has also recently launched a Disability Trust Fund.
Happily, in Lagos State, upon registration and issuance with a certificate and badge by the Lagos State Office of Disability Affairs, there are numerous opportunities such as: free ride for physically-challenged persons on Bus Rapid Transit and LAGBUS, exclusive right to designated parking lots, special consideration for access to the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund facility, among others.
The Federal Government must be humble to take her cue from Lagos and even exceed the giant strides the United States of America has recorded by virtue of the Americans with Disabilities Act, (ADA), which was introduced on July 26, 1990.
On a final note, the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Bill 2016, though laudable, will only produce the desired result if and only if there is sincere commitment on the part of the populace and the relevant authorities to make life more comfortable for Persons Living with Disabilities. Moreso, establishing an office for Persons with Disabilities in all the local government areas across the federation will aid easy access to benefits coming from corporate organisations and government.
- Michael Ogunjobi,