BY ESTHER AKPOTOWHO
They are not difficult to come by. These people due to medical conditions, accidental phenomenon or in most mysterious cases, birth are unfortunately deprived of competent physical, intellectual, moral power, fitness, etc. A lot of people with disabilities live right under our roofs. Some have given up and have no reasons whatsoever to pursue any dream as such they resign to fate and begin to live a beggarly life.
There are some people with these disabilities that have been denied any form of marital bliss because of their physical disabilities. How about access to available job opportunities? A lot of organizations will not hesitate to decline an applicant with certain levels of disabilities the opportunity to securing a job. This is because they are deemed unfit to tackle certain task or occupy certain positions.
Those living below poverty line are worst hit as they have no access to education. This is because the bills for education for people with disabilities which is otherwise termed as people with special needs are not easy to foot. As such, in most developing countries these set of people are left with little or no access to education vis-à-vis health and other necessary social amenities. This trend has permeated all facets of human endeavors. Is there hope for those living with disabilities? Are they really disabled that they have no capacity to make impact or become productive? What has been your attitude towards people who have physical challenges?
In order to encourage people living with disabilities to take part fully in the life and development of their societies, enjoy living conditions equal to those of other citizens, the annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons was proclaimed in 1992 by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3. It aims at promoting the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic, and cultural life. This day, December 3rd has been observed with varying degrees of success around the globe.
This year, UNESCO, with other UN organizations has decided to raise awareness on challenges faced by people with disabilities especially during periods of crisis with the theme for IDPD 2020 as “Building Back Better: toward a disability inclusive, accessible and sustainable post Covid 19 World. It is aimed at creating awareness on the fact that people living with disabilities are also humans and have the potentials to contribute meaningfully to the society.
According to the United Nations, out of one billion populations of persons with disabilities, 80% live in developing countries. The UN also states that an estimated 46% of older people aged 60 years and over are people with disabilities. It is also on record that one in every five women is likely to experience disabilities in her life, while one in every ten children is a child with disabilities.
In Nigeria, The world Health Organization in 2011 published that about 25 million Nigerians had at least one disability, while 3.6 million of these had very significant difficulties in functioning. Coming down to 2020, research has shown that over 27 million Nigerians are living with some form of disability.
In retrospect, it is important to note that Nigeria has taken steps to alleviate the sufferings of people living with disabilities. This is based on the signing into law the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (prohibition) Act, 2018. This was possible after 9 years of relentless advocacy by disability rights and activists. The bill which was passed by the 8th Senate on March 18, 2018 was meant to seek to criminalize discrimination against persons with disabilities. It is also meant to see corporate entities and individuals face sanctions if found guilty of discriminating against persons with impairments.
Knowledge indeed is power. It is therefore important that people living with any form of disabilities take note of the following salient facts available for them as signed into law.
1. The Act prohibits all forms of discrimination against persons with disability. If an individual is found violating this law, he/she will pay a fine of N100, 000 or a term of six months imprisonment. The law imposes a fine of one million naira on corporate bodies.
2. Discrimination against such persons is prohibited in public transportation facilities and service providers are to make provision for the physically, visually and hearing impaired and all persons howsoever challenged. This applies to seaports, railways and airport facilities.
3. The rights and privileges of persons with disability include education, health care, priority in accommodation and emergencies.
4. All public organizations are to reserve at least five per cent of employment opportunities for these persons.
5. The Act gives citizens with disabilities the right to file a lawsuit for damage against any defaulter.
6. It provides five-year transition period within which public buildings, structures or automobile are to be modified to be accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, including those on wheelchairs
7. Before a public structure is constructed, its plans shall be inspected by relevant authorities to ensure that the plan conforms with the building code.
8. A government or government agency, body or individual responsible for the approval of building plans shall not approve the plan of a public building if the plan does not make provisions for accessibility facilities in line with the building code.
9. An officer who approves or directs the approval of a building plan that contravenes the building code, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of at least N 1,000,000 or term of imprisonment of two years or both .
10. In section 31 of the Act, the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities will be established and an Executive Secretary will be appointed as the head of the commission.