By Bose Adelaja
To Abimbola, life goes on even while confined to the wheelchair.
Have you ever imagined being confined to the wheelchair? This might seem difficult but charming Abimbola Adedayo, a law graduate of Olabisi Onabanjo University, OOU, has been confined to a wheelchair for over a decade.
Not minding her disability, she is determined to be self-reliant and not to be an object of pity. While several of her mates roam the streets to beg for a living, Abimbola has made business trips to several parts of the world including Dubai.
Though she does not practice law at the moment, she strives to better the lot of the physically challenged, which she pursued vigorously and, in late 2010, she was crowned Ms Wheelchair, Oyo State. The pageant was packaged by the Mobility Aid and Appliances Research and Development Centre (MAARDEC).
On daily basis, her cry is that government should pass the Disability Bill into law so that our environment will be homely for the physically challenged.
Going down memory lane, she told Sunday Vanguard she was not born a cripple, When she was born about thirty years ago, she could walk like every other child and was fit enough to take part in various competitions among her peers. Abimbola was never deterred to pursue her ambitions until January 8, 1994 when fate struck in her late teens.
Beaming with smiles, she cast her mind back to 1994 when fate suddenly changed the course of her life. Abimbola was involved in an auto crash along Lagos- Ibadan expressway, the aftermath of which was the ‘’compression of her spine’‘ as diagnosed by her doctor.
After series of medical diagnosis at University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan, she was confirmed to have suffered from ‘’compression of the spine’‘, which means she would spend the rest of her life as a cripple.
’‘I was 19 when the accident occurred and I was unconscious for a number of days. When I woke up, I had excruciating pains on my legs. The nurses refused to break the news to me until I stealthily read the doctor’s report.
‘’After my discharge from the hospital, I pursued my ambition vigorously until I bagged a degree in law. Although I was confused about the next line of action, I discovered I had passion to help the less privileged as well as persons living with disabilities,’‘ she said.
It was this quest that led her to contest for Ms Wheelchair Oyo State, which she won amidst jubilation.‘’I could have continued to wallow in misery and self pity after my accident but I decided to forge ahead. I want persons with disabilities to have a fair hearing and equal representation at any level, ‘’ Abimbola said.
Asked how life has been on the wheelchair, her face creased into a smile. She said, ‘’Having walked on the wheelchair for eleven years, I have realised four major challenges being faced by over 20 million persons living with disabilities in Nigeria which are architectural barriers; this simply means objects that hinder free movement of persons living with disabilities. These are evident in the state secretariats, banks, companies, churches, mosques, recreational and event centres, schools and a host of others. Many of us could not walk into these places as a result of inadequate infrastructure.’‘
Another factor, she said, is attitudinal barriers. This, according to her, has to do with the way persons with disabilities are treated in the society. ‘’Many people treat us as if we are not part of the society which sometime brings neglect on various occasions.
“Also, lack of funds poses a serious challenge to persons living with disabilities. Many of us would have performed better than our able-bodied counterparts if we have access to funds. Lack of shelter is also a major challenge to us,’‘ she said.
“I seek to build a facility for beggars and homeless people in Oyo State, so that they would not constitute a nuisance to the society. This includes vocational training centres, a hostel, sporting facilities. Above all, I dream to do practical advocacy, see the Disability Bill passed into law in order to add meaning to the lives of the physically challenged”.
Asked about her love life and hobbies, she said,’‘Well, I am sure my Mr. Right is somewhere out there and I am waiting. I love hanging out with friends over a drink, listening to music, dancing and meeting people. I am a very happy person.’‘
On her advice to the physically challenged, she has this to say, ‘’To every disabled person out there, remember no one can make you feel inferior without your consent, live life to the fullest and be optimistic, delay does not mean denial.’‘
* Involved in auto crash which left her crippled
* Obtained a degree in law, from OOU
* Shuttles between Nigeria – UAE on business
*Crowned Ms Wheelchair Oyo State
Challenge: Architectural, attitudinal barriers
* To build a facility for beggars, homeless
* To engage in advocacy to get Disability Bill passed into law