By Cosmas Okoli
Mobility aids and appliances are devices designed to assist persons with disabilities and the aged to move around or do things more conveniently. It is the first and most important step in the rehabilitation of persons with disabilities.
There are many types of mobility aids and appliances designed to support persons with disabilities to move around and do things they otherwise would not be able to do on their own. Mobility aids and appliances are designed to give quality life to the disabled, and others who might find it physically challenging to get around or do things.
Examples of mobility aids are: Wheelchairs, Crutches, Tricycles, Leg braces,
Artificial Legs, Walking frames, Guide Canes, Hand Controls for driving etc; while examples of appliances are: Hearing Aids, Braille Machines, Braille Watches etc.
To ensure maximum benefit from the use of mobility aids and appliances, the devices must be suitable and used appropriately. There is also the need for professionals who prescribe mobility aids and appliances to be knowledgeable about disabilities, mobility aids and appliances and should be skilled in their use and applications.
A mobility aid is appropriate when it meets the individual’s needs and environmental conditions; provides proper fit and postural support based on sound biomechanical principles; is safe and durable; is available and can be accessed, maintained and sustained in the country at the most economical and affordable prices. “A mobility aid is about the user, not just about the mobility aid”. Mobility aids users should be involved in all aspects of mobility aids provision.
This informed the establishment of Mobility Aid and Appliances Research and Development Centre (MAARDEC) in 1991. The centre was established to research and develop mobility aids and appliances for persons with disabilities, the elderly, and also to provide complementary services to ensure that they are socially, economically and politically relevant to the society. MAARDEC has maintained a work force made up of at least 50% of persons with disabilities at all times since inception. The organization coupled with the activities initiated by its founder while serving as the president of Special Sports Federation of Nigeria (SSFN) from 1995 to 2001, has empowered over 2.4 million persons with disabilities through appropriate provision of mobility aids and appliances and complementary services such as counseling and guidance, motivational summits, employment and job creation, mentoring, sports etc.
MAARDEC is now poised to take her services to the doorsteps of persons with disabilities in Nigeria through the establishment of empowerment centres in all the states of the federation. Each empowerment centre will have mobile technical units that can provide services to persons with disabilities at home, at the office and indeed, anywhere the need may arise.
This project is one of the objectives of the ‘Hope and Possibilities Ride’ from Lagos to Abuja by three persons with disabilities, using hand propelled tricycles. This project is still in the works and is intended to create massive awareness necessary to put the issues of disabilities in the front burner of national discourse. Issues such as Legislation to protect the rights of persons with disabilities and making our society fully accessible to persons with disabilities will be canvassed.
Hope and Possibilities Ride from Lagos to Abuja is also an attempt to set a world record on Hand propelled tricycle ride by persons with disabilities. The Ride will also be used to promote polio eradication from Nigeria through campaign for adequate immunization of children against polio and other childhood preventable diseases. Road safety campaign will also be carried out during the ride.