By Gabriel Olawale
With over one billion people living with one form of disability or the other, globally, the World Bank reports that the disability community remains the largest minority and vulnerable population group.
The UN reports that disability is considered as both a cause and effect of poverty, thus achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals cannot be possible without a deliberate social inclusion of persons with disabilities.
To reduce the barrier of the community of persons with disabilities to Information and Communication Technologies, ICT, Project Enable Africa has set-up a Disability-friendly Digital Hub at the Lagos State Secretariat of the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, JONAPWD.
The project was supported by the United States Government through the Alumni Engagement Innovation Funds and the US Consulate Small Grant. The primary aim of the hub is to promote the access of young persons with disabilities to ICT skills and opportunities.
Speaking during the unveiling in Lagos, founder of Project Enable Africa and alumni of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Olusola Owonikoko said that ICT has become an active driver of development and a platform to learn, connect, and access opportunities. “Essentially, the ICT platform is one place where everyone is equal, where what matters is what people can get done and not their disabilities. Hence, it has become imperative that all stakeholders – private, public and civil society organisations – work together to remove every form of barriers to accessing ICT by persons with disabilities.
“Promoting access to ICT skills and opportunities is important in empowering persons with disability and reducing poverty and gender violence while improving access to education and decent work.
“To open the Disability-friendly Digital Hub, Project Enable Africa has selected twenty (20) young persons with disabilities as Fellows who will be the first beneficiaries of the training opportunities at the Hub. These young fellows will be the participants at the maiden edition of the annual Project Enable Fellowship program.
“The executive members and leaders of the various disability cluster groups will also be trained by Project Enable in an Organisational Development Workshop to provide institutional strengthening for the Lagos disability community.
Owonikoko said that the hub which was located at New Oko Oba, Lagos will driving principle of the organisation was that the rights of everyone, irrespective of their disability deserves to be protected, and one an important one is equal access to ICT education and opportunities. The organisation also appeals to the Nigeria senate to pass the disability bill so as to provide a national framework for the protection of disability rights and social inclusion.
Joining Darcy Zotter to open the Disability-friendly Digital Hub is a Director at the Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs, LASODA, Dr. Adebukola Adebayo, the Chairman of the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, Lagos, Mrs. Adedoyin Beyioku-Alase and leadership of Project Enable Africa: Olusola Owonikoko (founder and Project Director), Dr. Olusoji Adebisi and Mr. Olusegun Mcmedal (both members of the Advisory Board of Project Enable Africa). Other partners that have contributed to the setting up of the hub are HACEY Health Initiative and Access Bank Plc.