By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
As Nigeria joins rest of the world to commemorate 20202 International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, 2020, an advocate and National President, Persons with Disability Initiative, PDI Nigeria, Engr Augustine Onwuamaegbu, called for inclusion and support for persons with disabilities in digital technologies.
Onwuamaegbu made the call while speaking on inclusive education especially under this challenging period of COVID-19 pandemic, where noted that people with disabilities are disproportionately affected by the health, social and economic consequences of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
He also advocated for carrying people with disability along in every policies and welfare packages including interventions so they would not be left behind, but strengthening collective efforts for universal access to essential services, including immediate health and social protection, education, digital infrastructure, accessible information, employment and other socio-cultural opportunities as embedded in the 2020 theme of the Day, ‘Building back better: Towards an Inclusive, Accessible and Sustainable Post COVID-19 World by, for and with Persons with Disabilities’.
He said: “Since the global COVID-19 outbreak, Nigeria has been at the forefront of the response to the pandemic, encouraging education systems to remain open and accessible to all.
“Global school closures due to the pandemic represented an unprecedented risk to children’s education, protection and wellbeing. In addition, educational responses to the crisis have not always reached the most disadvantaged or been adapted to their needs.
“The suspension of a face-to-face formal and non-formal education, including vocational, technical, cultural, sport and physical activities, has also been extremely rapid around the world. In this context, it is important to support the application of digital technologies for the empowerment of learners with disabilities and capacity building for their teachers.
“This year’s theme which is aptly titled, ‘Building back better: towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world by, for and with persons with disabilities’ emphasizes the importance of strengthening collective efforts for universal access to essential services, including immediate health and social protection, education, digital infrastructure, accessible information, employment and other socio-cultural opportunities. Persons with disabilities are not to be left behind in times of crisis.”
Meanwhile, the President, National Youth Council of Nigeria, Solomon Adodo, said the Council will concentrate on two major areas that would add value to the lives of persons with disabilities across the country which include percentage of government interventions and equal rights.
Adodo said: “We at the National Youth Council of Nigeria knows that people with disabilities did not choose to be persons with disabilities; some were born with these conditions and some had these conditions foisted on them maybe as a result of accident, health challenges or others.
“We are not talking about their pain but we are talking about their potential now and to see what can be done for those whose cases can be corrected we will be glad to lend our and support for them to be corrected.
“Their minds are functioning very fine. Known one thing, as far as you have breath you got potentials. What we are here is to do is to encourage and urge them on the part of productivity, and to see what form of value they can add to society.
“And more so if they have challenges we are here to aggregate those challenges and also take them back to government and most of them have talked about what they face as challenges. It behooves on government to address these challenges.
“We want to see corporate entities come up with initiatives that will stir them up to in businesses, enterprise and all forms of productivity in all sectors.
“We are going to sustain advocacy. Key areas we want to pursue include interventions of government. There is to have percentage of these interventions given out to persons with disability.
“These funds should be clearly mapped out and we know persons with disabilities can be productive. I saw recently at Benue Youth Summit a person with disability who produces shoes that can compete internationally. His challenge is finance to get some equipment to boost his productivity.
“Government should prioritize such individuals and that is one area of advocacy we at the National Youth Council of Nigeria are taking up; priorities of persons with disabilities who are going into business, particularly innovative business that will substitute importation and add to national productivity, government should give keen attention to that.
“Secondly, we are also going to look at issues of equal rights. There certain rights of people with disabilities are being deprived of; most of them face discrimination, molestation, so we are going to be pressing and we know that here some laws that are being enacted but we need these laws to be fully enforced. We want human rights lawyers to rise up to speak wherever person with disability is being victimized.
“We as humans should alleviate their pains and ameliorate their sufferings. Therefore we are going to be advocating for equal rights for persons with disabilities. These are the two areas we are going to be concentrating on. We want to say that will have clear measurable parameters next year.”
Also speaking was the FCT Coordinator, Disability Right Action Group, DRAG Alaukwu Nnenna, in a goodwill message said, “In a world in which the basic understanding and appreciation of their needs, interests and abilities of the person with disabilities are hardly brought to the fore, it is indeed refreshing that the person with disabilities have taken the bull by the horns. Some have done by drawing attention to their needs, by proving their mettle in all areas of human endeavors and among others.
“According to Chukwu Chikwado the founder and chief executive officer of Disability Right Action Group (DRAG) , discrimination against person with disabilities has become one of the major threats that we routinely face on daily basis starting from our immediate families, to our school, work places, religious centers, and others.
“In today’s Nigeria for instance, employment discrimination and high unemployment rate still hurt the person with disabilities. Many person with disabilities work, develop impressive skill and yet continually face discrimination in the hiring process. Private and public institutions as a matter of priority should during their hiring process for employment, and identify and dismantle disabilities barriers.
“Person with disabilities succeed when the society chooses to be inclusive. The biggest barriers exit not in the person, but in the social, physical, and the digital environment.”