By Vincent Ujumadu, Awka
Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in Anambra State declared yesterday that what they need from Nigerians is equal rights and not charity, expressing their readiness to participate actively in the forthcoming November 6 governorship election in the state.
Speaking at the PWD civic and political organization lab organized by the Inclusive Friends Association, IFA, a nongovernmental organization, NGO, the chairman of Joint Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD) in the state, Mr Earnest Ugochukwu, said gone were the days when issues of PWDs were relegated to the background or swept under the carpet.
According to him, matters concerning PWDs had moved from charity to right, occasioned by the signing of the Disability Act at both the federal and state levels.
He said: “I am happy that things are gradually changing. Before now, they would tell us they don’t have time once persons with disabilities are mentioned.
“Issues of PWDs can no longer be swept under the carpet. We thank President Muhammadu Buhari for signing the Disability Act. He is the only president that has the political will to do that because so many presidents had come and gone without doing that.
“Down here, our governor also had the political will to sign Anambra Disability Law. That is why in the state, issues of PWDs disability have moved from charity to right. We are no longer begging for charity, but demanding for our rights.
“We must, therefore, be included in the activities concerning the forthcoming election and the good thing is that leaders of the political parties are here to brainstorm with us. We are also prepared to tell politicians how we want to be included in the election activities and not for them to decide on how to include us.”
The Executive Director of IFA, Grace Jerry commended the various political parties in the state for promoting the participation of persons with disabilities in the electoral and political processes.
She, however, called for more support, including providing clear policy direction on inclusion and campaign materials in accessible formats to reach different clusters of PWDs, as well as Braille forms, audio, sign language and subtitled videos.
She said: “The code of conduct for political parties should provide clear measures to administratively review party provisions for all PWDs in the various political parties, including clear policy direction on inclusion.
“Parties must be deliberate about the production of their campaign materials to ensure they are in accessible formats to reach different clusters of PWD, including Braille forms, audio, sign language/subtitled videos. They must ensure that venues for meetings and campaign activities are accessible to all PWDs”.
She also called on Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, to advocate for the rights of all persons in the political and electoral spaces irrespective of gender, disability and age.