By Miftaudeen Raji
As 2023 draws nearer, experts have tasked policy makers and politicians to make enabling provisions in their progragmmes and manifestoes for the purpose of accessibility and inclusivity for children and Persons With Disabilities (PWDs).
The children and people with special needs are also asked to be given a chance at life, particularly in terms of job opportunities.
This was the import of the discourse at a Special Needs Vocational Outreach conference organised virtually by the KTC-KYC Educational Consult & Academy on Saturday.
Themed, “Pathway to entrepreneurship in disability management: What can we do better?”, the conference was moderated by the Director of KTC-KYC ECA, Ms Damilola Oyalaja, with disability inclusion experts as panellists.
The experts addressed various factors impeding the potential and chances of PWDs and at employability.
An artist/disability advocate, Ms Joy Odiete, while speaking on the limitations faced by the PWDs, noted that education was the root of the limitations to the PWDs.
J’odie said the employability of the PWDs depended on their education, adding, “If they’re not educated, how will they be employable?”
She emphasised bringing experts and stakeholders together regularly to discuss issues affecting the PWDs.
The artist said such conferences would provide the opportunity for “people in the circle of care for persons with disabilities” to deal with the foundation of their limitations.
According to J’odie, many parents of the PWDs were overwhelmed by the condition of their special needs children rather than expose them to the right kind of education which would make them employable.
She added that such a disposition would always result in having more unemployed adults living with disabilities.
She implored experts and stakeholders to “find more artistic ways” to pass the message across to society in order to attract more people to get involved with more advocacy for the PWDs.
A member of the panellist session, Ms Susan Ihuoma, an educationist/disability inclusion advocate noted the major challenge being faced by the PWDs was the fact that issues of disability were charity-based.
Ihuoma stressed that it was imperative to help the PWDs have a chance at life, noting that society must move away from people with disabilities as “objects of pity.”
She noted that stakeholders should rather provide necessary information and opportunities for them to thrive.
The expert also identified structural barriers as a challenge to the good life for PWDs.
Ihuoma lamented that many organisations do not have structures that provide accessibility for PWDs in their establishments.
She added that employers did not have provisions to accommodate the PWDs in their recruitment processes.
“We are not saying (that they should) create a different space for persons living with disabilities… we are saying mainstream disability issue in existing structures. That has always been our entry point,” she said.
Also speaking at the conference, the Executive Director of These abilities Foundation, Adetoye Abioye, said the PWDs were considered sub-human beings in Nigerian society.
Abioye noted that this was what translated to how they were being treated in the workspace.
He condemned how society viewed the PWDs, saying everyone was “only one accident away from a disability.”
According to him, everyone was a candidate for becoming a person with disability.
“Given the fact that you wear glasses or use some aid, you are on your way to becoming a disabled person,” he added.
Abioye said how society treated the PWDs would be different if everyone viewed the issue of disability from that perspective.
He cited instances of writing an examination relating to the PWDs at a university venue where they had to be aided by others to a higher floor than they could access, and with no ramp for easy access.
Abioye said that would have been a good opportunity for the PWDs and their advocates to stand up for the needed change.
According to Abioye, many people advocate inclusion but never walk the talk when confronted with real life situations.
He said, “society is not as wicked as we might think it is, it’s just very ignorant.”
Meanwhile, Abioye noted that the electioneering season in Nigeria is an opportunity for the PWDs and their advocates to engage politicians on how to be included in their policies.
Abioye charged the PWDs to resort to self-help by standing up for themselves and becoming their own advocates demanding a better life from society, adding that “self-help is the best help.”
He stressed that people in society should be educated in easy life accessible to the PWDs.
“As they do so, they should be informed that they are not doing the PWDs any favour as everyone is only an accident — or even an age — away from disability,” he said.