“Where there are defined walkways, more often than not, some of the slabs are already gorged with slits or outrightly removed, thereby making the walkway a death trap for the blind.”
The Nigeria Association of the Blind (NAB), Lagos chapter, has accused the Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs (LASODA) of using scarce state resources to set up programmes that are not beneficial to persons with disabilities.
The group disclosed this in a statement signed by its media officer, Gbenga Ogundare, on Friday, in commemoration of the 2021 International White Cane and Safety Day held in Alimosho local government.
The NAB chairman, Lukman Salami, said LASODA cannot effectively activate and implement the Lagos State Special Peoples Law (LSSPL) to the advantage of persons with disabilities in the state.
October 15 is set aside globally to commemorate the importance of the white cane as a crucial tool for safe and reliable navigation for visually-impaired persons.
The theme of this year is “accessibility for all, safety, productivity and resilience.”
“Programmes implemented by LASODA so far are a sheer mockery of Governor (Babajide) Sanwo-Olu’s genuine intention for the emancipation of persons with disabilities and the true spirit of the Lagos State Special Peoples Law,” Mr Salami said.
“Other than sheer tokenism and lack of technical capacity about how to proffer solutions to the many challenges PWDs contend with currently, one would wonder what usefulness a 3-day sign language training will serve a beginner, for instance.
“One is left to imagine what inclusive benefits are there to derive in an interactive quiz among pupils with disabilities, or even a disability expo among disabled persons Etc. It’s just sheer financial recklessness.”
Infrastructural and educational inclusion
Mr Salami also expressed concerns over the non-availability of public primary schools for the blind in the state.
He said the only school that caters to the educational needs of visually-impaired children in Lagos are privately owned and has become grossly inadequate to the rising number of blind children in the state.
Mr Ogundare said persons with disabilities are still finding it difficult to access road infrastructures and academic institutions.
“For instance, Lagos State has accessible pedestrian bridges indeed, but these facilities are inhabited by miscreants, destitute and hawkers who make the bridges an unsafe place for PWDs and other users,” Mr Ogundare said.
“Again, where there are defined walkways, more often than not, some of the slabs are already gorged with slits or outrightly removed, thereby making the walkway a death trap for the blind.
“And where this is not the case, hawkers and artisans who display their wares on these paths would still make it impossible for the blind to navigate safely. All of these combined smacks of structural violence against the visually impaired.”
Contacted on Friday, LASODA’s media officer, Ademiluyi Adebowale, told this reporter to reach the agency’s managing director, Dare Dairo.
Mr Dairo was reached on Friday evening and he said he was in a meeting before hanging up. Again on Saturday, he was telephoned twice and failed to answer or return the calls.
An SMS was later sent to him but he was yet to respond as of the time of filing the report.