by Izang Bala Bulus,
The Center for citizens with disabilities (CCD) with the support of Hope Alive for Possibilities Initiative and Spinal Cord Injury Association of Nigeria (SCIAN), under the umbrella of Coalition of Disability Organizations (CODO) organized in Plateau State, a one day sensitization For Airports and Airlines operators on accessibility of persons with disabilities (PWDs), with the view to improving the level of accessibility for persons with disabilities to Nigerian Airports facilities and Airlines services for the purpose of air travel.
Air Travels have not been favorable to persons with disabilities, as reported cases of outright denials of air travel rights, humiliating and degrading treatment of PWDs is on the increase. Despite, the fact that we have the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations and the Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018 which require that these airlines service providers and airports, to provide facilities and care that would aid the movement of Persons With Disabilities and to ensure that no passenger is discriminated against, on the basis of any form of disability.
In his welcome address, the Executive Director of Center for Citizens with Disabilities, Mr. David O. Anyaele, said that the choice of Plateau State is as a result of the role the State have played and is still playing towards the improvement of the lives of PWDs in Nigeria.
He believes, Plateau state as a pace setter, haven been first in Disability law, first in Disability commission, first in having a lady with disability to head disability commission, in person of Kyenan Mizim and first to have the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Persons Disabilities, when the state gets it right, other states and Nigeria as a whole would gets it right.
The Chairperson, Plateau State Disability Rights Commission, Ms. Kyenann Mizim in her welcome address, appreciated the organizer for their choice of Plateau State, describing the event as a wonderful sensitization program that would improve on the lives of persons with disabilities. She Prayed for a fruitful out come of the program.
The sensitization program featured a presentation of Report findings, on Accessibility of Nigerian Airports to persons with disabilities. A research work conducted by the Coalition Of Disability Organizations (CODO).
While presenting the report, Mr. Taiwo Ajininuola of SCIAN outlined the outcome of the research to include:
- Challenges PWDs had in using the Airports.
- Experiences of PWDs in checking in and Boarding flights.
- How user friendly are the aircraft seats, aisles and restrooms /toilets?
- Availability of wheel chairs for PWDs who needed them.
- Functional elevators.
- Designated seats for PWDs.
- Information about flight schedule, delays, boarding, etc. in accessible format among others.
The outcome of the findings shows that the experiences of air travelers with disabilities with a few having good experiences. While some had difficult experiences. The report pointed out that, these varying in experience of PWDs could be in line with their nature of physical disability, difference in facilities and provisions from one Airport to another, as well as difference in the attitude and behavior of different airport and Airlines staffs.
The research recommendations include,
provision of travel Information,
Assistance to PWDs,
Training for Staffs and personnel.
Enlightenment about Implementation of the National Disability Law.
General public Enlightenment, and
Airport facilities and Infrastructure.
Mr. David O. Anyaele, in his presentation on Access to Airport and PWDs drew from the various sections of the Disability Rights Act to drive home his points, on the rights and needs for persons disabilities to have sufficient and efficient access to Airports in Nigeria.
The sensitization program also gave time to some members of PWDs community who narrated their air travel experiences in Nigeria, which where mostly bitter, sad and human degrading experiences.
Among those that shared their experience were:
Ruel Ishaku, the Techincal Director, Nigerian Powerlifting Federation,
Kyenann Mizim, Chiarperson Plateau State Disability Rights Commission.
Esther Sunday, and
Miyausa Wayuta Mshalia
The permanent Secretary, Plateau State Ministry of Transport, Mr. Formson Sunday Choji in his statement at the program said tha his Ministry would be discussing with the Authority of the Yakubu Gowon Airport Jos, for the renovation of airport and its facilities for better accessibility for PWDs.
Mr. Choji appreciated the Governor of Plateau State, Barr. Simon Bako Lalong who is friendly to persons with disabilities, for making it a serious offense in the state, to call out line-up of protocol without mentioning Persons With Disabilities, in protocol line up.
The permanent Secretary, announced his directive to the director of Transport operation of his ministry, to have a talk with the General Manager, Plateau Riders, with view to giving, at least five percent discount (5%) to any PWD traveling with its buses.
And also, for Plateau Riders to have a desk officer who must be a person with disability.
The representative of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Yakubu Gowon Airport Jos, Mr. Nanribet Isaac Gwantang Stated that the Civil Aviation Regulations 2015, specify the rights of persons with reduce mobility and persons with special needs which Airlines are suppose to operate with it.
He however said that Airports in Nigeria may not be able to give what they are expected to give in terms of facilities because, they are operating at the minimum requirements standard, which informed why there are only two Airports in the country for now, that are certified by Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). these are the Murtala International Airport, Lagos and the Abuja Airport. which was certified two years ago.
Mr. Nanribet Gwantang made a recommendation that Airport design should be given only to specialized contractors with special training, to get things right in giving people with disabilities better access to airports.
The FAAN Airport Manager, Yakubu Gowon Airport Jos represented by AGM. Operations, Butmak Esther Nden said that where their airport is having challenges with accessibility for PWDs, is with boarding, as the airport does not have lifter for lifting PWDs.
She however called on PWDs not to hesitate to approach any of the Airport’s customer service persons or sections for any needed assistance.
Other stakeholders at the sensitization program includes:
NSCDC, represented by. Ritji Joel, Officer in Charge NSCDC, Yakubu Gowon Airport Jos.
Arik Airline represented by Damilola Oluwajana, and Media houses.
SOME PICTURES OF THE EVENT