In a groundbreaking move towards inclusivity, the Lagos State government is championing the cause of persons with deaf-blindness, calling for collaborative efforts to address their unique needs and ensure all-encompassing inclusion.
This historic call was echoed at the inaugural gathering of Persons with Deaf-Blindness in Nigeria, meticulously organized by the Lionheart Ability Leaders International Foundation in conjunction with the Disability Rights Fund on January 31, 2024.
Mrs. Adenike Oyetunde-Lawal, the General Manager of the Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs (LASODA), emphasized the government’s commitment to collaboration, support, and recognition for individuals with deaf-blindness and other disabilities. She affirmed, “My office is here for progressive collaborations, and I’m very serious about it.”
Highlighting the challenges, Oyetunde-Lawal acknowledged the increasing number of disability clusters and limited resources but assured that the government is striving to address every cluster’s needs. She emphasized the significance of advocacy, stating, “Our biggest job now is advocacy, showing ourselves to the world so that the world will know us first before we ask for anything because they don’t know us and who we are.”
Addressing the pressing need for accurate data, Oyetunde-Lawal disclosed ongoing efforts for data collection, emphasizing its role in facilitating precise planning for diverse needs. A notable goal on her agenda is making sign language an official language, emphasizing the ongoing amendment of the Lagos state special people’s law to better represent the needs of all clusters.
“We are in the process of employing sign language interpreters at general hospitals and family healthcare centers; the journey has just started,” she added.
Solomon Okelola, the Executive Director of Lionheart Ability Leaders International Foundation (LALIF), expressed gratitude to the Disability Rights Fund for their consistent support over the past four years. Okelola revealed plans for a new association specifically for Persons with Deaf-Blindness in Nigeria, aiming to amplify their voices in disability affairs at both the state and national levels.
The event witnessed a significant gesture from LASODA—the donation of food palliatives to LALIF for Lagosians with deaf-blindness, marking the official recognition of this emerging cluster alongside others in the state during the festive season.
Pst. Emmanuel Okibie, a parent of a deaf-blind child, lauded LALIF for organizing the event and urged the government to enact laws safeguarding the interests of persons with deaf-blindness, envisioning increased respect and collaboration once such legislation is in place.
This pivotal event not only signals a step forward in inclusive policies but also reflects a genuine commitment to the well-being and integration of all citizens, setting a precedent for societal change and understanding.