Sandra’s organization has just completed the two-storey building that is to be used as their permanent office complex. A magnificent beauty indeed I must commend. But here is the challenge, Sandra is on a wheel chair, and cannot climb to the last or even the first floor where her office is likely to be because there is no provision for an elevator.
She was never included in the planning process for the building in the first place; so, I am not so surprised this blunder has been made. She quickly ran to her Chief executive Officer to let him know her challenge, but was heartbroken when all he could say was, “Sandra, just manage the situation the way it is, we can’t make any special budget for an elevator.” Guys, I have never been this heartbroken. It would have been understandable if he is asking for some time to fix the challenge, but it is obvious he isn’t seeing this as a challenge at-all.
Sandra is a member of staff like every other employee; she carries out her duties with every sense of professionalism and competence, even more competent than some colleagues with their both legs; she contributes satisfactorily to the revenue of the organization; so why shouldn’t she be considered like others? I mean, they were able to budget for the stairs because they can’t climb to the second or last floor without it. In other words, they had a need and were able to make a budget to meet that need. But Sandra’s need is seen as a problem to the organization; she should go and manage the situation.
Guys, I am writing this just to help you all understand that this thing called disability, whether directly or indirectly, we all contribute to its existence.
Now if you are asked, you will say it’s difficult for her to climb to the second and last floor of her office building because she has a disability, but it won’t occur to you that it would have been equally difficult for her other colleagues to do same if there were no stairs. So guys, if you are thinking in my direction, you would have realized by now that her difficulty is not just as a result of her disability, but the exclusive decision of the decision makers in her organization. And this is the regular pattern we see in the general society today.
It is easy to build pedestrian bridges for pedestrians in order to solve the difficulty of crossing the busy express roads and prevent the high rate of accidents, but difficult to create a structure that will enable motorists and other road users respect and slow down for me to cross the minor roads whenever they see me with my white-cane or a person on a wheel-chair.
It is easy to equip the libraries with thousands of computers for information seekers to gain easy access to the numerous information on the internet, but difficult to install a screen-reader in those computers and make them equally useful to the blind community.
It is easy to build beautiful structures for the media and employ broadcasters, but difficult to employ a sign language communicator to help translate the information to the deaf community. I can go on and on. Then when you are asked, you will say they can’t fit in or they are excluded because of their disabilities. But the hard truth is that when creating the system, they were systematically ignored and a hostile society was created to their detriment. A society where they are left to figure out for themselves how to survive just because they are part of a minority.
So, my point is, it is true that we have a disability, but we are disabled because there is no enabling system in our society for us to thrive.
Persons with disabilities currently take about fifteen percent of Nigeria’s population, and I think it will be unfair and an infringement on their human right to ignore them and their needs when policies and decisions are being made in this country.
However, I must use this opportunity to give many thanks to President Muhammadu Buhari for deeming it necessary to sign the Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, but it does not end there. The National Commission for Persons with Disabilities must not be seen as just one of federal government’s parastatals, but a practical project and movement that must help remedy the plight of persons with disabilities and create an ideal society for them to thrive.
An enabling society where they will be judged by their abilities and not their disabilities; where they can thrive and live independently; where they can access all public facilities and be treated with respect and love; where a blind man can drive himself to work and a deaf man can listen to music; etc.
Fact is that we have a long way to go and all hands must be on deck, both public and private individuals, and be purged of nepotism, favouritism, bias, discrimination, and be committed to find a lasting solution to the dismal wellbeing of persons with disabilities. This is the Nigeria we want, and this is the Nigeria we must get by God’s grace. God bless Nigeria.