On 9th December, 2019 in Abuja, VOICE OF DISABILITY INITIATIVE(VDI) marked her 4-year anniversary and commemorate the 2019 International Day of Persons with disabilities with theme: “Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda.

Barr. Ede Catherine, the Director of VDI in her speech encouraged the PWDs to believe in themselves because your disability should not be a hindrance for you to realize your potentials. In disability, the DIS has be removed and replaced with THIS which now goes like THISABILITY. She went further to urge persons with disability to use this day of celebration to find peace and unity among themselves and work as one in order to achieve more to the development of our dear nation Nigeria.

The President of Educational Sign Language Interpreters Association of Nigeria (ESLIAN), Mr. Omobosola Oladipupo Wumi in a keynote address speaking on Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda gave a background to disability, palliatives need to be provided for anybody with disability to cushion the effect of disability in him or her. For example, if a person with physical disability is working an office and it happens that his/ her office is in the 3rd floor knowing fully well that even where there is lift in Nigeria, most times it wouldn’t be working. The question is that are we sensitive to this persons’ condition.

He went further to say that persons with disabilities can work optimally with other people. If facilities that can enable them work are put in place. So, SDGs is propagating inclusion in all ramification. Building an environment that is conducive for everybody. What persons with disabilities needs is creating an enabling environment for them without any barrier which was created by the society that hinders the inherent potentials of persons with disabilities? He ended with this saying, don’t sympathize, empathize.

The event also panel discussion on Factoring in needs of diverse clusters of people with disabilities in workplaces-Issues for consideration.

Mr. Timothy Tinat, National President, Association of Sign Language Interpreters of Nigeria (ASLIN) while presenting the topic to be discussed gave insight of different challenges people with disabilities are facing in their different workplaces because the challenges is basically on the kind of disability. A person with physical disability is faced with inability to access the building, A deaf may not have that challenge but he will be faced with communication barrier and a blind will be faced with inability to access writing materials because they are not on braille. If these barriers are removed and enabling facilities are put in place, persons with disabilities irrespective of the disability will be very effective in the workplaces.

The Panelists were Mr. Alphonsus Ikwueze(a blind), Barr. Callister Ugwuaneke(a blind), Ms. Aver Akighir( a person with physical disability), Ms. Alaukwu Nnenna(a person with physical disability) and Mr. Obinna Ekujereonye  (a blind).  They shared their experiences, speak on the peculiarity of the challenges as it affects the work and daily living.

The major issues identified from the discussion were attitudinal barrier, communication barrier, infrastructural barriers and institutional barrier. Attitudinal barrier, the employer sees persons with disability as object of charity even when they are giving work, they will not be fully engaged because they are seen as if they only need to work to sustain themselves not to contribute anything at the workplace for example you will see where they will suggest to a person with disability not bother coming to work. Communication Barrier, for instance, a good percent of Nigerians does not understand the deaf and this is greatly affecting the deaf in the workplace because they cannot effectively communicate with others. Infrastructural barrier, this is one of the greatest problems faced by persons with physical disabilities, a situation whereby a person with physical disability have his or her office located at 4th, 5th, 3rd, 2nd floor of a building with no lift. Some cases, even the entrance door will not be accessible as well.

With these barriers, they will simply tell the person that he or she should not bother to come. Institutional Barrier, most policies that guide the workplaces did not put in consideration persons with disabilities. The policies or the office rules and guidelines are not inclusive and this has made it impossible for persons with disabilities to have access to facilities that will enhance their work. The policy would have factor in the peculiar challenges of persons with disabilities and made provision to address them. For example, it is a fact that persons with disabilities spends more on transportation by the virtue of the disability, they cannot effectively use the public transport by so doing they spend so much going and coming back from work. This challenge has contributed in no small measure the inefficiency and absent from by persons with disabilities. When they can no longer cope with high transport fare and they will still take care of other needs from the same salary.

Some solutions were proffered to address these issues: a. more awareness should be created in the media so that the public will understand that disability does not mean inability. b) Training on sign language should form part of the trainings staff embark upon, offices should also engage the service of a sign language whenever they have a deaf as their staff. C) All public building should be made accessible and there should enabling facilities that will help the blind to access information within the office. D) All office guidelines should be made inclusive and government should review salary and wages commission policy to include special allowance for persons with disabilities to assist them cope with the challenges while working.

The permanent secretary, Enugu State Liason Office, Barr. Chuka Ugwu and Bright Ekweremmadu, Country Director, CBM received Awards from VDI for their contribution towards an inclusive society.

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