Stakeholders and experts working on issues affecting persons with disabilities have called for more actions to stop the exclusion of persons living with disabilities from regular society engagements, noting that the time has come to stop treating them differently.
Speaking on Saturday at an event organised in Lagos by the Super Parents Foundation, a non-governmental association, to commemorate the 2020 World Disability Day, the experts also called for more innovations to provide solutions to challenges facing persons with disabilities.
The one-day WDD event attended by many parents of children with disabilities started with an advocacy walk around the streets of Ogba Aguda area but also included mental health therapy sessions, a panel discussion on disability issues and the unveiling of a locally produced wheelchair.
The WDD celebrated every December 3 was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly through a resolution in 1992.
It seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life, as well as help promote an understanding of disability issues.
Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise at the event, President, Super Parents Foundation, Barrister Mofoluwaso Monisola Liasu, said the theme of the 2020 WDD ‘Building Back Better Towards a Disability-Inclusive, Accessible and Sustainable Post COVID-19 World’ is to promote and encourage the inclusion of persons with disabilities.
Liasu said Nigeria and other African countries have not done well with inclusion as it relates to persons with disabilities.
“Everything in our societies excludes people with disabilities. The way our roads are constructed, the school system we operate and even our lifestyles, they all exclude persons with disabilities.
“Even our society with its superstitions put many people with disabilities in danger. Many fall into depression, while many contemplate suicide because of the way they are treated.
This is because we refuse to see them first, as persons before we see disabilities.
“COVID-19 has further taught us so many things especially the need to reform our health system to ensure persons with disabilities can access healthcare during emergencies.
“We need to have interpreters in our hospitals. We must know that not everyone can see and not everyone can hear. We must make it easy for everyone to access healthcare irrespective of their challenges, even in a pandemic,” she said.
Also speaking at the event, Mrs. Angela Emuwa, chairman of the Board of PUNCH Nigeria Limited urged parents of children with disabilities to encourage and support them to get educated and learn as much as they desire.
Mrs. Emuwa who unveiled an innovative wheelchair manufactured by one of the parents of children with disabilities at the event said it was important for parents to know that children with cerebral palsy, autism and other disability conditions are very intelligent and can do as well in learning.
“Parents must realise that children with disabilities have intelligence. They want to learn and it is the way to go to make them successful in society.
“Believe me, they know more than we think they do. So if you look for their area of talent and interest, there is nothing they cannot do,” she said.
Mrs. Emuwa, who is also the president of a Non-Governmental Organisation, Autism Parents Association International, urged parents not to neglect therapy sessions for children with disabilities, noting that it can tremendously help improve their conditions and prevent other health challenges.
She called for more support for innovations that can help improve the lives of persons with disabilities like the wheelchair unveiled and praised the manufacturer, Mr. Albert Ajayi, noting that the chair would be a great help to many children with disabilities.
Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise, Mr. Albert said that he decided to manufacture the chair because he knows the challenges facing parents of children with disabilities as he has a daughter with cerebral palsy.
The wheelchair, he said, was built to provide the necessary comfort of sitting, playing, writing and moving around for children with disabilities, adding that while the chair is of good quality, it is more affordable compared to imported ones.
He thanked the Super Parents Foundation for supporting and sponsoring the initiative.
However, speaking with our correspondent in an interview at the event, Barrister Tobiloba Ajayi, a disability rights advocate and founder of the Let Cerebral Palsy Kids Learn Foundation said it has become imperative to start educating Nigerians that not all disabilities are visible.
“For a very long time, we have used the wheelchair as a symbol of disability. Now, everybody assumes that disabilities must be something you can see.
“However, there are disabling conditions that you cannot see with a naked eye.
“We must begin to pay attention to such conditions and address labelling that includes calling people lazy or demons because they have disabling conditions,” she said.
Also speaking with our correspondent, the General Manager, Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs, Mr. Dare Dairo, said the 2020 WDD theme is a call on the society not only to encourage inclusion but to also build a better society for persons with disabilities.
Nigeria, he said, needs innovative solutions like the wheelchair unveiled at the event.
The highlight of the occasion was the presentation of a wheelchair to Naomi Anuoluwapo Oludero, a child with cerebral palsy, by Super Parents Foundation.