Gone are the days in Nigeria when People Living With Disabilities were believed to be useless in the society. In those days, their parents and families wouldn’t send many of them to school because then, it was widely believed that there was nothing they could offer for the society. But now, by virtue of awareness creation and advocacies, People Living With Disabilities don’t just go to school, but they too are now making considerable and wonderful impacts in the development of their communities and Nigeria at large.
One of the groups that have been making the desired change for People Living With Disabilities is the Association for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD). In an interview with the President of the association, Mrs Jokotola Omotola Dawodu, she spoke about the activities of the organization. She spoke about the strategies and the advocacy method the group is deploying to call on necessary stakeholders like the government and corporate organisations to wake up to their obligations to as regards people living with disabilities in Nigeria
Is there a day set apart to remember and celebrate people living with disabilities in Nigeria?
On the 3rd of December every year, we celebrate people with disabilities everywhere in the world. It’s a day to shout out and raised awareness on the need for the Society to understand and accept people with disability. There must be Societal Inclusion where PWD fully participate regardless of their disabilities.
What are the awareness your are creating to let the government and the people understand and know their obligations to people living with disabilities and What are the strategies you are using to create these awareness and why?
Social inclusion – this is very important because we still suffer from discrimination, stigmatization and barriers today accessing basic social services and economic opportunities. It’s even worse now with the impacts of COVID-19. We make news, we tell our stories, we solicit support from the communities through online news, newspaper articles and interviews on TV and radios.
How have you been able to deal with the issue of societally discrimination against people living with disabilities?
That’s by integrating PWD into the community. Well, we are trying in this area amd that’s why we are advocating inclusion in all sectors. An example is in the education sector, where some of our children are placed in the mainstream schools. It was the advocacy and struggle that resulted in the signing of the Disability Rights Law by President Buhari in January 2019.
What are the efforts your group has been making to ensure laws passed by federal and state legislatures on people living with disabilities are implemented?
Apart from advocacy as explained in 2 above, we are also lobbying government through the Legislators. We shall also dialogue with concerned Professionals such as: Medical, Education and Private sectors. We shall surely convince them of them accessibility gaps that currently exists in our society.
The longest serving US President in history Franklin Roosevelt was physically challenged, do you think Nigeria can attain that status where a physically challenged person can occupy top position in Nigeria
That will be in a very long time to come because we are still being marginalized and stigmatized. Until of recent, precisely 2020, People with disabilities are noticeably absent in politics / public offices in our country despite the anti discriminatory Law. That is why we are advocating an inclusive society. This can be achieved through full implementation of the special people’s law. There must be full integration of PWD onto the society before we can become President in Nigeria.
If you compare thes present government both Lagos and FG and compare them to previous Governments, do you think this government has performed better?
For federal government yes. It took the PWD and activists 9 years of relentless advocacy before the disability rights law was passed. In addition, the National Commissioner for PWD had been established with an executive secretary and staff. What now remains is to put a system in place for the full implementation of the laws. Lagos state established Lasoda 9 years ago, even before the FG created the commission. The past governments tried with the upliftment of PWD but same cannot be said for the current government, probably because of the attention paid to Covid-19 with a resultant effect of neglect on the PWD.
What are the advice you have for the government concerning people living with disabilities?
My advice for both State and Federal governments is fully implement the disability rights law. They should further strengthen the Health, Education and Support services.
What are advice you have for the general public and corporate organisations as regards people living with disabilities?
Honestly speaking. The government needs the collaboration of the corporate organizations to fully implement the disability rights law. The Corporate must comply with the provision of access to employment, education and free health services. They should strive to build a disability inclusive society.