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Stakeholders call for full implementation of Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act

Awareness trek 2 (2)

The need for full implementation of Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act was a major issue discussed at a lecture organised by Benola Cerebral Palsy Initiative, recently in Lagos.

The lecture, which came under the theme, ‘Nigeria’s Discrimination Against Person’s Living with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018: Implications for persons living with Neuro-developmental/Intellectual disability’, was part of the activities to mark this year’s World Cerebral Palsy Day.

Speaking at the event, Ibijoke Sanwo–Olu, wife of the governor of Lagos State, affirmed that the lecture, which was the third in its series, would help scale up awareness and engender concrete action to address a major health issue which has been established to be affecting over 17 million people world- wide.

Emphasisng the need for the full implementation of the Discrimination Against Persons Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, which was signed into law by President Buhari in 2019, Ibijoke, who was represented by the, wife of the Chairman, Eredo Local Council Development Area Lagos, Olajumoke Saliu, explained that it would promote social inclusion of persons with disabilities across all sectors and levels in the society.

She further said: “The law also stipulates a 5-year transitional period for modifying public buildings, structures and automobiles to make them accessible and usable for people with disabilities.

“As a medical practitioner, l clearly understand and appreciate the enormous difficulties associated with Cerebral Palsy, especially in taking care of the victims and as such, the aspect of the law stipulating national effort to push for the full implementation of non-discrimination against persons with disabilities is a welcome initiative.

“As stakeholders, we just have to fall in line with terms of ensuring equal treatment and participation of people with disabilities.

“The present administration in Lagos State is committed towards scaling up health care delivery. In line with this, the state government is already implementing six key developmental agenda for a greater Lagos and the administration has also reassured that the government will leave no stone unturned to play up health of all residents including those with one form of disability or the other. It is our collective interest to team up with government”.

While commending the organisers of the event, she urged other organisations and public spirited individuals to take a cue from the laudable works of the foundation.

On his part, the founder of  Benola Cerebral Palsy Initiative, Femi Ggbadebo, a retired Air Vice Marshall, explained that the organisation which was established in 2013 is committed to using the experience he and the wife  acquired in the successful management of their 19 year-old boy living with Cerebral Palsy to help parents who would otherwise, have resorted to more drastic measures like infanticide, rejection or abandonment, as a form of response to having a child with such a disability.

According to him, Cerebral has to do with the brain, while Palsy has to do with using the muscles.

“Put together, Cerebral Palsy is a group of disorders that combine to limit an individual’s ability to move and keep to a balance/posture, as a result of injury to parts of the brain, or a developmental problem,” Gbadebo said.

He further explained that the condition often occurs before birth or soon after, adding that Cerebral Palsy results in different disabilities, in each child from simply being clumsy or awkward, to being unable to walk.

Enumerating some of the signs of the disease, he said they vary greatly as there are different types and levels of disabilities.

“One of the main signs is a delay in reaching motor or movement milestones, which is often accompanied by any combination of the following- difficulty in controlling head movement when picked up; stiff legs that cross or ‘scissor’ when picked up,” he added.

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On her part, the co-founder of Benola Cerebral Palsy, Alaba Gbadebo appealed to parents with children living with disabilities not to hide them in the homes.

Alaba also advised that children living with such condition should be shown love and care at all times, adding that God who created them has a purpose for that.

Speaking on the theme of the lecture, a Lagos-based legal practitioner, Anuoluwapo described disabilities as impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions.

Quoting World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 2011 World Disability Report, he said that about 15 percent of Nigeria’s population is living with disabilities.

According to him, the Discrimination Against Persons Living with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and imposes sanctions, including fines and prison sentences on those who contravene the provision of the law.

The Act also, he explained, stated that the plan for the building of any public structure must be scrutinised by the appropriate building authority.

In addition, he said that the laws also confirm the rights of disabled persons to liberty, education, health and first consideration in queues, accommodation and emergencies.

The legal luminary recommended that there should be awareness and education of persons with disability of their rights and the protection from the law; improvement of health outcomes for people with disabilities by enhancing access to quality, affordable health care services, which make the best use of available resources; that policies that identify priorities to reduce existing inequalities and plan improvements for access and inclusion of persons with disability should be put in place; that government should integrate disability education into undergraduate and continuing education for all health-care professionals, teachers and other relevant professionals, and that there should be proper training for community workers so that they can play a role in engaging persons with disabilities.

Other recommendations include: Sensitisation of the public on disability awareness and training of members of the public, private organisations and key government agencies on showing care and respect to people living with one form of disability or the other; improved access to justice for persons living with disabilities, as considerable obstacles in terms of access to justice are still encountered by persons with disabilities.

For Anuoluwapo, the enactment of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act is only a first step in the fulfilment of Nigeria’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

He observed that advocacy efforts of organisations like the Benola Cerebral

Palsy Initiative, will prove invaluable in ensuring that the authorities put effective measures in place for the full implementation of Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act.

It is interesting to note that besides the lecture, the organisers also held a 1000-man Cerebral Palsy awareness walk, all in a bid to draw attention to the plight of victims, while also bringing to the fore actions to help people living with the condition and their families.

Some of the victims, who spoke in an interview, lauded the organisers of the event, adding that the annual lecture which commenced few years ago has given them sense of belonging.

Ngozi Okpalakunne