Removing Barriers for an Inclusive and Accessible Society for All

ED RECEIVES AWARD ON WORLD DISABILITY DAY 2012

DR JANE RECEIVED 2012 AWARD OF PERFORMANCE FROM DISABLED COMMUNITY

IMO STATE NUJ CHAIRMAN CONGRATULATING DR JANE

IMO STATE NIGERIA UNION OF JOURNALIST CHAIRMAN CONGRATULATING HER

Barrier is a structure, such as a fence, built to bar passage. Something immaterial that obstructs or impedes: Intolerance is barrier to understanding. It is those things that stop the smooth movement or flow of something or someone. Whenever there is a barrier, one cannot get to a desired end easily and as at when due. “Mind the Gaps”, this is an inscription at the entrance of a London train that goes underground. The inscription could be used to illustrate the gap (barrier) that often divides humans – the physically challenged and others.  A divide that can be bridged by a conscious dialogue and reasonable approach.

Inclusive is taking a great deal or everything within its scope; comprehensive, including the specified extremes or limits as well as the area.

Accessible: Easily obtained:  easy to talk to or get along with:   accessible society is an ideal society.

society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical and cultural background.

Some Policy and Legal Context for inclusiveness in Nigeria –

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (CFRN1999) provides as follows:

Section 14(2)(b): ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”

Subsection c: ‘the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this constitution’

Section 16 (2)(a) : the state shall direct its policies towards the promotion of a planned and balanced economic development’

Subsection b: ‘that the material resources of our nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good

Subsection c : ‘that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or means of production …in the hands of a few individuals or of a particular group.

Section 17: ‘the state social order is founded on ideals of freedom, equality and justice’

Section 17(1)(a): ‘every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law’

Section 13: ‘It shall be the authority of all organs of government and of all authorities and persons exercising executive, legislative or judicial powers to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this chapter of the Constitution’

Talking about barriers and inequality between individuals has been a consistent feature in our daily discourse. Measures that specifically target the disabled persons have been emphasized for a long time now. If we go by way of evaluating the few successes recorded in this area, it will become very clear that these people have been isolated and their development has not been affected as should be to a desirable degree.

The above has its focus and determination on formal distribution of Power and Common Wealth in the Society. HE WHO WEARS THE SHOE KNOWS WHERE IT PINCHES. How many persons with disability are occupying vital positions from national to state and local government levels? Is there a national commission or ministry for persons with disability manned by a disabled person at least to contribute to national or state discourse on their behalf? What of our environmental challenges, what has been done to accommodate the feelings of persons with disability? Can they climb stair cases of high rising buildings as able-bodied persons? Can they easily get into banking halls through security doors, what of offices in high rise buildings what provision is made for them to enter such places etc? What of boarding vehicles and other means of transportation? What arrangements have been put in place to take care of them?

There is the growing awareness of the importance of shifting the focus from the symptoms of this inequality towards efforts to address the factors that cause them; by this we may turn the barriers into stepping stones and then create an all-inclusive and accessible society for all.

These may include but not limited to the following approaches:-

–       There should be a ministry or commission for persons with disability to be manned by a person with disability. This will make an ample opportunity for him or her to contribute to federal or state executive council issues concerning them.

–       A percentage of both elective and appointive position should be allocated to persons with disability. This will usher them into the Senate and House of Representative etc where national issues are debated. Let them join in making laws that govern them.

–       There should be domesticated provision where high rising buildings, banks etc have provisions for these persons. This should as a matter of priority be enacted to reduce or stop the suffering these people pass through in places like this.

–       The National Council for Women Affairs and Social Development has called for: – All inclusive National Social Welfare Policy, to take care of developmental needs of persons with disability.

It is not all about passing bills, but domesticating it, there are lots of abilities in these persons with disabilities as such; they should be given the enabling environment and opportunity to contribute to national development via Participation, Partnership and Empowerment. These will surely head to overall Poverty Reduction among all, make for Equality, positive change and facilitate the achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In the same vein, we would have resolved the conflicts always observed among these persons and would have built lasting Peace for our Society.

Now is the time to turn inward, first – for the solutions to our most confounding issues. The leader that you seek is you! Armed with the proper attitude and purpose, you can regain your Confidence, restore your Dignity, claim your Destiny, and reshape the world – but only if we Believe!  We can use every personal and professional challenge in this life as a stepping stone to higher and greater ground. Dare to be different – dare to believe.  Because life is too short to be unhappy.

ADVOCACY AND PEACEFUL DIALOGUE ARE THE KEY WORDS.

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