By Oluwole Alao
Not many know that the great physicist, Thomas Edison had, at the early stage of his life, struggled with disability. Edison, was born on February 11, 1847 in Milan, the seventh and last child of Samuel and Nancy Edison. He had over 1000 patents and his inventions are in various fields used in our daily lives. But, in his early life, he had a learning disability and could not read until he was twelve. He came to limelight when he invented the phonograph (a device for the mechanical recording and reproduction of sound). His most popular invention is the electric bulb. He developed the telegraph system and became a prominent businessman.
Thomas Edison did not allow his disability hinder or be a barrier in attaining and exploiting his dreams and talents to its fullest; Truly, disability is not inability.
Disability is an impairment in the mind or body of an individual which restricts interactive participation with the world around them. According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons Living with Disabilities, disability is defined as a long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment which in interaction hinders full and effective participation in the society.
The common groups of disability are visual impairment, hearing impairment, intellectual impairment, communication impairment and the physical impairment.
Over 1billion people globally live with a form of disability which corresponds to about 15 per cent of the world’s population. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) as at the year 2020, over 27 million Nigerians are living with disability.
The United Nations came up with the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (CRPD) which promote full integration of persons with disabilities in societies. Their 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development clearly states that disability cannot be a reason for lack of access to development programming and access to basic human amenities.
In the same vein, Nigerian government offered hope of inclusion to persons living with disabilities when President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR on January 23, 2019 signed into law, the Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018.
The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and imposes sanctions (fines and prison sentences) on those who contravene it. The law also stipulates a five year transitional period for re-designing and modifying public buildings and automobiles by making them easily accessible by persons living with disabilities. It will ensure that People Living With Disability have access to healthcare, housing and educational opportunities.
Similarly, the National Information Technology Development Agency, under the supervision of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy is committed to implementing a National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) for a digital Nigeria and have engaged in series of capacity building programmes across the different geopolitical zones of the country in training persons living with disability on use of ICT, with the purpose of empowering them and giving them digital inclusion. Gombe, Kano, Abuja, Oyo and recently Enugu have benefitted from this laudable initiative brought by NITDA.
The Honorable and highly dynamic Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) initiated the programme when he was the director general of NITDA and believes adequate knowledge, skills and resources should be given to Persons Living With Special Needs as he prefers to call them to make them self-reliant.
The director general of NITDA, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi CCIE has relentlessly spared no effort in ensuring the actualisation of the NDEPS by bridging the digital divide between Persons living with disability and Persons living without disability.
A lot of visually impaired, hearing impaired and physically challenged people have been inspired and empowered by the ICT essential trainings given by NITDA, which has actually made them self-reliant and employers of labour.
Lots of people are born with disabilities while others were caused by accidents, medicines, injections, illnesses, poverty and malnutrition, just to mention a few. The effect this has on the individual, their immediate families and the society at large cannot be overemphasised. Disabled individuals often experience depression and social isolations as a result of their limitations. Immediate family members who take care of the disabled individual find it very stressful regardless of the love shared and often times refer them to childcare and public support. The impact of disability on the society at large include; economic, political, psychological and social factors.
All these factors naturally make disabled individuals withdraw as a result of social discrimination and stigmatisation they get from the society which consequently leads to social exclusion.
With all these limitations, one would wonder how persons living with disabilities cope with their everyday activities especially in the post COVID-19 era. This necessitated the promotion of the global awareness on disability inclusive developments, aimed at including persons with disabilities in order to expand equitable opportunities for all.
All thanks to the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, General Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami FNCS, FBCS, FIIM and the director general of the National Information Technology Development Agency, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi CCIE, People living with disabilities in Nigeria who have long suffered from social stigmatisation and discrimination now enjoy a sense of social inclusion, self reliance and have become employers of labour.