In these parts, we make being handicapped the victim’s fault.
It’s their fault they are wheelchair bound. For instance, it’s their fault they were the babies who developed partial paralysis after a botched polio immunization injection. It’s their fault they lost their eyesight and need a walking stick or help to cross the road; it’s their fault they were born with something deficient – who knows what their mothers ate and gave birth to them in that state? It’s their fault no bus will stop long enough for them to get on board or disembark because really, they are handicapped; where are they going when their mates are at home?
Our public places make no provisions for them or have you noticed that very few of our entertainment centres, offices, parks, government establishments, schools, even churches, mosques and malls have parking spots or ramps for people with disabilities?
I went to the Maryland Mall a few months back and the security man manning the lot invited me to park at the space allotted to the handicaps. When I asked him why he said nonchalantly: ‘Nobody dey come dia.’
Really? We don’t have handicaps who drive their own cars and want to watch movies? Or shop at the mall? Ride
public transport? That’s not true!
Years back, in my days at the university, I had lots of friends who were people living with disabilities; meaning they are educated, they have aspirations, they can contribute meaningfully to the society just like the rest of us! Yet, many companies won’t hire them; they cite the stress involved with the hiring-special toilet facilities, ramps, et al… It seems very few want to spend anything extra to make simple conveniences available for people with disabilities.
Nigeria is a harsh country and conditioned by this harshness, we can’t link the benefits of an all-inclusive participation in our pursuit of growth and success as a nation.
During my last visit to the UK, I observed there were facilities everywhere for people with disabilities – in the buses, tubes, malls, offices, everywhere able-bodied people were expected, they made sure people with disabilities were equally catered for… even in movie halls! There were lots of parking spaces allotted to people with disabilities and the rest of the public respect this. Public buses have ramps for people on a wheelchair; even the elderly are catered for in public places.
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I witnessed something interesting at the train station in Foresthill; some five minutes before the train came in, a female staff of the station was seen waiting with a wooden ramp to help a wheelchair-bound passenger off the train! I have never seen it happen in Nigeria…not yet anyway!
What’s more common to us is seeing able-bodied persons run after buses to catch it in motion and get off while the bus is in still motion… we have no time for any sereren of ramps and waiting for people with disabilities to get off buses. This only shows what little value we place on human lives in general; too many passengers have lost their limbs or lives simply by getting on or off our buses which perhaps explains why we don’t even see or acknowledge people with disabilities.
So tell me, are people with disabilities less innovative or less educated and contribute nothing to our GDP? Not by any means!
Now, when we shoo them into the dark and dingy places and insist they be quiet; we are crippling them all over again; we are disabling our own growth and progress as a society and shortchanging the nation as a whole.