The Centre for Infrastructural and Technological Advancement for the
Blind (CITAB), has taken a swipe at the federal government over the
Unavailability of training/rehabilitation centers for disabled persons in most states in Nigeria.
This was contained in a press statement issued on Thursday and signed by the Executive Chairman of CITAB, Jolomi Fenemigho to commemorate World Disability Day.
Fenemigho expressed dissatisfaction at the mentality of the federal government to allocate funds to other programs when little or nothing is done to set up training/rehabilitation centers for people with disabilities to learn and integrate themselves into society.
A rehabilitation center center is a place where the disabled go to study, train on assistive devices, learn vocational skills and connect with other fellow disabled people, according to the CITAB boss, and yet, day after day, arrangements are made for other irrelevant reasons and the government fails to see the developmental importance of a rehabilitation center for the disabled when they are basking in t he pleasure of their ignorance
He also claimed that there is a large difference between people with disabilities who are financially dependent and those who are not, for example, jobless and beggars.
We will never overcome the divide as a country that claims to operate an all-inclusive government unless the federal government does the necessary thing by setting up recovery centers.
According to him, “over 20 million people with disabilities live in Nigeria, with only 20% of the total population of people with disabilities being educated and financially dependent, compared to 80% of those who are not.” So if the government will do the required by setting up rehabilitation/training centers across Nigeria where the disabled can learn and develop themselves using assistive technology, learn practical skills and engage and exchange ideas with other disabled people, we could beat all odds.
Fenemigho further lamented the low level of awareness in the country for disabled persons and urges the Federal Government to work in unison with disability groups.
In his word, “today, many disabled are isolated for years by their parents or guardians for the reason that they automatically assume that it is the end of the road for their disabled family members. This is result of a lack of awareness in our society.
Most parents and guardians are oblivious to the opportunities available to the disabled through vocational skills, education, and ICT. Nigeria has since evolved to provide opportunities for the disabled to learn and be enlightened through the aid of some basic assistive devices. However, many Nigerians are unaware of these great facilities designed specifically for the success of the disabled.
Hence, they put their disabled child in perpetual isolation, thereby denying them opportunities to excel in life and that is why one will
find, for instance, a 25 years old disabled student in JSS 1 in some schools in Nigeria.” Fenemigho further stated that the unavailability of rehabilitation/training centers in most states in Nigeria has forced disabled persons out of their comfort zone in search of knowledge in other states.
According to him, “it’s absurd when I see or hear about disabled persons moving kilometers away from their state to other states in the quest for knowledge, knowing fully well that the Federal
Government can easily establish such rehabilitation centers for the disabled in all states in Nigeria. So having a rehabilitation center close to home seems to be a logical idea and not forgetting that to some disabled, moving far from home is discouraging and reduces self-esteem.” Also, he said that the lack of rehabilitation/training centers in some states gave birth to the rise of private profit-driven initiatives in
which the majority of the disabled; especially the visually impaired,
can’t afford as they charge exorbitantly for their services.
According to him, “the Federal Government have failed woefully in doing the right thing for the disabled and this is the reason why many
disabled patronize private rehabilitation centers which are quite
expensive and those who can’t afford the fee, get sponsorship from
churches, mosques, organizations or wealthy individual, and the visually impaired persons bear the hardest brunt in this shameful situation, for they need specialized training with specialized assistive technology.”
Fenemigho further said that corruption is another problem that is
tearing a huge hole in the fabric of progress for the disabled and until
something is done to curb this ungodly act, people will always see
disabled persons as second-class citizens in Nigeria.
According to Fenemigho, “money earmarked for the establishment of
rehabilitation centers and the welfare and up-keep of the disabled in
the center are often diverted to the pockets of those in the corridors
of power, hence the dilapidated, unequipped and unkempt state of all
existing federal government-owned rehabilitation centers and the
President seems to be oblivious to this, simply because the commission
tasked to monitor the affairs of disabled persons in the country,
National Commission for Persons With Disability (NCPWD), was only
commissioned a few months back, and this contradicts section 7,
sub-section 7, paragraph 3 of the discrimination against persons with
disability Prohibition Act, 2018 which states that the federal
government will establish and promote inclusive schools, vocational and rehabilitation centers for the development of persons with disabilities.
So of what good are these already established half-baked centers to the
disabled? The CITAB boss warned against the employment of just any Tom, Dick and Harry in these centers, and that qualified special educators and instructors should be employed to train persons with disability.
According to him, “many employees in the few existing rehabilitation
centers are far from being qualified thus, they perform horribly in both
interaction and understanding, for it is not just about picking any Tom,
Dick, and Harry on the streets, it’s all about employing professionals
with special training that are not just ready to relate but understand
exactly what the disabled wants and feel as well and these traits have
to be considered and observed during their evaluation.”
The CITAB boss frowned at the inadequacy of assistive tech devices for
the blind and visually impaired in existing rehabilitation centers in
the country and demand that the Federal Government does the needful by equipping all centers with the latest assistive devices to aid the
progress and also assist in subsidizing the cost of blind
equipment/materials as they are very expensive to afford for a regular
blind person. He said, “with the scanty number of rehabilitation centers in the
country, one would only imagine that they would be fully equipped with the best and latest assistive devices and materials for the disabled,
but sadly, that is not the case here and like I previously said, the
visually impaired group of disabled are bearing the brunt as most of the
rehabilitation centers are very much under-equipped and the Federal
Government should do something about this to help this set of disabled
persons that needs special attention.”
Also, “the cost in procuring most of this assistive tech are not pocket
friendly for instance, the current cost for a JAWS screen reader is
about N600,000, Braille machine (brailler) goes for about N300,000,
Pearl scanner is about N460,000 and a guide cane goes for at least
N18,000. How many blind persons can afford all these?”
He further expressed his utmost disappointment at the federal government for dilly-dallying in implementing all provisions inscribed in the Nigerian Disability Bill.
According to him, “it is all motion without movement with the
government. The government is notorious for not implementing legal
statutes in the country, and now that the NCPWD has been commissioned
and fully operational, the primary task of the commission is to ensure
that all provisions stipulated in the bill are fully implemented for the
benefit of all disabled persons in Nigeria. Fenemigho concluded by saying “as we celebrate the International Disability Day, we should all have in mind that the struggle can’t be
fought alone, we must band together as one and fight the hydra-headed monster obstructing all our efforts in actualizing total inclusion in Nigeria.”
Bassey, Victoria George
Media officer, CITAB
Fenemigho, Jolomi George
Executive Chairman, CITAB