Creating an inclusive environment for people with disabilities
Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi, Lagos Community Manager
Lagos, 6 August 2015
Inequality as a result of disability happens when people with special requirements are excluded from societal functions to which everyone should have access. In education, it involves being forced out of the system because there are no provisions for their circumstances. In finances, it is exclusion from institutions and resources due to difficulty accessing branches and non-disability-friendly facilities. In public transportation, infrastructures are often also not conducive for Persons With Disabilities (PWDs). These various forms of exclusion lead to hopelessness and detachment from society, compounding the perpetuation of cycles of poverty. However, research shows that if PWDs are provided with appropriate facilities, they contribute extremely well to society. In effort to promote inclusion in Lagos, the Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs (LASODA) was established by the Lagos State Special People's Law (LSSPL) in 2011. The LSSPL law seeks to uphold the rights of all persons living with any form of disability in Lagos by safeguarding them against all forms of discrimination, and affording them equal rights and opportunities.
The law covers advocacy, public campaigns, and education of the population regarding disability issues to encourage inclusiveness. It also directs the registration and coordination of associations of PWDs in Lagos, and their collaboration with ministries, parastatals, and corporate bodies regarding building codes, government policies, programs, and activities. The law covers the issuance of directives and guidelines for the education, social development, and welfare of PWDs, including preventive and curative exercises, special sports programs, and the issuance and revocation of certificates of disability and customized insignia to be used in parking lots. Finally, the law determines the establishment and promotion of schools, vocational centers, and rehabilitation centers for the development of PWDs. In addition to enforcing the laws and directives under the law, the ministry actively promotes the employment of PWDs in order to provide them with a source of income and to facilitate their interaction with society.
By promoting the employment of PWDs in city offices and private companies, the ministry provides an avenue for PWDs to engage in economic activity, and at the very least have a source of income that is sustainable and dignified, as opposed to street begging. The state government has put mechanisms in place to protect the rights and privileges of PWDs, including a law that requires employers of firms with less than 100 employees to reserve at least one percent of their workforce for PWDs. Through the same law, it is now a crime to discriminate against any PWD based on their disability. Provisions have been made to provide PWDs with the right to education, the right to healthcare services, the right to freedom of communication, and the right to public transport. Special emphasis has also been placed on building a framework to support children with disabilities.
A recent article tells the story of two PWDs employed as sanitary workers, employed by the Lagos State Waste Management Authority to keep pedestrian bridges clean. The two men seem to be benefiting from this implementation of the LSSPL. However, the story is not all positive, as it highlights other challenges faced due to disabilities, especially in the financial world. Overall, the law has contributed to reducing the inequalities which breed poverty for PWDs, although in some areas, the implementation of the law may require more supervision.
Photo: Angela Sevin