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, Mr. Jolomi Fenemigho to commemorate World Disability Day.
Fenemigho expressed disappointment at the federal government’s attitude of earmarking funds for other projects while little or nothing is done in regards to the establishment of training/rehabilitation centers for disabled persons to learn and integrate themselves in the society.
According to the CITAB boss, “a rehabilitation center is a place where the disabled go to study, train on assistive devices, learn vocational skills and interact with other fellow disabled persons, and yet, day in day out, provisions are provided for other irrelevant causes and the government fails to see the developmental importance of a rehabilitation center for the disabled while they bask in the pleasure of their ignorance.”
He further said that there’s a wide gap between disabled persons who are financially dependent and those who are not e.g. the jobless and beggars, and until the federal government does the needful by setting up rehabilitation centers, we will never bridge the gap as a nation that claims to run an all-inclusive government.
According to him, “over 20 million disabled persons are living in Nigeria with just 20% of the total population of disabled persons being educated and financially dependent against the 80% of those who are not. So if the government could do the needful by establishing rehabilitation/training centers all over Nigeria where the disabled can go to learn and improve themselves using assistive technology, learn handy skills and interact with other disabled persons to share ideas, then 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 a 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.”