By Barrister Chuks Ezewuzie
International Day of Persons with Disabilities is a day set aside and promoted by the United Nations since 1992. The aim of Disability Day is to encourage a better understanding of people affected by disability, helping to make people more aware of the rights, dignity and welfare of persons with disabilities. lt reflects a growing understanding that disability is part of the human condition.
Almost everyone will be temporarily or permanently impaired at some point in life.
The day does not discriminate between mental and physical disabilities. This is why part of the focus this year is “not every Disability is visible.” Many persons whose disabilities are not apparent, face double jeopardy in life. They suffer from invisible disabilities and are also denied of the numerous programs instituted to make life better for persons with disabilities. While the blind, the deaf, the physically challenged and the mentally ill may be easily identifiable, persons with autism, Down syndrome, psychological and emotional imbalance may not be phenotypic except with professional diagnosis. The spirit of the day we commemorate today seeks to ensure that all people in the world, irrespective of their condition, have equal opportunities to work, play, enjoy life and achieve success. Persons with disabilities can contribute and add value to the society. The great achievers in Disability community have clearly demonstrated that disability is not liability but can be an asset if given the required access to equal opportunity. Today is all about recognizing and appreciating the assets they possess.
The theme for this year is “Building back better: towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world by, for and with persons with disabilities”.
People with disabilities are highly affected by the health, social and economic consequences of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
WHO estimates that more than one billion people – about 15% of the world’s population – experience some form of disability.
It is estimated that no fewer than 30 million people are living with disabilities in Nigeria while in Anambra State, the number of people with disabilities is estimated to be not less than 400,000 according to 2006 census.
The theme of this year’s celebration therefore calls for an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post Covid 19 society for persons with disabilities. It also calls for evaluation of the effect Covid 19 has on persons with disabilities and the impact of the various intervention provided by government and private sectors. It is important to note that the disability communities are the most vulnerable with regards to WHO guidelines on Covid 19 protocols. Social distancing is not for the blind and persons on wheelchair. The deaf do not hear the jingles and signers may touch. The effect of these includes difficulty in accessing caregivers services. Consequently, poverty, hunger and economic vulnerability constitute further barrier in their quest for the unfettered attainment of full potential and personal fulfillment. Here, we must commend His Excellency Governor Willie Obiano for his prompt intervention by setting up the Anambra State Disability Community Covid 19 Response Team, through which many other interventions were made available to persons with disabilities by government and private sectors.
It is also worthy to note that Anambra is the only state in the south east that has a legislation to protect the rights of Persons with disabilities. Considering the reality of the post Covid era, it is expected that all governments and other private sectors should promote programs that remove barriers to the survival of persons with disabilities in post Covid world. These barriers include Institutional, Attitudinal and Architectural hindrances.
It is against this backdrop that the Joint National Association of Persons With Disabilities Anambra State Chapter(JONAPWD) in conjunction with Office of the Governor on Disability Matters and Ministry of Women and Children Affairs is celebrating this year International Day of People with Disabilities in a grand style.
The activities commenced with
media chats, Highlighting Government Commitments On Issues/ Challenges facing Persons with Disabilities. It continues with a rolling rally by the entire Disability Community in Anambra taking off from the premises of Anambra broadcasting services, creating awareness around the capital city of Awka, emphasizing the need to Implement the Provisions of the State Disability Right Law 2018. The days’ activities complete with lectures, presentations, awards and empowerments at Prof Dora Akunyili Women Development Center.
The climax of the year’s activities will be a pontifical high and Thanksgiving Mass by 10am on Sunday 6th of December at St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral Awka.
You are invited to participate in these activities observing all COVID 19 protocols. Irrespective of your condition, economic and social status, remember the popular saying, “if Disability has not reached you, it has not passed.