By Lizzy Okoji
Abuja, Dec. 3, 2020 The U.S. Mission in Nigeria has pledged to support Nigeria in the implementation of its Disability Act to ensure the integration of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) into society.
The spokeswoman of the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, Ms Jean Clark, made the pledge on Thursday in Abuja at the commemoration of the 2020 International Day of PWDs, organised by the embassy.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities Act into law in 2018, following nine years of relentless advocacy by disability rights groups and activists.
Clark said that this year’s celebration also coincided with the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which opened doors for people with disabilities to participate fully and independently in the American society.
She said that since ADA became a law in America three decades ago, it had facilitated greater opportunities for Americans with disabilities to engage in their communities.
Clark said the implementation of the legislation improved access to employment for persons with disabilities, access to government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities and public transportation.
She said the U.S. mission in Abuja would share the experiences of ADA with Nigeria to strengthen the implementation of disability rights in Nigeria.
“Engaging and reaching out to people with disabilities is a major priority for the U.S. Embassy’s programme in Nigeria.
“I am also delighted to be here today for a programme that promotes element of sports and youth inclusion for persons with disabilities.
“We here at the U.S. Embassy will continue to show our commitments to promoting equal opportunities for persons with disabilities, particularly by empowering our alumni and hosting programmes such as this.
“As Nigerians and Americans share a passion for different sports which bring us together, we recognise that sports serves as a unifier and a catalyst for challenge.
“Therefore, we continue to advocate increased participation of persons with disability in sports and for provision of sports equipment for them.
“Apart from helping these young people exert their energies in a positive activity, this programme demonstrates our commitment to promoting capacity building for youths with disability as well as increasing their participation and inclusion.
“With the passage of the disability rights legislation in Nigeria, we encourage continued partnerships to explore opportunities and support increased participation of persons with disability in sports.
“We also encourage the reflection on the American Disability Rights to strengthen the implementation of disability rights in Nigeria.
“Our interest is in sharing our experience and helping Nigeria to become a more inclusive society as your legislators have recognised through that bill,” Clark said.
Mr Isreal Balogun, Technical Coordinator, Project and Inclusion, Christoffel Blinden Mission in Nigeria, who joined the event virtually, also reiterated the need for the implementation of the Disability Act.
Balogun said that a lot of barriers existed in Nigeria when it came to persons with disabilities across all sectors, health, educations and sports, hence the need for governments and stakeholders to chart the way forward.
He added that the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic also created huge humanitarian crisis and that persons with disabilities had been affected even worse.
“The government is trying to do its best but there is need for adequate social protection measures and creating enabling environments.
“That will enable persons with disabilities to be able to fit into society on an equal basis with people without disabilities.
“It is a human rights issue. It is a rights-based issue and also a development issue.
“So for us as a country, I think learning from what has happened in America where there is a good social support system is very important.
“There is need for stakeholders, government and international state actors to sit and chart a way forward.
“We have a national policy, we have a Disability Act, it is the implementation and how they will go about it.
“We need to carry everybody along. There is need for awareness creation and ethical re-orientation. There is need for a change in addressing the barriers for people with disabilities across all boards.
“Currently, in this period of COVID-19, a lot of people with disabilities are lacking social protection across the humanitarian crisis that is happening globally,” Balogun said.