Irene Patrick-Ogbogu is 43 years old and began using a wheelchair seven years ago. Since that time, he has suffered a decrease in his ability to freely exercise his will.
“I can't go out as before, in public spaces I can't do almost anything and people just look at you with pity,” Patrick-Ogbogu said during a telephone interview on August 10.
Currently, in Nigeria, people with disabilities are often belittled. Although the law passed in 2018 offers new hopes of advancing the social inclusion of Nigerians with disabilities, they still have to face a lot of obstacles and ill-treatment, including verbal and sexual abuse, labor discrimination and limited access. to public spaces and transport.
Patrick-Ogbogu is the founder and director of the Center for the Defense of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (DRAC), an organization that works to modify the way in which the issue of disability is addressed in Nigeria. It is also one of approximately 27 million Nigerians with a physical disability. Feeling first hand discrimination against people with disabilities unleashed their desire for change.
According to Ekaete Umoh, a human rights activist, social stigma is the hardest bone to crack, as perception determines action.
Discrimination also threatens the rights of persons with disabilities, as it affects access to health, financial inclusion and education. To address this problem, Blessing Ocheido, a rights activist for people with disabilities, created the #RampUpNigeria campaign (let's install ramps in Nigeria) on social networks to account for the almost non-existence of wheelchair accessible infrastructure in the country .
Hello @gtbank @gtbank_help I was at your Kuto branch in Abeokuta, Ogun state this morning and I was attended to outside the banking hall because the building has no ramp and the mantrap security door is also not accessible. The is quite unfortunate. #RampUpNigeria pic.twitter.com/maEQAdEud0
– Ibrahim O. OMOTOSHO ♿ (@HeemOnWheels) January 21, 2019
Hi Guaranty Trust Bank: This morning I was at the Kuto branch in Abeokuta, in the state of Ogun, and they treated me outside the bank because the building has no ramp and the security gate type door is also not accessible. It is unfortunate.
In other countries, ATMs have a headphone and braille ticket, so that people with visual impairments can access their money without assistance. However, in Nigeria there are few ATMs that have these benefits and, in addition, they are inaccessible for wheelchair users due to their height. Restaurants, hospitals and other public spaces are almost completely inaccessible for people with other needs, although occasionally it is possible to find a church with sign language interpreter.
The fact that it is so difficult to access places as necessary as these obstructs the possibility of being independent. It is these structural obstacles and not disability, warns Umoh, that make disability an impediment while accentuating stigma.
Many people consider disability as a matter of charity, rather than human rights. – Ekaete Umoh
Umoh, like Patrick-Ogbogu, contracted poliomyelitis (polio) in the 1980s, when the virus affected hundreds of children around the world. Although Umoh does not use a wheelchair, the disease affected the muscles of one leg, which causes it to be visibly smaller than the other.
Discrimination based on disability in families
Umoh says that his fight for the rights of people with disabilities began with family interventions. “I went to my relatives' house and said:‘ Look at me, do you see anything wrong? ’And I helped you understand the disability.” The importance attributed to families intensified from their experiences at the university, where they were confined to a single sector reserved for students with disabilities, physical or otherwise, and discovered that families are part of the problem.
Families intensified the low self-esteem (of children) developed by living in this society. You hear stories of families that hide people (with disabilities), from (some) who abuse children. – Ekaete Umoh
A teacher of deaf children in Lagos, who asked not to be identified by the delicate nature of working with families, commented that when deaf children are born in average Nigerian families, the lucky ones end up in the care of the institutions, because the parents are not sure how to take care of them; Some are even adopted by teachers. Those who live with their families are marginalized and never learn to communicate properly, which affects their development and limits their life choices.
Family and social prejudices affect people with any disability, but gender is also a factor. Research suggests that women with disabilities are ten times more likely to suffer domestic violence, abuse and sexual assault. Women's rights activists also do not contemplate women with disabilities, says Umoh. For this reason, Umoh and Patrick-Ogbogu are especially concerned with the rights of women with disabilities.
Of all the stigmas, religious and cultural beliefs must be the most disturbing. The CNN reports that in Nigeria disability is usually considered a supernatural consequence of evil or witchcraft and, as a result, people with disabilities are often ostracized or exiled.
First steps to access human rights and the rights provided by law
All rights activists for people with disabilities agree that their efforts would generate better results with the law on their side.
On January 23, 2019, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari enacted the Discrimination Prohibition against Persons with Disabilities Act (2018), almost 20 years after the bill was first introduced.
The law confers on the commission the responsibility of guaranteeing “the right to education and health care and the social, economic and civil rights of persons with disabilities”. Under the new law, who discriminates against people with disabilities in Nigeria runs the risk of being sentenced to pay a fine of “100,000 Nigerian naira (USD 276), six months in prison, or both.”
Umoh explained that this is a triumph for people with disabilities and for the whole country, as more jobs and business opportunities will be created. An example is the fabrication of prostheses to help amputees function comfortably in society.
Umoh directs the Family-Centered Initiative for People with Disabilities, a nonprofit organization with 19 years of experience, which focuses on educating families about disability and promoting changes in the policies, and rights of girls with disabilities. He believes that the disability law was set aside for so many years because of the unfortunate mix of a dysfunctional judicial system and social stigma. Ogbodo-Patrick agrees: “Once (the law) arrived at the president's office, his excuse was that there was no budget to meet the demands of the law.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) noted that due to the absence of anti-discrimination laws during all these years, people with disabilities were not considered by employers. Now, employers who reject people based on disability face a fine of 250,000 Nigerian Naira (USD 690).
Patrick-Ogbogu is confident that the new laws will improve the situation of people with disabilities. He has been working with the Government to generate opportunities for people with disabilities since the DRAC was founded in 2011 and, at that time, has observed changes in perceptions. Idris Agboluaje, a member of the DRAC, affirms that he has also noticed changes in the attitudes of teachers and police towards people with disabilities, which facilitates the exercise of their rights.
New hope of achieving disability inclusion
Umoh expresses that the goal is to normalize disability, which will affect the problem of isolation and segregation experienced by people with disabilities. “How are children going to understand their classmates if they can't interact (with them)?” He asks.
Umoh believes that the Ministry of Education should get involved: “The (democratic) rights for people with disabilities should be included in social studies programs.” The teacher of deaf children agrees and states that sign language should be a language option in Nigerian schools, along with foreign languages such as French.
Patrick-Ogbogu places special emphasis on the need for public representation such as the Senate, while Umoh advocates the need for collaboration between people with disabilities and their allies. He believes that with more public and private organizations that promote the rights of persons with disabilities, they can set aside internal and external obstacles that block opportunities and impose ceilings.
Patrick-Ogbogu stresses that the disability law is primarily a matter of visibility. “This is an opportunity for people with disabilities to see themselves as they are: people with the right and the ability to exercise their human rights.”