It's a struggle for a Nigerian child who has an infirmity to realize that they have potentials like any other child their age. For the man or woman who faces job insecurity due to an ailment they have, it often seems the world is unwelcoming towards them. In Nigeria, it is a shame and pity that people living with one defect or the other do not have much support from family, society, and even the government. Why? Because ordinary people would rather not be concerned about another person's welfare if there are no direct links or benefits to them. People with disabilities are said to form about ten percent of Nigeria's population according to some studies.
Often when a person becomes aware of the fact that they do have an impairment, it looks like doom and gloom. But it should not be so. Over the years and generations of life, men and women have proven that disabilities do not define them nor impose limitations in their lives. In Nigeria every man and woman, boy and girl seeks and aspires for great heights and accomplishments. And that is irrespective of age, gender, social class, ethnicity, or faith. This fact applies to people living with a disability. And just as disability is a condition that affects the young and old, male and female it is also something that can be acquired, perhaps by a congenital birth defect, a horrid accident or mishap, or some other thing.
The aim going forward is simply this: let consciousness and self-worth rise first in the individual. That regardless of their circumstances they can make a meaningful contribution to society like any other person. What they do is just the same as any other person. Yes, they may have to get things done differently, but they still can do it. When an individual can have this mentality and drive, they certainly can reach out for their dreams and hopes.
I don't think that the family can do much outside of this regard. Still, opportunities are abounding for families and society as a whole to embrace the individual with an impairment. How else can he or she know that they are loved and supported, and not discriminated against or stigmatised by an uncaring society? It is by all the little acts of consideration, acceptance, and belief that despite an individual's physical constraints, they can realize their aspirations in life with the right conducive environment. Going forward as a nation, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that people with disabilities are accepted and integrated into mainstream society and even government. Gone are the days when they were regarded as ills or maybe misfits in the community and society. The time of underestimating their valuable contribution to society has since passed. Now is the moment for us as a people, as Nigerians to rise and say NO to discrimination and stigma against individuals with one special challenge or the other.
One may then ask, what benefits does a nation get from the inclusion of persons living with a disability? I would say the gains are many. For one, they can address issues that concern them in a most pragmatic approach. They know how certain regulations, laws, or customs hinder them from realizing their potentials or encourage them towards productivity. They are in the best position to ascertain their challenges and opportunities, the means and ways to achieve their set goals. In Nigeria, there are several examples of people with challenges in our generation who have achieved success despite the odds. These people are found in our entertainment, sports, business, lifestyle worlds, and elsewhere, where they are helping society and enriching it by leaps and bounds.
These are the incentives for us as a country to appreciate our God-given talents and resources. To understand that every life is precious and can be a blessing with the right tools and environment.
Written by Grace Adekoya
email address: email@example.com