By Angela Atabo
The Disability Rights Advocacy Centre (DRAC) has advised the Federal Government to work towards collating accurate data on Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) in the country, to ensure adequate planning for their welfare.
Executive Director, DRAC Irene Patrick-Ogbogu made this known at the organisation’s Annual Media Retreat on Disabilty Inclusion in Abuja.
She expressed concern over lack of adequate data on PWDs in the country, adding that the problem had hampered their proper inclusion in the schemes of things in the country.
Patrick-Ogbogu said that the retreat was focused on three issues bothering the PWDs, adding that the first had to do with the strengthening the implementation of the Disability Act.
The second, she said, is on promoting the use of assistive technology and devices for PWDs while the third was on disaggregated data.
She said that there were a lot of data from census, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), and population commission out there but zero of them were disaggregated by disability.
“So you don’t know how many PWDs are in service, you don’t know how many are in certain location, you don’t know where they live or whether they have access to employment.
“If you do not know these things, you cannot plan, because you cannot say you are planning when you don’t know how many women with disability would need to access healthcare.
“You cannot say you need to plan for education and you don’t know how many children with disability are out of schools,’’ she said.
Patrick-Ogbogu said that there was also need for the media to beam its searchlight on the issue of disability disaggregation data.
“How is the government collecting data, disaggregated by disability, is it being used for planning and decision making? those are some of the issues we will be looking at for this retreat.”
According to her, there is need to strengthen the implementation of the Disability Act, as well as strengthen the operation of the Disability Commission to make it visible to stakeholders.
Patrick-Ogbogu said that there was need for relevant government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to play their respective roles to strengthen the commission by fast tracking implementation of the Disability Act.
“DRAC has been doing this through the media and we hope to help in popularising the Act to let people know all about it and their respective roles,” she said.
She said that DRAC was focused on pushing the conscience of government and other stakeholders on the promotion of the use of assistive devices for PWDs.
This, she said would help PWDs to be independent, adding that only one per cent of PWDs in Nigeria had assistive devices and this had limited their independence and economic empowerment .
“When you are talking about disability inclusion and rights the whole standard is to ensure that PWDs are able to live independently, go to school, work and live their lives independently but without assistive devices they cannot do that .’’
Patrick-Ogbogu said that the media retreat was also aimed at improving public awareness on issues of disability inclusion and media practitioners were specifically targeted because they were like the bridge between people and all aspects of the society.
She said that this was because the organisation knew that the media practitioners were the ones that could influence and shape how people think about various issues.
She said that there was need to change the narrative and perceptions about PWDs by portraying them in a positive manner and not as dejected persons.
“So for us, we need to interface with the media to be able to help us put out the right messaging about persons with disability, to be able to put out information about the importance of disability rights and have an inclusive society is beneficial to all which includes PWDs.
“That is why we are having this retreat, we are having media organisations from all over the country to discuss on these issues and even take a step forward by coming up with an advocacy campaign to reach the public.’’
Patrick-Ogbogu said that although the media was doing a lot in reporting PWDs, however, the media needed to continue to do a lot in a more targeted and focused way.
“This is with the right information, with the appropriate language to use in discussing disability issues.’’
Patrick-Ogbogu said that the media constantly put up issues around PWDs , however it was not doing it in the right way so the retreat would help practitioners to know that disability issues should be portrayed positively in an empowering way.
This, she said would help in ensuring that the PWDs donot to see themselves as second class citizens and even the members of the public would discontinue from seeing them as second class citizens.
She said that the use of language was very important, therefore, DRAC needed to give the media the right language, the right terminology to use when reporting on PWDs.
She said that this would help in curbing media report where PWDs were referred to as handicapped, crippled or some other derogatory and disempowering languages.
She said that the federal government had taken the right step to show commitment to PWDs by signing the Act and establishing the commission among other things and called on state governments to do the same. (NAN)