Mr Emmanuel Nimphas, 25, a visually impaired graduate of College of Education, Gindiri in Plateau, has struggled through his course in Christian Religious Studies/History with the hope to get a scholarship but he ended up being sponsored by his parents, a father bedridden with stroke since 2014 and his mother, a peasant.
Nimphas graduated in 2018. He applied for a white collar job but could not get and he resolved to learn the skill of making bags by using beads.
He has been making bags since 2019 to support his parents and further his education while also running a poultry farm.
His vision has been to have an organisation where he can help to empower youths not only with disabilities in skills such as tailoring, beads making, fishery, piggery and poultry farming, among others.
“I want to empower others to get better conditions, not to face the same issues I faced,’’ he said.
He explained his struggle while in school and the difficulties he experienced accessing public places, writing examinations while dealing with discrimination in the society just like many other Persons With Disabilities (PWDs).
“When I was in school in Gindiri, there was a time I almost missed my examinations because there was no resource room for me to write so that I would not disturb other students with the sound of my typewriter and I was carrying my typewriter about.
“It took the intervention of a staff before I was able to write the examinations, I had to write it in the same hall with the other students.
“Sometimes, we are treated as if we have a communicable disease, people leave their seats when we sit close to them in public gatherings,’’ he said.
He narrated that during the recent recruitment interview for teachers, his capacity to teach was doubted as the examiners questioned his ability to teach students who are not visually impaired.
He explained that roads were also not friendly for PWDS as they struggle with motorists to consider them in accessing the roads.
“The parks are not favourable and on the roads, the mobility canes we used as a sign to show we are visually impaired are not observed.
“The Federal Road Safety Corps should sensitise motorist to the need to stop when they see the mobility cane and there should be consideration for pedestrian facilities for people in wheelchairs during road construction.
“If you want to cross the road, you must look for someone to help you because if you raise your cane nobody will stop; even with the disability law, because it has not been fully implemented.
“Even in empowerment programmes by our representatives, they do not carry us along, we do not benefit from them, they look for us only during elections to promise us, but after the elections they will forget us,’’ he said.
He said that many PWDs were not attending school because of lack of funds and urged the government to have special scholarship programmes for them to study from primary education to Doctor of Philosophy (P.hD) level.
He said the 2020 International Day for People With Disabilities with theme: “Building Back Better: Toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World’’, should be a call for Inclusiveness for People With Disabilities in governance, education and other social interactions.
“We need inclusiveness, government should establish organisations, employment and empowerment for People With Disabilities, they should bring out policies and structures that are friendly for PWDs,’’ he said.
He said that PWDs who had opportunities would not go street begging if appointments were given to them based on credibility and qualifications.
He also said that appointments for the PWDs should not be limited to only special assistants to the governor on disabilities, observing that the action could also be a form of discrimination.
He said his dream had been to see the full implementation of the Disability Rights Law, insisting that “disability is not a curse or inheritance, so, treat people with disability well the way you treat yourselves’’.
Similarly, a physically challenged graduate of Accountancy, Miss Hanatu Gyang, 32, said she encountered some challenges while she was in Plateau State Polytechnic.
She started by studying Secretarial Studies but faced hardship accessing the lecture theatre located upstairs until she could not cope and had to change her course.
Gyang was raised by her mother with nine other siblings, her rescue was her talent in hair making which she used to sponsor herself in school.
In 2018 she started the wig-making business and she was able to use the proceeds to get a professional certificate as a chartered accountant at the Nigerian College of Accountancy (NCA) in Jos.
“I have trained 15 people in wig-making; most of them are on their own now and are doing well.
Hannatu has yet to have a business centre and she works from home as most of the proceeds from her business since she graduated in 2015, has been used in sponsoring her programme at NCA.
“I have not got any help from Plateau Government or anyone else and when I try to get from people I feel are capable, they make sexual advances at me,’’ she said.
She called for respect for PWDs’ human rights and dignity, saying even in business transactions some people could act in a condescending manner towards them.
Sharing similar sentiments, Miss Kisitmwa Jacob, 29, a student of Business Administration at Plateau State Polytechnic, said that she had to change her mobility aid to a wooden one to enable her to have access to public places, especially banks.
She appealed for provision of lifters in school for PWDs to enable them have access to lecture halls, saying those on wheel chairs always had to leave them when going upstairs for lectures because of the difficulty in getting them up.
The story is not different for Mr Makop Dan, a lecturer of Human Resources at Plateau State Polytechnic, where he has taught for 12 years as a part time lecturer.
Dan, a P.hD student with the Nasarawa State University, has also appealed to the Plateau Government to provide free education and scholarship for PWDs in the state.
“This will, in no small measure, give the PWDs a sense of belonging and will further lead to the growth and development of the state,’’ the lecturer said.
He also urged the government to give special consideration to such category of people who possessed the requisite qualifications during recruitments for jobs.
But the Secretary of the Plateau State Disabilities Rights Commission, Mr Carl Gurumyen, said that the commission was collaborating with non-governmental organisations to coordinate all activities of PWDS, protect their interest and rights in terms of education, health and social wellbeing.
He said that the commission was identifying public places where PWDs could have access challenges to embark on advocacy visits to ensure compliance to the Disability Law.
“We are advocating for an amendment in our bill to have a Disability Trust Fund, so that we can be able to do all these things ourselves.
“It is to enable us have a percentage given monthly from the total tax revenue of the state. It would enable us to have continuous funding for scholarships, sponsorships for PWDs and to handle other issues affecting them,’’ he said.
According to the World Health Organisation’s 2011 World Disability Report, no fewer than 15 per cent of Nigeria’s population or 25 million people have disabilities.
The organisation says many of them face a number of human rights abuses including stigma, discrimination, violence and lack of access to health care, housing and education.
The Disability Law signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in December 2018 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and imposes sanctions, including fines and prison sentences on those who contravene it.
It also stipulates a five-year transitional period for modifying public buildings, structures and automobiles to make them accessible and usable for people with disabilities.
The law will also establish a National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, responsible for ensuring that people with disabilities have access to housing, education and healthcare.