Question – Few days in office as the Chairman of the Nigeria Association of the Blind in Lagos, how has it been?
Response – My few days in office as Chairman of NAB in Lagos has been nice and calm. I have been receiving congratulatory, advisory and demand calls from members. Indeed my expectation of NAB Chairman before I was elected was far short of my experience within these few days.
It is not an hyperbole to say that PWDs including the Blind are still struggling for survival ship in our community, Lagos inclusive.
Question – What are the challenges that Visually Impaired Persons, VIPs face generally?
Response – Challenges visually impaired persons face can be categorized into 2 broad categories; General societal challenges and discrimination. VIPs face societal challenges resulting from malfunctioning of governance apparatus which include Education, Economic, Socio-Political and Environmental disfunctionality.
Besides this, visually impaired persons like other PWDs suffer discrimination in any aspect you can think of. Even in the house of God where high level of morality is expected.
Recognition and acceptance, Values are not usually attached to their contributions and same not recognized, inhuman degradation amongst others. Fake apostles of emancipation of the blind who exploit their situations to their selfish advantage.
Question – How’s the association positioned to address these challenges?
Response – NAB has been in existence for years. It was registered in 1968 and since then it has been functional and functioning. So, the association is positioned in a way that will identify issues, will bring up solutions and make recommendations to the appropriate quarters. The one we can do within our limited resources, we do them. Like, organizing seminars, rallies, and lobby where and when necessary.
The association has identified the problems associated with visual impairments ranging from societal responses to visual impairments and persons with visual impairments. So, we’ve tried to embark on campaigns, awareness and the publicity on the fact that blindness is not a disease and it is never contagious. It is just a condition as we all have our own peculiar conditions. Therefore, people with blindness or visual impairments should not be treated with disdain. That has been the priority.
Apart from publicity, wherever and whenever we find ourselves, we’ve been trying to put in our best so that they will say that our visual impairments is never a challenge to our productivity that’s why when others are saying that they are tired, a Blind person in a work place will never be tired because he wants to showcase to convince the public that blindness is not a barrier. It is just doing something in another way to achieve the same result.
Also on Education, NAB has done so much to infuse or make access to education easier for PWDs. The association has done so well that it has made public institutions in charge of education to reckon and make provision for PWDs. For example, there were times when it is almost a year or several months after the Secondary School Certificate Examination results of regular students are released before that of the Blind would be released. With the involvement and intervention of NAB, the results are being released at the same time now even when they are not, it is just a short while immediately after the other results are released.
Besides that, a Blind person can now attend any government institution whether Federal or State, whether Polytechnic, University or College of Education as opposed to the initial government plan of reserving University of Ilorin for the Blind and Deaf. So, the awareness has gone to a level that Universities or higher institutions don’t see visual impairment as a barrier not to admit people. In the Almighty University of Lagos, we have several or many of us that have graduated and some still studying. Even when mathematics was made a compulsory requirement, they had an understanding and by policy, they didn’t require mathematics from Blind applicants before they are admitted into UNILAG. This is part of the struggle of NAB.
Still on education especially as regards to accessing learning materials, NAB is working on a legislation that will make both print and unprint literatures available for PWDs without breaching copyright laws. So these are some of the things that the association is doing.
When it comes to poverty alleviation and empowerment, do you know that we cannot all go to school? Well, some of us need to learn one trade or another. NAB has positioned itself to look for sponsors and basically, the Farm crafts centre for the Blind which is owned by the Federal Government, when it was closed down, the NAB did what is good to make sure that the school was reopened and resuscitated for those that want to learn some trade, some hand crafts and some other artisan works like that.
Question – What are your plans for the association and members while in office?
Response – I have positioned myself as far as I am concerned, to strategically address all the challenges being faced by members. Prior to this time, the people’s or government’s response to the plight of the disabled in general, the visual impaired inclusive has always been through the charity model. That is, it is only if the government believes that they need to do something, that’s when they do, they don’t see it as a right but now, when we have laws at Federal and State levels, the laws have made substantial provisions to meet the needs of PWDs, the blind inclusive.
Thus, I am focused on ensuring that the provision of the law is activated to the fullest to make life more meaningful to PWDs.
Also, under my watch, the executives and the association will fathom a plan of action that will incorporate all the aspects of life of inclusion of visually impaired persons so that wherever the fruit that will bring succor to our existence is, we will make sure that we go and pluck it and even if it is rooted among needing members.
Question – How do you intend to work with JONAPWD and LASODA to ensure the needs of VIPs are adequately addressed?
Response – as far as NAB is concerned, where and when necessary, we will work in collaboration with the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, JONAPWD and Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs, LASODA, to see that life is meaningful for PWDs.
Most importantly for LASODA, whenever I see that they are going off point when it comes to making life meaningful to PWDs and the visually impaired, then I will not default in crying out to the appropriate authority.
As a result of this, we will always suggest and support relevant plan or activity that we think can help LASODA to promote the interests of PWDs in the state. Also, if there is any policy that is coming on board that could anti-visually impaired, then we will make sure that it is quickly redressed in a civil manner in accordance with the established laws and authority.