The Service Provider, Children Developmental Centre, Dr. Olayinka Akindayomi, has said the centre will make a case for persons living with disabilities to exercise their franchise during the 2019 general elections.
She argued that persons living with disabilities had as much right as other citizens to vote.
She, therefore, urged the Independent National Electoral Commission to factor them into its plans as it prepares for the general elections next year.
Akindayomi spoke with our correspondent on Thursday on the sidelines of a press conference on disability awareness organised by the CDC in Lagos.
She stressed that there was a need for education among citizens not to discriminate against persons with disabilities but for the society to accommodate them.
Harping on the determination of the centre to ensure that persons living with disabilities were not denied their right to vote, Akindayomi said already 15 students at the centre had secured their PVC.
She said, “Somebody who cannot see has a right to vote, but the PVC should be written in Braille so that he can feel the information. The voting papers should be written in Braille, so that when somebody with visual impairment comes along, we are giving them the voting papers. It doesn’t matter whether or not they know how to vote, the key thing is that they must have their PVC just like the National Identity Card is their right and everybody should have it regardless of what their disabilities are.”
Also speaking, a parent, Air Vice Marshall Femi Gbadebo (retd.), lamented that while the society had done little to accommodate persons living with physical disabilities, those with intellectual disabilities had been completely neglected.
He said arrangement ought to be made for parents or caregivers of persons with intellectual disabilities to vote on their behalf.
Gbadebo argued, “Our society only recognises that there are blind persons or persons who are deaf and dumb, and so, to enter certain places, they put certain things in place.
“But when you have a child or an adult with intellectual disability, nobody has talked about that. When we are talking about the population of Nigeria, we include them in that population and the system is supposed to care for them. So, when we are talking about voting, they must also be considered, otherwise, when we say 20 million people didn’t vote, who are these 20 million? Did we make provision for them to vote?”
He said because the caregivers were always taking care of persons with intellectual disabilities round the clock, “they are more or less representing their interest.”
The General Manager, Lagos State Office of Disability Affairs, Dr. Babatunde Awelenje, said the state was committed to giving persons with disabilities a sense of belonging in the society.
He said the second phase of the implementation of the Disability Funds, inaugurated by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, would begin in April and urged persons with disabilities to take advantage of it.
He said the second phase of the scheme was targeted at empowering about 2,000 persons living with disabilities to start small-scale businesses by giving them N100,000 each, while a cluster of people with disabilities would be given N500,000 apart from providing physically-challenged persons with aids such as wheelchairs.
Others who participated in the panel discussion on disability awareness included Dr. Chris Okafor of Physiotherapy Department, University of Lagos; President, Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in Nigeria, Mr. Segun Joseph; President, Down Syndrome Foundation, Nigeria, Mrs. Rose Mordi; and President, Autism Parents Association, Mrs. Angela Emuwa.