The Founder, Children’s Developmental Centre (CDC), Dr. Yinka Akindayomi, has called on the federal and various state governments to, as a matter of priority, enact laws against stigmatisation and discrimination of persons living with disabilities in the country.
Speaking during the Centre’s maiden Parent Summit, tagged ‘Overriding Stigma with Compassion’, she said it was surprising that the Federal Government has no law in place against discrimination of persons with special needs, as their rights continue to be violated across the country, with people treating them negatively daily.
“Only Lagos has a law against stigmatisation and discrimination of such categories of persons, but even at that, the law is only focused on how wheelchair ramps should be provided in public buildings and how therapies should be given. Nothing is touching on how persons with disabilities should be treated or spoken to by people,” she added.
“In developed countries, it is a crime to hate on persons living with disabilities. They should be loved because disability can happen to anyone. It does not matter whether the family is poor or rich,” she added.
She explained that even among interventions for disabilities, it has been observed that there was discrimination among interventions for them. Government and stakeholders prefer to look more into those with eyes, hearing and speech impairments, forgetting that persons with autism, among others, need to be catered for too.
She lamented that very little progress has been made in terms of addressing the challenges and needs of these special people as families and the society largely live in denial and therefore unwilling to provide the necessary support. ‘It was the need to change this attitude and direct attention to this area of need that the Centre organized the Parents’ Summit. For far too long, parents and families have worked in silos trying to provide care and services to their children with special needs. For as long as parents do not get together to address these issues as a group it would be difficult to get support from government and policy makers,” Dr Akindayomi said.
She called on the government to allocate a portion of the tax payers ‘money for the welfare of these categories of persons, as it obtains in western countries.
Akindayomi said the summit would help bring parents of children with disabilities together so they can have a common and loud voice to speak up for the welfare of Nigerians with disabilities. “This will help put pressure on the government to give children with special needs priority,” she added.
Lending her voice, an educationist, Dr. Dolapo Ogunbawo, said for parents to identify autism spectrum disorder in their kids, they should look out for their speech and language ability, social relationship and emotional level, adding that the signs may not all manifest.
“Once you discover any of these, see a therapist to know what type of spectrum they belong, and have them managed effectively, because persons with spectra disorder have innate abilities in them that must be enhanced.”
She said parents should love and accept their children with compassion and love, noting that that was the first step to addressing stigmatisation by the society. “If you love your child, the society would have no choice than assist you in loving them,” she added.
Also lending his voice, a proud father of a child living with disability, Mr. Muyiwa Majokodenu, said parents with such classes of children should study them enough to enhance their God-given talent, and then help them grow into perfection, as they can be very useful to the society.