US Launches Digital Hub for Persons with Disabilities


Emma Okonji

The acting United States Consul General, Darcy Zotter on Tuesday in Lagos, reiterated the commitment of the US Embassy to support any initiative that would enhance technology skills development for persons with disabilities.

Zotter restated the commitment, when she unveiled a disability-friendly digital hub, hosted at the Lagos office of the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD).

A Nigerian civic organisation, Project Enable, set up the digital hub with the support of the US Government Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund of $25, 000.

The United States Consulate General in Lagos also provided additional funding of $4,401 to keep the digital hub running.

Speaking at the formal opening of the digital hub, Zotter explained that promoting disability rights is an integral part of promotion of human rights. She added that discrimination against people with disabilities is not only unjust but hinders economic development and limits democracy and social cohesion.

“We are happy to identify with this initiative which seeks to promote the empowerment and social inclusion of persons living with disabilities in Nigeria. Through this technology and entrepreneurship hub, over 250 people with disabilities will have free access to inclusive technology.

“An additional 20 young persons with disabilities will be trained and mentored in various technology-based skills at the hub,” Zotter said.

The technology and entrepreneurship hub seeks to promote the empowerment and social inclusion of persons with disabilities. It will provide volunteer opportunities to young people with disabilities while serving as a center for their continuous development in entrepreneurship.

Director, Project Enable, Mr. Olusola Owonikoko, a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow and 2014 Fellow of the Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative (CYFI), said the collaborative initiative would help to equip people with disabilities with technology skills that will help them contribute to nation development.
Some of the persons with disabilities thanked the US government for giving them the opportunity to acquire technology skills.

The centre is equipped with 15 desktop computers, five laptop computers, all with internet access.
Zotter assured the beneficiaries of the US government intention to sustain the project for long period of time, provided the beneficiaries continue to show sign of willingness and interest, as well as availability and commitment.

Through the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund, 68 grants of up to $25,000 each were awarded in 2017 to US government exchange alumni teams worldwide including Project Enable, to support their public service projects.
The US Department of State created the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) in 2011 to support alumni initiatives that promote shared values and innovative solutions to global challenges.

Since its inception, the AEIF has supported more than 300 alumni-led initiatives around the world, and reached millions of people through trainings, awareness campaigns, leadership and empowerment initiatives.