If you use wheelchair, you’re not welcomed in many Federal Government ministries and agencies in the capital city, Abuja, because they’re inaccessible to Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). Only a few MDAs have ramp that lead to the elevator, many do not have and the person on wheelchair would have to be assisted to get to the elevator area.
It’s part of the discriminatory acts which the 2019 Disability Act was meant to correct. The Act clearly states that public buildings shall be constructed with the necessary accessibility aids for PWDs has not improved access to public buildings.
The Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018, became a law in 2019 and it prohibits discrimination based on disability and imposes sanctions including fines and prison sentences on those who contravene its provisions.
The Act is supposed to eliminate discrimination against the over 27 million PWDs in Nigeria and increase their chances of total integration into the society. Section 3 of the law states that “public buildings shall be constructed with the necessary accessibility aids such as lifts, ramp and other facilities that shall make them accessible and useable to persons with disabilities.”
The law allows a five- year transitory period within which “all public buildings or structures, whether immovable or not, must be modified and accessible to persons with disabilities including those on wheelchairs.”
While the transitional period will elapse in January next year, implementation is yet to fully take-off. The Act remains a dream, not reality for PWDs in the country as they continue to battle hurdles, including that of inaccessibility, erected by an insensitive society.
NewsNGR visited a number of ministries located at the Federal Secretariat Abuja and confirmed that while there are elevators to be used, there are no ramps leading to the elevator area of the buildings.
Staircases also have no hand railings for use by visually-impaired persons.
At most of the ministries, huge crowd of people is always at the escalator, making it more difficult for PWDs to access offices above the ground floor.
Chairman of the National Association of Persons With Disability, Abuja Chapter, Agbo Christian, decried the low rate of implementation of the disability law in Nigeria.
According to him, accessibility is not just about lifts and ramps, but a society where all barriers are removed for PWDs.
“Disability is simply impairment if that impairment does not interfere with any barriers. if I am in a wheelchair and I can make use of the bus services and wheel into recreational centres and offices without any barrier, that means I’m no longer living like someone that has a disability because I can do whatever I want with ease.
“So we want all physical barriers to be taken off, it’s not just about having lifts at the entrance, it’s about having a workable ramp and after then a sizable lift for my wheelchair to get in and then sizable office doors for me to access. The office environment should be so easy for me to move around all offices or the toilet in a way that I can go 360 inside, and the toilets must have rails for me to hold to pee.”