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Lagos State Sets the Pace in Inclusivity of Persons with Disabilities in Policy Making in Nigeria

The Lagos State government demonstrated its interest in the welfare of people with disabilities (PWD) when it created the Special Peoples bill in 2010 and passed it into law in 2011 even though many of the rights people with disability are entitled to according to this law are still light years away from reality.
For instance, PWDs in the state still do not have free access to health care facilities as proposed under the law. This has affected the overall wellbeing of this marginalized population especially with respect to the sexual and reproductive health of women with disabilities and it has contributed in no small measure to the non participation of this group in mainstream society.

It was unanimously agreed that the decision to call all stakeholders to a two days meeting where issues that PWDs face when trying to access healthcare facilities in the state and current best practices abroad would be discussed is another step in the right direction.

This meeting, which was organized by the State Accountability and Voice Initiative (SAVI)in partnership with Disability Policy and Advocacy Initiative (DPAI), Treasureland Health Builders Initiative (THB) and Initiative for Women with Disabilities (IWD) took place on the 1st and 2nd of August at the Diplomat Hotel, Ikeja Lagos.

The Executive Directors of organizations dedicated to advocacy and promotion of the rights of PWDs, experts on the rights of persons with disabilities, medical practitioners, parents of children with mental and learning impairments, representatives from the state government were some of those in attendance.
Some people with disabilities had the opportunity of sharing their first hand experience when they tried to access healthcare facilities in the state.

For instance, Deaconess Beyioku Alase Adedoyin, who is hard of hearing and the National president for Deaf Women Association of Nigeria, and Mrs Theresa Matthews who is visually impaired and the woman leader for the Joint Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD) recounted their sad and humiliating experiences when they went to the hospital to seek medical attention. They both said they were directed from one department to another, which were not related to the services, they sought. That experience they said left them traumatized and feeling discriminated against.

Another woman, Mrs Abigail Turkson who has a physical disability said she had her last baby at home because she was denied adequate healthcare at a General Hospital in Lagos while pregnant.

Mr Theocracy Edafe Toofan, the Chief Executive Director of Special Quest Production who also trains medical practitioners in American Sign Language (ASL) identified some other problems that hinder accessibility of PWDs to adequate healthcare facilities in developing countries.

Some of these reasons where:

The lack of a proper definition of disability,

Traditional views of disability, which portrays it in a negative way,

Lack of proper documentation and survey and

Poor service infrastructure.

Another pressing issue he pointed out that affects persons with hearing impairment when they try to access healthcare facilities is lack of professionally trained medical interpreters. For example, while other interpreters may not be able to convey explanations, the names and dosage of medications from the doctor to the patient in medical terms, trained medical interpreters are able to interpret with very little room for error.

A breach in interpretation can cause a serious error in judgement, mismanagement of patients and sever and other disability causing side effects he adds.

Mr Emmanuel Owoyemi, the Chief Executive Officer of Mental Health Foundation, a not-for-profit organization based in Lagos described in vivid terms a growing concern in Nigeria is; mental illness.

It is suspected that 4 in every 10 person suffers from a form of mental illness. This sum up to 64million Nigerians.
There are only one hundred and sixty psychiatrists, this sum up to, 1.2million people to one psychiatrist.
It gets even worse as there are only 34 neurosurgeons presently.

To close this epoch making meeting, Dr Ogunmusi Peter who represented the Nigerian Medical association assured all aggrieved that the association has recently began strict discipline of all doctors who fall short of the ethics guiding the medical profession.

Mrs Adenike Glenn who is the service improvement officer for the Ministry of health reassured everyone especially PWDs in Lagos State by showing them provisions that have been made to include them in the provision of adequate healthcare and quality service from medical personnel in the Lagos State Service Charter.

A committee was then set up to work hand in hand with the Lagos State government in drafting and monitoring the new all-inclusive healthcare policy.

While the efforts of the State government is commendable, I cannot help but wonder if this is another one of those political talks designed for one purpose alone; to suck PWDs into the illusion that the government truly has their interest at heart while pacifying their agitations or if the State is truly going to make good on its promise as stated in the Special Peoples Law of 2011.

Comments

Celine's picture

Thank you for this report.

Thank you for this report. Your writing has given me an idea of what transpired. Thank God Theresa Matthews and Deaconess Beyioku Alase were there to share their experiences. I wonder why nobody talked about accessibility into the LAG BUS. May be colleagues from the Spinal Cord Injured (wheel chair users) and other physically challenged groups were not present. Or was it directed only towards accessibility to hospitals? I think that we need transportation to go to hospitals.

To me Lagos State has done well by passing the bill, but much need to be done to include security and job issues for persons with disabilities. Marginalization and stigmatization of PWds are still very high in employment places.

Thank you once again.

Celine.

Vweta's picture

Thank You More Celine

Thank you for taking the time to read my journal.

Transportation was discussed as a key barrier against adequate access to healthcare facilities too. Mr Adebayo Abioye, the Executive Director of TheseAbilities highlighted the challenges persons with mobility difficulties face when trying to access different departments inside the hospital as the passage ways are not disabled friendly.

I have just published another journal where i stressed the need to address other mitigating factors alongside healthcare for PWDs if a total change and impact must occur.

Thank you again and i look forward to meeting you in person at one of these meetings soon.

Our Voices make the WORLD PULSate...
Vweta.

Vweta-
I so much appreciate your conveying this vital issue. I, too, am an advocate for those of differing abilities, especially when it comes to my two brothers. It seems that every day there is something needing doing for one of them. Recently, my older brother suffered two horrible injustices and is now suffering emotional reprocussions of both. And this in a country where there is inclusion, access to care, and support. I can only imagine the difficulties facing people in your country, and my heart breaks for it.

The areas of need Mr. Edafe identified are so true and relevant. I hope with you that these are not just words, but first steps of action towards change! There are so many identified needs it can be overwhelming. I trust and hope that priorities can be set, steps written down, so that actual change occurs quickly!

Thank you, Vweta. I hear you and stand with you.

Let us Hope together-
Michelle
aka: Cali gal

Listener
Sister-Mentor
@CaliGalMichelle
facebook.com/caligalmichelle

Vweta's picture

Dear Michelle

Its always reassuring to read from you.

It must be hard- having to still contend with some of the issues your brother faced despite the efforts the government is making; and you maybe having experienced better and knowing it should be better must make it nearly unbearable.
I send you strength and love as you support your brothers.

Mr Edafe could not have conveyed a more timely and powerful message when he pointed out the need for professionally trained medical interpreters. The message was one that i and everyone in attendance resonated with.
Personally, i intend to follow up with the relevant offices that promised to provide these services.

Thank you Michelle. Even though we are far, i feel your support and strength so close.

Our Voices make the WORLD PULSate...
Vweta.

Please do keep me updated as to whether these services are actually provided. Please also let me know if you need anything at all I can provide as far as communication and advocating.

Let us Hope together-
Michelle
aka: Cali gal

Listener
Sister-Mentor
@CaliGalMichelle
facebook.com/caligalmichelle

Vweta's picture

I definitely will

I definitely will Michelle.

Thank you for reaching out - always!

Our Voices make the WORLD PULSate...
Vweta.

loretta's picture

Hope for the best!

I would like to comment about the issue of expert Medical Translators for the Deaf Impaired. This is a very serious issue that needs to be address with utmost importance, because it affects people in a very serious manner and it's also a life threatening issue. 1. Use of a wrong dosage.
2. Chances of not using the nedication at all because of fear of under dosing or over dosing.

Keep it up Vweta.

Loretta.

A successful woman is one who can build a firm foundation with the bricks others throw at her. Author Unkown.

Vweta's picture

Thank you Loretta. And i

Thank you Loretta.

And i couldn't agree more. Your points are very valid, as a matter of fact i have recently been in touch with a man who is hard of hearing and later developed digestive problems due to over dose of prescribed medication.

It is pertinent that that medical interpreters be provided in hospitals.

Our Voices make the WORLD PULSate...
Vweta.

loretta's picture

Absolutely!

For nothing else, but to save lives. The hard of hearing are much as human as those who can hear.

I am behind you 100%.

Loretta.

A successful woman is one who can build a firm foundation with the bricks others throw at her. Author Unkown.

loretta's picture

I would like to share this with you.

Shay: God's Plan

At a fund-raising dinner for a school that serves learning-disabled children, the father of one of the school's students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question. "Everything God does is done with perfection. Yet, my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is God's plan reflected in my son?" The audience was stilled by the query. The father continued. "I believe," the father answered, "that when God brings a child like Shay into the world, an opportunity to realize the Divine Plan presents itself. And it comes in the way people treat that child." Then, he told the following story: Shay and his father had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, "Do you think they will let me play?" Shay's father knew that most boys would not want him on their team. But the father understood that if his son were allowed to play it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging. Shay's father approached one of the boys on the field and asked if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance from his teammates. Getting none, he took matters into his own hands and said, "We are losing by six runs, and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and I'll try to put him up to bat in the ninth inning." In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. At the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the outfield. Although no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be on the field, grinning from ear to ear as his father waved to him from the stands. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base. Shay was scheduled to be the next at-bat. Would the team actually let Shay bat at this juncture and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that this was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball. However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least be able to make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly toward Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball to the pitcher. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could easily have thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have ended the game. Instead, the pitcher took the ball and threw it on a high arc to right field, far beyond reach of the first baseman. Everyone started yelling, "Shay, run to first. Run to first." Never in his life had Shay ever made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled. Everyone yelled "Run to second, run to second!" By the time Shay was rounding first base, the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to the second baseman for a tag. But the right fielder understood what the pitcher's intentions had been, so he threw the ball high and far over the third baseman's head. Shay ran towards second base as the runners ahead of him deliriously circled the bases towards home. As Shay reached second base, the opposing shortstop ran to him, turned him in the direction of third base, and shouted, "Run to third!" As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams were screaming, "Shay! Run home." Shay ran home, stepped on home plate and was cheered as the hero, for hitting a "grand slam" and winning the game for his team. "That day," said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face," the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of the Divine Plan into this world."

Loretta.

A successful woman is one who can build a firm foundation with the bricks others throw at her. Author Unkown.

Stacey Rozen's picture

I know with you as

I know with you as investigator, Vweta, there will be a valid voice questioning distorted illusions that hide the truth. It's the games people in high places tend to play. Keep commenting and querying as I predict that you will turn disability laws around my friend. I beleive in you.

Creatively,
Stacey

Vweta's picture

Your comment brought tears to

Your comment brought tears to my eyes dear dear Stace!

Thank you very much for reading this piece.

Our Voices make the WORLD PULSate...
Vweta.

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