Assessing people living with disabilities act in Anambra

The law which gives legal teeth to the protection of persons in that capacity has come to stay in Anambra state. OKECHUKWU ONUEGBU examines the law and its impact in the state.

To persons living with disabilities in Anambra state, every year ushers in new opportunities.
On September 13 2018, the Anambra State House of Assembly passed into law the Anambra State Disability Rights Act which was subsequently assented to by Governor Willie Obiano on December 18, 2018.

The law, Blueprint learnt, protects the right of persons with disabilities in the state while it also creates and sustains their social, physical and political environments for them to manifest, correlate and contribute to national development.

A look at sections of the law

Section 20 of the law explains that any person living with disabilities shall not be subjected to prejudices or harmful practices including those based on sex, work, rape, or tradition in any area of life, while Section 23 adds that a person living with disabilities shall have the right and necessary facilities to access public buildings and public facilities.

Similarly, Section 24 specifies that persons living with disabilities shall be given first consideration as much as possible in queues especially at banks, schools, etc, just as Section 29 submits that mobility aids and appliances or additive devices used by PWDs shall not be subject to charges provided they are not carried in commercial quantities or for commercial purposes.

Also, Section 38 maintains that any person without any disability shall not deceptively disguise himself as someone with disabilities or use a fake condition of disability as a guise for the purpose of begging.

In Section 41, it was captured that PWDs have right of access to information and right to communication, and that the government, individual and corporate bodies shall accept and facilitate the use of sign language, braille, argumentative and alternative communication, and all means of special communication in all ramifications.

Section 42 of the law forbides discrimination against PWDs in all matters relating to marriage, family, parenthood and relationship; and Section 45 restates that every person living with disability shall have an unfettered access to education without discrimination or segregation.

Furthermore, section 49 contends that PWDs shall have the right to work on an equal basis with others, both in the private and public sectors, while Section 52 discloses that PWDs shall be encouraged to fully participate in politics and in public life, just as section 56 rules out that no person should for comic effect mimic or ridicule individuals or group of persons with disabilities.

Role of parent body

The Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD), umbrella body for all the cluster associations of persons with disabilities in Anambra state, which is the major crusader and advocate of this law, achieved this through advocacy campaign and frequent engagements with the government.

According to the state chairman of JONAPWD, Comrade Ugochukwu Okeke, Obiano’s administration equally appointed a PWD member as permanent secretary of a ministry, the first of its kind in the state. He also appointed five PWDs as political aides as well as created Office of the Governor on Disability headed by their member, Barr Chuks Ezewuzie.

Involvement of CSOs
Similarly, the association through the sponsorship of Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC), a European Union (EU) programme, trained and retrained members, civil society organisations (CSOs), the media, town union leaders and others to inundate public with what the law is all about for smooth implementation.

As a result, the association rolled out many programmes including media interactive session, rally/road walk, seminar, end of year party and others to mark the 2020 International Day for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in collaboration with the Office of the Governor on Disability Matters and the state Ministry of Women and Children Affairs.

Further appeals

Speaking at the event, Okeke made case for establishment of Disability Rights Commission as enshrined by the law, stressing that it would enable them to enjoy full benefit of the law including employment opportunities, access to buildings and others.

“The idea for the call to establish Disability Rights Commission by the state government is to create a space for the civil society organisations to participate and as well assist in flagging off the demand for the implementation of the law by mobilising movements and open duty call on responsible stakeholders and care-givers to ensure its full implementation, increase rights to access public building, vehicles, education, justice and healthcare. Others include the prohibition of discrimination at work and others.

“We passionately call on every tax payers in the state to support what the present administration is doing by paying their taxes and levies at appropriate time and place in order to increase the IGR to make Anambra state achieve SDG 1 which is end poverty in all its forms everywhere and SDG 8 which talks about promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all as this will enable our working governor to set up the Disability Rights Commission without stress which would in greater extent among other things increase the employment opportunity for persons with disabilities as about 200 qualified members have been screened by the Civil Service Commission and are now waiting for their appointment papers,” he stated.

Govt’s involvement

Immediately, the special adviser to the governor on disability matters, Barr Chuks Ezewuzie, announced that the governor has approved establishment of a committee to implement the state 2018 disability rights law.

“Vetting exercise is on and names of members would soon be made know. Disability Rights Implementation Committee will continue to implement the Disability Rights Law. We have Office of the Governor on Disability Matters through which they will get to the destination. The committee will soon be inaugurated. They will formulate establishment of Disability Rights Commission and other aspects of the law,” Ezewuzie revealed.

He further maintained that the governor had also approved Sign Language curriculum to be taught in private and public schools in the state, adding that the government also provided enabling environment and mechanism through which PWDs wiling to access loans for agriculture or other businesses in the state could do so.

In a similar vein, the state coordinator, Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) programme, Mrs Josephine Onah, disclosed that the group had concluded plans to establish a Disability Counselling Centre in Awka.

“From March 2021, Disability Counselling Centre will kick off activities. The Office of the Governor on Disability has provided a space for it. We will remodel and equip it. We will send counsellors to the centre. The counsellors and other personnel shall be trained and equipped for the task. They will counsel them to meet up with their psychological and mental needs. There are so many impact of disability and post pandemic effect to be tackled by the existence of this counselling centre,” she stated.

Lady Ndidi Mezue, the state commissioner for women and children affairs, who was presented with an award at the course of the celebration, assured the PWDs of continued support to achieve their welfares and rights in the state.

The media officer, Office of the Governor on Disability Matters, Miss Chidimma Ajemba, also used the week long programme to sensitise journalists on what she termed disability etiquette or how to communicate and interact with people who have disabilities in ‘respectful ways.’
“First and foremost, rely on common sense to guide you when interacting with people with disabilities. Relate to us as you would relate to anyone else.

Don’t assume they see their disability as a tragedy. Many people with disabilities have worked through the tough emotions to be happy and content with their lives. A seemingly harmless statement like, ‘I’m so sorry that you find your self in this condition’, or something of that nature can make a person with a disability feel sad and sorry. Don’t pity us rather encourage us,” Ajemba noted.