Nigeria: The physically disabled get a new lease on life

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Physically challenged people in Nigeria have been left in awe as the government passes new law to incorporate them into society and protect their interests.

Until now they had been left with no other choice but to violently struggle to cope with amenities and laws made for able bodied persons, thus limiting their development and forcing most of them into the streets to beg for alms.

The new bill, entiled:The Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Bill 2009, makes it mandatory for government, individuals and public organizations, to ensure that jobs, facilities and amenities are provided to suit and accommodate the disabled. The Senate, Wednesday, passed the bill outlawing discrimination against disabled persons. Violaters will receive a fine of N1 million.

According to section seven of the bill, “A public building shall be constructed with the necessary accessibility aids such as lifts, (where necessary) ramps and any other facility that shall make them accessible and usable to persons with disability.”

Mr. Olarenwaju Timothy, a physically impeded Nigerian, was quoted as saying, “People with physical or learning disabilities have not had to deal with just their disabilities but with th the social and environmental barriers which has limited a lot of them into begging on the streets.” The bill is the first of its kind in the history of the country. “People who are blind or deaf no longer have to deal with being ignored or patronized time after time,” he added.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Information, Senator Ayogu Eze, was the brain behind the passage of the bill which followed a clause-by-clause consideration in the Committee. “The Senate has taken seriously its responsibility and determination to ensure that we make laws not just for able bodied, but also for the physically-challenged people as well,” he said in an interview, after the bill was passed.

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