Not many know that the great physicist, Thomas Edison had, at the early stage of his life, struggled with disability. Edison was born on February 11, 1847, in Milan, the seventh and last child of Samuel and Nancy Edison. He had over 1000 patents and his inventions are in various fields used in our daily lives. But, in his early life, he had a learning disability and could not read until he was twelve. He came to the limelight when he invented the phonograph (a device for the mechanical recording and reproduction of sound). His most popular invention is the electric bulb. He developed the telegraph system and became a prominent businessman.
Disability is an impairment in the mind or body of an individual which restricts interactive participation with the world around them. According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons Living with Disabilities, disability is defined as a long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment which in interaction hinders full and effective participation in the society. The common groups of disability are visual impairment, hearing impairment, intellectual impairment, communication impairment, and physical impairment. Over 1billion people globally live with a form of disability which corresponds to about 15% of the world’s population. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) as of the year 2020, over 27 million Nigerians are living with disabilities.
The United Nations came up with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which promote the full integration of persons with disabilities in societies. Their 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development clearly states that disability cannot be a reason for lack of access to development programming and access to basic human amenities. In the same vein, the Nigerian government offered hope of inclusion to persons living with disabilities when President Mohammadu Buhari GCFR on January 23, 2019 signed into law, the Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018.
The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and imposes sanctions (fines and prison sentences) on those who contravene it. The law also stipulates a 5year transitional period for re-designing and modifying public buildings and automobiles by making them easily accessible by persons living with disabilities. It will ensure that People Living With Disability have access to healthcare, housing, and education opportunities.
Similarly, the National Information Technology Development Agency under the supervision of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy is committed to implementing a National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) for a digital Nigeria and have engaged in series of capacity building programmes across the different geopolitical zones of the country in training persons living with a disability on use of ICT with the purpose of empowering them and giving them digital inclusion. Gombe, Kano, Abuja, Oyo, and recently Enugu have benefitted from this laudable initiative brought by NITDA.
A lot of visually impaired, hearing impaired, and physically challenged people have been inspired and empowered by the ICT essential trainings given by NITDA which has actually made them self-reliant and employers of labor. With all these limitations, one would wonder how persons living with disabilities cope with their everyday activities especially in the post-COVID-19 era. This necessitated the promotion of the global awareness on disability-inclusive developments aimed at including persons with disabilities in order to expand equitable opportunities for all.