The Federal Nigeria Society for the Blind (FNSB) has appealed to Federal and State legislators across Nigeria to enact comprehensive laws that guarantee the safety and independence of white cane users within the country.
Chairman of the Executive Council of FNSB, Mr. Fusi Akinkugbe, made this appeal in a statement released in Lagos to commemorate the International White Cane Safety Day, a global observance celebrated annually on October 15th, which aims to raise awareness about the etiquette and safety of blindness.
Akinkugbe expressed his appreciation to the Lagos State Government for enacting the Special Peoples Laws and the Federal Government for signing into law the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018, following 9 years of relentless advocacy by disability rights groups and activists.
He emphasized the significant challenges faced by individuals with visual impairments, particularly in terms of mobility and orientation. These challenges often render the affected persons unable to move unaided from one place to another, leading to a multitude of consequences such as a reduced quality of life, economic unproductivity, dependency, and a potential burden to both themselves and society at large.
“The white cane is not merely a tool; it is a symbol of mobility for the blind or visually impaired. It empowers them to navigate their surroundings by detecting obstacles, providing them the right of way when crossing roads independently, and aiding other road users in identifying them”, he said.
Akinkugbe further stressed that white canes are presently not manufactured in Nigeria and must be imported, making them a foreign exchange-dependent mobility aid. This extends to other mobility aids and accessories for the visually impaired.
He said “the implications of this foreign dependence on mobility are multifaceted. It leads to double transportation costs, the economic redundancy of guide personnel, loss of self-esteem, and the forfeiture of the right to privacy for visually impaired individuals who must rely on sighted guides for mobility”.
Akinkugbe called upon government authorities at all levels and various stakeholders to contribute by donating white canes for the visually impaired. Such contributions will significantly enhance their mobility and improve their quality of life in Nigeria.
He also emphasized the urgency of implementing smart traffic lights along major roads to assist visually impaired individuals in controlling traffic, enabling them to cross roads safely and independently.
Additionally, FNSB has outlined other activities to commemorate the day and create future awareness. These activities include a Mega White Cane Rally in Lagos, a webinar, and potential projects aimed at furthering the cause of awareness.
In his closing remarks, he encouraged visually impaired individuals to embrace the use of the white cane as a means to boost their independence and self-esteem, citing notable individuals like David Blunkett, Stevie Wonder, and Nigeria’s own Cobhams Asuquo as inspiring examples of individuals who have overcome obstacles to achieve remarkable success.