Blind and vision-impaired persons in Lagos State have called on Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to prioritise the community in social protection programmes as the cost of living crisis hits harder on the economy.
As the community commemorates the 2023 International White Cane and Safety day with a road awareness campaign on October 15, the Lagos State Chapter of the Nigeria Association of the Blind (NAB), expressed worries that its members risk aggravated hardship and vulnerability should the community continue to suffer discrimination and deprivation in palliative measures meant to mitigate the effects of rising cost of food, transportation and other basic needs.
According to Barrister Lukman Salami, Lagos NAB Chairman, “it is our utmost prayer that His Excellency be intentional about tackling the unequal power relations that continue to disadvantage blind adults and children in government initiatives.”
While acknowledging the huge investment of the Lagos State Government in achieving inclusive development, NAB Lagos expressed concerns that the majority of persons with disabilities in the state are suffering deprivation in the Disability Empowerment and Enterprise Programme (DEEP) being implemented through the Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs (LASODA).
“As of today majority of our members, some of them old and sick, are still begging LASODA to release the cash transfer and social security approved by the governor for persons with disabilities in 2022,” he added.
Corroborating Salami, Public Relations Officer of NAB Lagos State, Mr Gbenga Ogundare lamented the severe oppression people with visual disabilities suffer when trying to access basic necessities in Lagos and elsewhere in the country. “It has always been, and remains, a difficult experience for blind and vision-impaired persons who struggle to live and secure their livelihoods in a state that boasts the first disability law in Nigeria,’ Ogundare said.
“Our members are the first to be locked out of employment opportunities, even when they possess the qualification and capacity. Blind women have remained victims of unimaginable abuse and molestation while struggling to access financial assets for engaging in economic activities. And all of these are happening because of the pervasive stereotypical thinking of the society and the ineptitude of LASODA to effectively translate the vision of the government for Lagosians with disabilities,’ Ogundare further noted.
The association also urged law enforcement agencies, including the Lagos State Special Task Force on the Environment, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, KAI and other similar agencies in charge of ensuring free flow of traffic and removal of hawkers on pedestrian/walkways and bridges to make access and save movements for the blind a topmost priority in their operations.
“It is part of the intentional social protection initiatives we desire in Lagos. Transportation and safe mobility are such a big deal for blind and vision-impaired persons anywhere in the world. And so keeping the roads and walkways as well as pedestrian bridges accessible and secure for our members is a non-negotiable demand,’ Salami said.
The association marked this year’s event with the distribution of white mobility canes to members who undertook a charity awareness walk along the highway in Oshodi up to the Digital Bridge Institute in Cappa where reception and entertainment followed.