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Sign Diability Bill Into Law

On January 4, 2019, the United Nations marked the first official World Braille Day. The World Braille Day is an event observed in order to raise awareness of the importance of braille as a means of communication in the full realisation of the human rights for blind and partially sighted people.

Braille is a tactile representation of alphabetic and numerical symbols using six dots to represent each letter and number, and even musical, mathematical and scientific symbols. Braille (named after its inventor in 19th century France, Louis Braille) is used by blind and partially sighted people to read the same books and periodicals as those printed in a visual font. Use of braille allows the communication of important information to and from individuals who are blind or partially sighted, ensuring competency, independence and equality. It serves as a means of communication for blind persons, as reflected in article 2 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and is essential in the context of education, freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information and written communication, as well as for the social inclusion of blind persons, as reflected in articles 21 and 24 of the Convention.

In Nigeria, the issue of rights of persons with disabilities has remained contentious, owing to the lack of a law that protects these set of people. A few months back, the National Assembly completed work on the bill but it is yet to be assented to by the president. The discrimination against persons with disabilities bill, sponsored by Coalition of Disability Organisation (CODO), according to its promoters, when signed into law, would maximally boost human capital development and encourage indigenous and foreign participation of persons with disabilities in economic, social and political development of the country.

We note that this bill is the only piece of legislation, that touches on some of the most vulnerable, weak and marginalised set of Nigerians, which makes it very important. The bill provides for rights of persons with disabilities to have access to public premises, accessibility aids at public building, access to road and side walk, protection against risk and humanitarian emergencies, as well as prohibition of using them to beg for alms. It also provides for the right to participation in politics, and a National Commission to address complaints of harassment, discrimination and harmful practices against persons with disabilities, among others.
As the nation goes into a round of general elections, one of the issues of concern to people with disabilities is the inaccessibility of many of the polling units, in spite of  newer measures to ensure their inclusion in the electoral process, by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
We, therefore, join in calling on the president to, as a mark of demonstration of Nigeria’s commitment its international obligations as one of the countries at the vanguard of the landmark international treaty aimed at protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, sign the bill into law. Article four of the UN Convention mandates states to adopt all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognised in the convention and take all appropriate measures.
By signing the bill, the president would also have fulfilled his pledge during a town hall meeting in Lafia, Nasarawa State, during the 2015 electioneering, to end discrimination and stigmatisation against persons with disabilities in Nigeria if elected into office.


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