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  5/13/2019 4:50:23 PM
A Sustainable Lagos For People Living With Disabilities If Possible.
A SUSTAINABLE LAGOS FOR PEOPLE LIVING WITH DISABILITIES IS POSSIBLE
 
Rebecca Enobong Roberts1 and Taibat Lawanson2
1 Research Fellow, Africa Future Policy Leader (rebeccaenoroberts@gmail.com)
2Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development, University of Lagos, Nigeria (tlawanson@unilag.edu.ng)
 
 
The recently United Nation’s Global Goals Festival in Bonn, Germany revealed among other things the urgency of addressing issues specifically targeting vulnerable groups such as the special needs persons. For Nigeria, the class of persons are marginalized across board and face pressing unemployment, under-employment, socio-economic inequalities and tensions of the formal-informal economy in cities like Lagos.
 
[1]. The contextualized challenges of people living with disabilities (PLWD) regarding these issues were however glossed over. The specific focus of this submission, therefore, is to explore various policy alternatives through which disability rights and livelihood opportunities for PLWD are fully integrated into the development strategy for Lagos, as well as in government’s policies and interventions.
 
 
 In January 2019, President Buhari signed the Discrimination Against Persons with Disability (Prohibition) Act, 2018 into law. This bill categorically prohibits discrimination against PLWD, protects their rights, and articulates their access to all privileges accruable to Nigerian citizens. In theory, this is an excellent step in the right direction. However, in practice, state and municipal governments will need to localize the law and take specific policy steps to optimize its provisions for the benefit of the target population. A major step will be the shift from ‘tokenism’ and ‘benevolence’ to ‘empowerment’ when addressing the affairs of PLWD. This aligns with the provisions of the United Nations convention on PLWD
 
 
 
[2], as well as the SDG. Inclusion of the disabled persons is referenced in various parts of the SDGs, particularly in relations to the goal on education, growth, and employment, inequality, accessibility of human settlements, as well as data collection and monitoring of the SDGs, for instance, goal 4, 8,10, 11 and 17 are interconnected to Nigeria’s 2018 Disability Act.[3]
 
 
 
The Current Situation
 
There are currently an estimate of 3 million people living with disabilities in Lagos, the most common being visual, hearing, and mental impairments as well as those with physical challenges who are constrained to wheelchairs and crutches. There are only 31 primary schools spread across 20 Local Government Areas (LGA) for affected children, while 19 other special needs schools are run by charitable organizations, including Faith-Based Organizations. So far, the University of Lagos has graduated an estimate of five thousand PLWD since 2005 in various disciplines including law, mass communication, and urban planning. In 2018, the Lagos state government employed 250 PLWD persons, while a majority of this population are self-employed, often within the informal economy
 
[4]. It is also worrisome that PLWD is vulnerable in public spaces in Lagos. For example, poor infrastructure has resulted in many PLWD persons being injured or killed in avoidable accidents such as falling into uncovered drains, getting hit by cars/motorcycles on zebra crossings and along roadsides.
 
 
The Lagos state government established the Office for Disability Affairs (LASODA) since 2011
 
[5], charged with the responsibility of implementing laws and policies that uphold the rights of all disabled persons in the state as well as protecting them against all forms of discrimination. Though laudable, the establishment of the office has resulted in a marginal improvement in the lives of PLWD and their access to the resources of the city. For example, in 2018, Governor Ambode donated 10 million Naira as well as 1,000 assertive devices to a cluster of PLWD groups in the state. The activities of the office have also not been particularly evident in the mainstream development agenda of the city
 
[6]. There is, therefore, an urgent need to strengthen the LASODA office to perform her duties and ensure real inclusion of the disabled.
 
 
What can be done?
 
Real inclusion of PLWD into the city can only be achieved through deliberate activities that target contextualized gaps in their education (including vocational training), livelihood opportunities and rights. Reforms are urgently required in the following areas – Education, Employment and Governance - if we are to actualize the paradigm shift from ‘tokenism’ to ‘empowerment’ of PLWD.
 
Education reforms:
It is imperative that access to qualitative education is provided for PLWD, and that the current special education curriculum is expanded to ensure that systemic biases that feed into the marginalization of PLWD are destroyed. For example, the integration of special education classroom into the existing public education system should be encouraged.
 
[7], in order to reduce the ‘stigma’ attached to disabilities. It is also necessary that special support is given to those who suffer disability in their adulthood to enjoy progressive and continuous education such as is provided by the Vocational Training Centre of the Nigerian Society for the Blind.
 
[8]. The situation in Kenya[9] where all higher institutions are required by law to provide free transportation for disabled students in order to encourage sustainable learning can also be adopted. With the increasing importance of technology, organizations such as Co-Creation Hub can also be engaged to train and mentor PLWD for employability and productivity in relevant careers of the future.
 
 
A special education trust fund should also be set up, which will be administered by LASODA and the Education ministry, to expand on an incremental basis, access to education and co-curricular activities
 
[10] for children living with disability, and ensure that the activities of local organizations that train and empower PLWD, particularly women are supported.
 
 
It is necessary to ensure that special focus is given to the education and lifelong learning of PLWD in all discourses about education and curriculum development in Lagos.
 
 
Employment reforms:
Regarding formal sector employment, it is necessary to create a transparency framework that mandates all organizations to report with evidence, how many disabled persons they hire, at various levels, with narratives illustrating progress and action plans to achieve recommended quotas in the employment of PLWD. Why mandatory? Because generally, from education across the board to the labor markets, intentional discrimination is the main factor of the disability employment gap in Nigeria
 
[11]. Employers can engage with universities on recruiting eligible PLWD for internships and employment as well as in organizing employability and entrepreneurship training activities. Furthermore, there should be a supportive framework through which PLWD friendly organizations are rewarded with tax credits and other incentives.
 
 
Upholding the rights of PLWD in the informal, temporal or contract economy is equally important. For example, actively seeking and assigning up to 40% of artisan contracts to eligible PLWD will go a long way towards recognizing their agency and improving livelihoods. For example, the deliberate promotion, endorsement and patronage of the tie-dye fabrics produced by visually impaired students of the Vocational Training Centre by various schools and organizations, for uniforms and “aso-ebi” has resulted in ‘Corporate Social responsibility’ gains for the organizations, significant socio-economic gains for the students of the centre, and the promotion of the local fabric industry and ‘made-in-Nigeria’ campaign of the federal government
 
[12] . It is, therefore, necessary to ensure that the inclusion of PLWD is crucial to the debate on the future of employment, sustainable livelihoods and inclusive Lagos.
 
 
Governance reforms:
In order to fully integrate PLWD into the city, extensive governance reforms are necessary.
First is the full integration of the needs of PLWD into the development agenda of the state. Particularly urgent are interventions in the state health and education policy and programmes to address vulnerabilities of PLWD. The decentralization of care centers (schools, medical facilities, vocational centers), and the training of professionals in this sector is also urgently required.
 
 
The activities of LASODA should be strengthened with capacity development programmes for her staff, as well as the institutional support required to enforce an accountability process across all level of government to deliver PLWD friendly change. For example, building codes and urban planning standards must be modified to accommodate the needs of PLWD, while development control officers must enforce these standards across public and private buildings and infrastructure across the state.
 
 
The collection of critical data relating to PLWD should be done constantly and should inform contextualized decision making for key urban infrastructure, employment, and empowerment. Such data could be broken down to impairment groups, age, gender, and skills. Furthermore, the engagement of PLWD in co-creating solutions for vulnerable and marginalized groups should be incorporated into the larger urban planning and development framework.
Full integration of the needs and interests of PLWD will ensure a strengthened governance framework that addresses the urban challenges of the most vulnerable members of the society.
 
 
Why does engagement with PLWD matter for Resilient Lagos?
From policies to service delivery of public goods and services, the overriding theme from the 2019 Lagos Resilience Week was making active measures to reduce unemployment, under-employment and reduce the marginalization of vulnerable populations, including PLWD. The recommendations from this article, if implemented, could see a pool of qualified PLWD thrive in corporate employment, as well as prepare others for a life of productive enterprise. In this sense of active inclusion, an adjustment across the board that prioritizes the needs of PLWD, recognizes their agency and protects their right to the city will be enshrined. On the one hand, it will harness and improve livelihood sources of the PLWD, on the other hand, it will advance access to employment, not only in terms of disposable incomes and dignity for PLWD, but also in terms of institutionalizing the interests of PLWD in the development discourse of the city.
It will thus put Lagos firmly on the path to achieving her vision of being Africa’s model megacity
 
[13], as well as being a safe, sustainable, inclusive and resilient city as articulated in SDG11[14].
 
 
 

[14] Sustainable Development Goals 

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