Disabled people‘s basic needs not met, abuse in care inquiry told

The Royal Commission investigating abuse in care has heard disabled people in care between the 1950s and 1990s were regularly restrained, neglected and unloved.

The director of the Donald Beasley Institute, Dr Brigit Mirfin-Veitch, gave evidence to the inquiry on the fourth day of its hearing in Auckland.

Dr Mirfin-Veitch was contracted by the Human Rights Commission in 2007 to research the abuse of people with disabilities in care.

For her research, she spoke to five women and 13 men with learning and physical difficulties who were placed in psychopaedic and/or psychiatric hospitals, faith-based, and state institutions between 1950 and 1992.

Eleven of the survivors had a learning disability; two were blind, physically disabled and also had learning disabilities; one was deaf; one person had brain damage as a result of a childhood illness; two people had cerebral palsy; and one person had been misdiagnosed with a learning difficulty as a child.

Dr Mirfin-Veitch said three survivors were Māori and one was from the Cook Islands. The rest were assumed to be Pākehā.

Most of the survivors had been placed in care at a young age and remained there for their entire adult lives, Dr Mirfin-Veitch said.

The people frequently experienced neglect and described feeling unloved in care, she told the Royal Commission.

“They had no special people in their lives there to love, support, and nurture them.”

Survivors often linked their experiences in care with the life-long feeling of being unwanted, she said, and they struggled to trust other adults as they aged.

Basic needs not met

She told the inquiry the survivors‘ basic needs were not met.

Dr Mirfin-Veitch recalled the experience of one survivor who said they could often smell people who needed assistance to go to the bathroom but were never given it.

“There were people who couldn‘t move and they would just stay where they had been left in the morning after breakfast. Most of those people were non-verbal and were trapped until someone got around to attending to them.”

The Royal Commission heard disabled people in care lived in constant fear and some put their own mechanisms in place to try and stop the abuse.

One person, Dr Mirfin-Veitch said, stopped talking because “talking got her into trouble”, and felt it was safer to stay silent.

Survivors also experienced sexual violence that was an “inescapable and unchallenged reality” for disabled people in care, Dr Mirfin-Veitch said.

She told the inquiry many felt nothing could be done about the abuse, so would keep quiet and hope it wouldn‘t happen again.

While many believed institutional abuse in care was in the past, she said, there were still clear gaps in the system that allowed abuse in care to continue.

Dr Mirfin-Veitch told the Royal Commission those who experienced the trauma in care deserved to know how it was allowed to happen.

Control and restraint

Survivors also spoke about control and restraint at the hands of those entrusted with their welfare.

“Including being told, but not limited to, when to shower, when to shave, when to eat, when to dress,” said Dr Mirfin-Veitch.

She said the victims strongly felt they were trapped in state care.

She quoted another survivor.

“If you run away they put you in pajamas and on the bad table and you had to stay in pajamas all day while others had their clothes on. You had to sit in one corner by yourself and you don‘t have your friends around you.”

Dr Mirfin-Veitch said sexual violence seemed to be an inescapable and unchallenged reality for a significant number of disabled in state care and many perpetrators were never held to account.

“For example one survivor was sexually assaulted at knife-point by an older peer when she was 11 and despite her being able to point him out, there was no sense in her story that the perpetrator was punished.”

An historian, disability rights activist and mother of an adult disabled son, Dr Hilary Stace told the Commission that nothing about disability support now or in the past, shocked her.

Dr Hilary Stace. Photo: RNZ / Katie Scotcher

Dr Stace said an official apology to survivors was needed.

“So I think we really need that apology from the top for over a century of state-based policies targeting disabled children, young people and adults. It was wrong, it was unjust and its legacy lingers in ongoing reports of disability discrimination and abuse.”

Dr Stace described many of the survivors of abuse in state care as heroes.

The Royal Commission resumes hearing more evidence on Monday in Auckland.

Cora Courier

Pete Buttigieg Is The Latest Presidential Candidate To Release An Exclusive Disability Plan— The Most Comprehensive One Yet

Democratic presidential candidate, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg released the most … [+] comprehensive disability plan in the field on November 2, 2019.Getty Images

According to a New York Times/Siena College poll of likely Democratic candidates, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, surpasses former Vice President Joe Biden for second runner-up. Senator Elizabeth Warren is first, slightly ahead of Senator Bernie Sanders.

The presidential candidates have been under scrutiny of the disability community for ignoring them as a voting population in the early campaigning stages. While each of the candidates set foot in their candidacy announcements by appealing to the other minority groups, such as people of color, immigrants and the LGBTQ community, they didn’t make the same conscious effort for the disability community, the nation’s largest minority group.

After hearing the cries from the disability population, the 2020 democratic presidential candidates are slowly, but surely, beginning to address them.

With the Iowa caucuses just three months away, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the latest candidate to release an exclusive disability policy plan, following Senator Kamala Harris’ lead from August.

In a White Paper released this morning on the mayor’s website, titled Dignity, Access, and Belonging: A New Era of Inclusion for People with Disabilities, the campaign team writes, “As President, Pete will build a culture of belonging for everyone. He is committed to systematically dismantling institutions that discriminate against people with disabilities, and, with and alongside them, helping to build a new, long-overdue era for this community. Pete will retrofit our government, so it works for—and not against—people with disabilities. He will help bring about a society that intuitively sees, accounts for, welcomes, and values their lived experiences.”

Mayor Buttigieg’s campaign team sought expert input from the community and staff in shaping the most comprehensive disability policy plan in the 2020 field to date. This is the candidate’s latest effort to be inclusive of people with disabilities, following his promise to hire them as campaign staff last April.

In a 19-page report, the office of Mayor Buttigieg outlines in detail the executive plan he plans to enact if elected president to improve the quality of life and to increase educational and vocational opportunities for people with disabilities.

Policies and programs are outlined in the following: 

Competitive Integrated Employment

  • End the subminimum wage.
  • Double labor force participation rates of people with disabilities by 2030, the 40th anniversary of the Americans with Disability Act.
  • Create a national network of apprenticeships and an Internships for All program that provide
  • greater opportunities for competitive integrated employment.
  • Increase federal subcontracting with disability-owned businesses, including by enforcing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act.
  • Ensure all workers have access to paid sick leave and 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.


  • Make inclusive education a national expectation and ensure that 85% of students with intellectual and multiple disabilities are in general education classrooms for 80% or more of the day by the end of the 2025 school year.
  • End corporal punishment, restraint, and seclusion in schools.
  • Improve student mental health including by requiring schools to teach Mental Health First Aid.
  • Build on the promise and success of the Autism CARES Act, including by supporting greater investment in research on the needs of autistic adults and supporting autistic-led initiatives.
  • Increase funding to recruit, support, and retain special education teachers.
  • Expand trauma-informed care and healing-centered engagement in schools.
  • Ensure services for students with disabilities don’t end in high school.
  • Strengthen Title IX protections and support students with disabilities who face sexual assault in college.

Civil and voting rights

  • Reinvigorate enforcement of Olmstead v. L.C. and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the DOJ Civil Rights Division to aggressively protect the rights of disabled people.
  • To improve ADA compliance, create an accessible federal form available in multiple formats and languages that shows one’s rights and makes it easier to report problems.
  • Make sure that parents with disabilities do not lose custody or adoption rights based on the fact that they have a disability.
  • Train first responders and police to identify and appropriately respond to individuals with disabilities.
  • Make the voting process and polling places accessible to everyone.

Social Security

  • Eliminate the “benefit cliff” for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) so benefits gradually phase out until recipients reach nearly $45,000 in annual earnings.
  • Eliminate SSDI’s ineffective current work incentives.
  • Reduce excessive wait times for SSDI and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) appeals cases.
  • Enable SSDI participants to start receiving income benefits as soon as they are admitted to the program.
  • Eliminate SSDI’s 24-month waiting period for Medicare coverage.
  • Update critical SSI thresholds to allow people to receive greater assistance as costs of living rise.

Long-term services and supports

  • Ensure that people with disabilities can receive long-term care in their home and community by supporting the Disability Integration Act.
  • Enhance the Medicaid program to ensure people with disabilities on Medicaid have access to care in their homes and communities, including by ending waitlists for waiver programs.
  • Raise standards for pay, benefits, and training for direct care workers.
  • Lower burden on unpaid family caregivers, including by providing credit toward Social Security.

Accessible transportation

  • Require transportation projects with federal funding to be certified as 100 percent accessible.
  • Incentivize private taxi and ride-sharing companies to offer accessible services.
  • Ensure that air travel is accessible.
  • Promote safe streets by incentivizing states to work with cities and counties to build accessible roadways and increase accessible sidewalks, crosswalks, and pedestrian signals.
  • Expand accessible transportation in rural communities.

Health care

  • Ensure people with disabilities have affordable coverage through Medicare for All Who Want It.
  • Expand access to telehealth to make it easier to receive health care at or near one’s home.
  • Dramatically reduce drug prices, as outlined in Pete’s Affordable Medicines for All plan.
  • Mental health care
  • Ensure that every American has access to comprehensive coverage for mental health care.
  • Dramatically increase access to community-based mental health care services through annual $10 billion Healing and Belonging grants.

Housing and disaster preparedness

  • Ensure people with disabilities can find safe and affordable housing by reinstating the
  • Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule.
  • Combat the epidemic of homelessness among individuals with disabilities.
  • Dramatically increase accessible public housing by prioritizing accessibility in new construction and rehabilitation.
  • Help ensure that people with disabilities participate in disaster preparedness efforts and, after a disaster, can return to their homes and communities.

Inclusive technology

  • Ensure high-speed broadband coverage for all through an $80 billion Internet For All initiative.
  • Develop an Accessible Technology Bill of Rights
  • Prioritize the goal of full digital inclusion across all federal agencies.

Global leadership

  • Strongly support ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  • Advance the human rights of persons with disabilities globally.
  • Develop a national strategy for disability-inclusive international development.

A recent survey shows that fully three-quarters of likely voters either have a disability themselves or have a family member or a close friend with disabilities. The study was endorsed by former Representative and Dallas Mayor Bartlett, who was a primary author of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.

Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg’s latest release of the white paper will grasp the attention of many voters who have a connection with disabilities. There will also be critics among the crowd who will view his multi-faceted plan as too ambitious or ill-focused.

As the youngest contender in the running, Buttigieg doesn’t have that much experience under his belt, let alone experience with implementing disability policies. As mayor, the only notable initiative regarding disability that he has done is making a neighborhood park playground accessible.

Perhaps with youth comes more opportunities to grow and tackle more things in the further. However, as much as it is commendable that Buttigieg and his team came up with this all-inclusive disability plan, the people in this community will eagerly wait to see how much of it actually gets implemented, if he is elected President.


Mindset Matters: The Need To Shape A Culture of Entrepreneurship For National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Jonathan Kaufman

The month of October was National Disability Employment Awareness month highlighting the need and value of hiring persons with disabilities across the business landscape. While the inherent value of pushing this type of inclusion is critical to building a strong and vibrant economy that embraces diversity there is still something missing. One of the great rallying cries of the Disability Rights Movement that can still be heard echoing today is “Nothing About Us Without Us.” It is these words that should offer a blueprint into expanding the very definition of the value of employment in the economy of the 21st century.

The business of the digital age offers a plethora of opportunities from not only the changing nature of work but reveals a limit that is only defined by our imagination. For persons with disabilities embracing this new reality will be critical for long term growth. Entrepreneurship needs to become a key ingredient for the recipe of success for persons with disabilities.  It is a way to gain control and create new pathways to financial freedom as well as propelling a new vision of what employment can be.

While there is an abundance of platforms to develop, build and market there entrepreneurial ventures, for the disability community there are still barriers. However,  business schools like UCLA Anderson and the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University among others are participating in an innovative program called the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities offering skills training for new venture creation as well as the support needed in building management strategies for small businesses and other entrepreneurial endeavors. This sea change is showing that the business establishment are beginning to envision the potential value and opportunities that this community can offer in cultivating an exciting and vibrant new economy in the digital age.

However, it is time to go further, fostering entrepreneurship is a vital piece of the puzzle and a true value add in terms of employment for persons with disabilities. National Disability Employment Awareness Month needs to make a bold statement by incorporating entrepreneurship as a key tenant of its mission. Stakeholders within the disability community need to reassess their relationships with organizations such as incubators, VC firms, private equity and other financial institutions. The community itself must redefine and reclaim their very understanding of employment and realize that the potential for the social and economic growth as well as innovation are contingent upon expanding the narrative to show that creating as  the writer Virginia Woolf so aptly put “ a room of one’s own” where they can have an impact that resonates across society.

Incorporating a culture of entrepreneurship into the framework of the National Disability Employment Awareness Month will take some time and needs to be done in a thoughtful way. Not only developing an infrastructure to foster and promote entrepreneurship amongst persons with disabilities but also have the mechanisms to find great talent who are engaging with new ventures and connect them with capital to scale and grow their business. One of the great models that already exists is that of Rise of The Rest, a seed fund from Revolution Ventures which was founded by Steve Case, co-founder of America Online (AOL). What makes the Rise of The Rest model so intriguing is that they have made it there mission to look beyond the traditional hot spots of innovation such as Silicon Valley, New York City or Boston and realize that finding valuable entrepreneurs who are real disruptors can emerge in the most unlikely of places. It is this ethos which should be adopted and modified to demonstrate the potential that entrepreneurs with disabilities can have in this new business environment.

Each year The National Disability Employment Awareness Month should not only be a place to push forward the agenda of promoting employment for persons with disabilities but should be a time when we can evaluate trends, explore innovation and look towards a more complete vision of what employment can look like and be in the digital economy. Shaping a culture on entrepreneurship is paramount not only to those with disabilities but its social, economic and innovative growth will be felt across society in ways we have yet to experience.   


How to Ensure Equal Access for Your Business

ADA-compliant workplace

Prior to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, people with disabilities frequently could not access some businesses either for employment or to be served as a customer, although many offices were otherwise open to the rest of the public. The ADA requires businesses to accommodate those physically challenged. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) similarly has requirements that must be met to establish an ADA-compliant workplace. The United States Access Board offers easy-to-read detailed information on ADA standards, as well as the official ADA website.

Here are just some of the basics employers and business owners need to do to ensure equal access to their places of business.

OSHA, ADA and wheelchairs
OSHA and ADA regulations mandates that all hallways in a place of business be at least 44 inches wide, which is the minimum space necessary for those in wheelchairs to properly navigate. Although this is mandatory for any new construction, facilities built before the ADA went into effect in 1990 are exempt, unless someone with a disability is hired. Workplace stations and workplace access requirements similarly apply and evacuation routes that can accommodate wheelchairs must be available. Lunchrooms, break rooms and conference rooms must also be able to accommodate the wheelchair-bound. In addition, desks, office machinery, such as copiers and fax machines and filing systems must be usable by people in wheelchairs.

Theaters, hotels, restaurants, and most other places of business that serve the public are required to have at least one restroom that can accommodate patrons in wheelchairs. Additional guidelines describe what needs to be done to make sinks, counters and urinals accessible to those with disabilities.

Handicapped parking availability
Buildings that serve or employ the public must be accessible to those in wheelchairs. This includes, but is not limited to having a ramp or ground-level entrance with an elevator or lift. Handicapped parking must also be available and close to the entrance.

Not all vehicles of a taxi, limousine, bus or other transportation service need to be fitted for the physically challenged. Most of the vehicles in the fleets of public transportation companies, for example, are not equipped with wheelchair lifts. Any transportation service, however, must have at least some wheelchair-accessible vehicles to serve people in the areas in which they operate.

Having vehicles that can accommodate folding wheelchairs, however, is not necessarily enough anymore. The rideshare service Lyft, for example, was sued for discrimination by Disability Rights Advocates in San Francisco because it did not offer vehicles with wheelchair ramps or lifts. Uber also faced similar suits in California and New York. None of these suits asked for damages, only that these rideshare services make available adequate accessible transportation for those with disabilities.

Rules for signs
Signs that designate exits and handicapped-accessible areas are required to be readable to those with disabilities. That includes having raised lettering or braille signs, which must be posted at a low enough height so that those in wheelchairs can read them.


Government to offer more support for disabled candidates seeking elected office

The Government is set to offer disabled people more support when seeking elected office.

It detailed how people with a disability are likely to face greater costs when seeking elected office due to their disability.

The government says it provides support to help them to compete on a level playing field with all other candidates.

The EnAble Fund for Elected Office helps cover disability-related expenses in elections for example, British Sign Language Interpreters, Assistive Technology, or taxi fares where other modes of transport are not appropriate.

The interim fund is available until 2020 and has already supported candidates in this year’s local elections.

It will also support candidates in next year’s Police and Crime Commissioner elections and retrospective support is available for candidates who stood in the European Parliamentary Elections in May this year.

For more information please contact Disability Rights UK, who are administering the scheme.


Oregon State Hospital gets a break as federal judge decides against contempt finding

Disability Rights Oregon, a Portland group, plans to continue fighting for Oregonians timely access to health care after losing a federal case meant to pressure the state. The organization said criminal defendants needing state care weren’t getting it fast enough.

Oregon State Hospital in Salem (Salem Reporter/file)

After several months of noncompliance, wait times for patients being admitted to the Oregon State Hospital are back in compliance with a 2002 rule requiring the facility to take just seven days to admit patients who have been ordered there.

That’s according to a federal judge in Portland, who released an opinion Tuesday, Oct. 29, throwing out a legal challenge by Disability Rights Oregon, an advocacy group suing to hold the facility accountable for violating people’s rights by keeping them jailed while awaiting court-ordered treatment.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Michael Mosman affirmed a Sept. 12 denial of Disability Rights Oregon’s motion to hold the hospital in contempt. Mosman also denied the group’s request for legal expenses.

Disability Rights Oregon Legal Director Emily Cooper said the hospital fell out of compliance with the 2002 rule a year ago. The group met with hospital officials until April, when it decided to take legal action. The group wanted the hospital held in contempt for not complying with the rule. It also wanted the court to track how long it took patients to be admitted.

“We had no other option and were forced to go to court to get them to bring wait times down,” Cooper said. “While the order denies our motion, we’re so pleased that the hospital was able to reduce wait times because that’s ultimately what we wanted.”

According to records obtained by The Oregonian, between January and October of 2018 more than 200 patients were forced to wait longer than the seven days allotted by the rule. Some had to wait as many as 36 or 42 days. Records found that dozens of longer wait time cases were due to factors outside the hospital’s control, such as late-filed court orders and sheriffs departments transporting patients only on certain week days.

Hospital spokeswoman Rebeka Gipson-King said the issue was caused by an influx of aid-and-assist patients — those sent to the facility to recover so they can be competent to stand trial — which staff could not have foreseen and weren’t equipped to handle.

‘The fight is not over’

In June, Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen told Gov. Kate Brown about measures the hospital was taking to remedy the problem, including setting priorities for aid-and-assist admissions, as well as reducing the length of stay for patients to make room for new admissions and increasing community services for those who do not need hospital-level care.

Allen said he’s proud of the work the hospital has done for the past five months to bring the facility back in compliance.

“The judge’s decision affirms all the hard work that’s gone into addressing the hospitals’ capacity challenges, however, there’s still more work to be done to combat the criminalization of people who are homeless and mentally ill,” Allen said. “We look forward to continuing our partnerships with counties and local courts to ensure every person in Oregon who needs mental health care has timely access to treatment in their own community or, when necessary, at the state hospital.”

According to Cooper, Disability Rights Oregon isn’t taking the ruling as a defeat. She said the group was committed to making sure Oregonians have timely access to mental health care by continuing work on Senate Bill 937, which sent $10.7 million to community mental health programs where people who don’t need hospital-level care can be treated under aid-and-assist.

Cooper and her colleagues will be part of a Senate work group that convenes Wednesday, Nov. 20, during November legislative days. The group will look at the efficacy of Senate Bill 24, which raised the threshold for people ordered to the state hospital under aid-and-assist, requiring that a person pose imminent danger to themselves or others. Brown and the Oregon Health Authority proposed the legislation to address an influx of patients sent to the hospital by state judges.

“The fight is not over, and we are not dissuaded from our advocacy. We’re talking about our families, neighbors, friends and our community,” Cooper said. “One in every four adults age 20 to 40 has mental health issues, so that’s a lot of us. And that’s why we should care. This is us.” 


Despite new law, Nigerians living with disabilities lament discrimination

Forty-year-old Ann Ojugo lost her legs at the age of six after a wrong diagnosis and misapplied injection left her permanently crippled. When her parents enrolled her in a primary school, she said a teacher spoke about how the new pupil would soil herself and be a burden to her. It was an unforgettable experience.

So when young men who recently tried to help her into a public taxi sexually harassed her, it struck a chord. She said the men made abusive comments about her hips and one groped her.

“It is not just the nature of my legs that tells me I have a disability, it is the society, the environment around us,” Ms Ojugo said during an interview.

Ms Ojugo, who relies on crutches to move about, now leads the Edo State Chairperson of the Joint Association of Persons Living With Disabilities and is also the West Africa representative of the community-based rehabilitation outfit, Africa Network.

Ann Ojugo who lost the proper use of her legs as a child has suffered series of discrimination for many years till now.
Ann Ojugo who lost the proper use of her legs as a child has suffered series of discrimination for many years till now.
Abuses Despite laws

Ms Ojugo’s case is not an isolated one. It is an example of what many people living with disabilities face in Africa’s most populated country, Nigeria.

Adegoke Ayodele, whose 15-year-old son has a cognitive disability, told PREMIUM TIMES that the burden carried by families of people living with such disabilities in Nigeria ”is too weighty to be neglected by any responsible government”.

“The major problem of most parents or relatives of people living with cognitive or intellectual disabilities is the welfare of their disabled relatives after their demise,” he said.

“Intellectual disability is the worst form of disability. There is no other disability that has greater stress than that of a person with intellectual disability. Even doctors that attend to them do a bit of: — I don’t want to use the word — guesswork. But they (people with intellectual disabilities) are more like kids. They cannot say exactly what the situation is with them even when they are sick.

“A child with any other kind of physical disability, maybe a visual disability, may be conscious. But when a child has cognitive disabilities, they are not conscious of anything. They are always dependent and may remain that way for the rest of their lives. So what happens when the person’s caregiver is gone. That is the greatest fear,” said Mr Ayodele who lamented the failure of the government to provide specially for such people whose numbers Mr Ayodele viewed as small enough to fall within the reach of a country like Nigeria.

”The cost of educating one child with cognitive disability is equal to the cost of educating 10 children without a disability in good schools. This is to give you a hint of the burden we bear. Yet this country is more than able, if it wills, to specially attend to the needs of people with such disabilities, or even provide the structures to help their relatives do same safely and without much stress,” he said.

Global statistics

A report by the World Health Organisation and the World Bank in 2011, said 25 million people in Nigeria have one form of physical disability or the other. The figure accounts for at least 15 per cent of Nigeria’s current population of 200 million, according to the UN estimates.

In January, Nigeria signed into law the prohibition of discrimination against persons with disabilities bill, after over 20 years of advocacy by notable Nigerians including David Anyeale: a disability rights activist and Executive Director, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD).

According to section (1) of the law, anyone found guilty of discriminating against a person with a disability would be liable to a fine N100,000 in the case of an individual or N1 million in the case of an institution or a term of six months in jail or both.

The law also provides for the Nigerian government to establish institutions that will enhance its implementation such as the commission for persons with disabilities.

Before the creation of that law, Nigeria had ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on March 30, 2007 and its Optional Protocol on September 24, 2010, with the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development charged with ensuring compliance with the laws and submitting the reports to the international bodies.

Article 5: paragraph 2 of the UNCRPD, states ”parties shall prohibit all forms of discrimination on the basis of disability and guarantee to persons with disabilities equal and effective legal protection against discrimination on all grounds.”

But even after the signing of the law, many Nigerians living with disabilities say the journey towards legal recognition and respect by Nigeria is still ahead. The government that approved a new law has literally helped violate it.

For example, while the law says at least five per cent of all public appointments must go to people with disabilities, governments at various levels have so far not complied. President Muhammadu Buhari appointed no person with disability into his 43-member cabinet in August.

In a 2008 study conducted by the United Kingdom Department for International Development on Nigeria’s perspective about disabled people, the study found out that Nigeria’s ministry of women’s affairs “understood disability within a discourse of welfare and charity.” Such misconception, according to the UK department is contrary to the globally acknowledged emphasis on social adaptation, inclusion, and empowerment as advocated by the social model of disability.

Zero prosecution

Babatunde Fasiu, the legal officer for Lagos State office for disability affairs, said no one has been prosecuted for discriminating against people with disabilities.

Mr Fasiu told PREMIUM TIMES that many people living with disabilities fail to report cases of alleged discrimination because of the challenges militating against them in that regard.

“To start with, it is the duty of the police to investigate such cases. But many people with disabilities cannot go to the station because they lack access. If they struggle to get there, they are met with a brick wall because a deaf person that cannot afford an interpreter or a blind person may end up being misinterpreted at the station. There are no facilities to aid the communication needs of persons with disabilities.

“Yet many people living with disabilities, especially women, are discriminated against daily in countless ways,” said Mr Fasiu.

He said for many years, until 2018, lawyers approaching the court in Lagos experienced untold difficulty while moving from the parking lot to the main court premises, until the immediate past Chief Judge of the State, Opeyemi Oke, ordered the creation of a parking lot for them close to the court entrance.

Another lawyer, Daniel Onwe, who is the National President, Association of Lawyers with Disabilities, said many affected Nigerians fail to report their cases for prosecution ”because the system has a different view of the problem from what it ought to be”.

“The major challenge is that Nigerian courts and lawyers do not really appreciate disability jurisprudence. They wrongly approach it as a welfare matter to be governed by chapter 2 of the Constitution, rather than as a human rights issue governed by chapter 4 of the Constitution,” Mr Onwe said.

He added that the factors militating against easy access, as well as poverty, have also contributed to the factors militating against the prosecution of defaulters.

More suggestions of the way forward

Fidelia Unigwe of the Catholic’s Daughters of Charity, which takes care of children with disability in Abuja, said there is still a lot of discrimination against persons with disabilities.

“Some people still believe that persons with disabilities are carriers of bad omen,” she said. “The implementation of the laws discriminating disability is key. Recently the President nominated ministers. The act provides that five per cent of employments should be reserved for persons with disabilities. However, that nomination had no person with disabilities included in it.

“There are very serious issues. The Nigerian society is not accessible to persons with disabilities. There are no walkways on the roads. Transport systems have no rams. People’s attitudes towards persons with disabilities requires a lot of work: all these are issues seeking urgent check,” she said.

This report was supported by The Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ)