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President Buhari Passes Disability Bill

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President Muhammadu Buhari has assented to a Bill advocating for the “Full Integration of Persons with Disabilities into Society”.

Signed into law on Wednesday 23rd January 2019, the Act prohibits the discrimination of persons on grounds of their disability and penalises corporate entities and individuals who act contrary to its provisions. Under the Act, Disability is defined as “a long term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment, which in interaction with various barriers may hinder full and effective participation in society on equal basis with others”.

When implemented, the Act is expected to change the perception of Nigerian society, which until recently paid little regard to disability rights by increasing social protection and the public’s understanding on disability rights. To achieve this, the Act envisages the set up of a National Commission headquartered in Abuja to oversee the education, health care and social rights of persons with disabilities and implement guidelines for their well being. It also gives the Federal Ministry of Information the responsibility of promoting awareness on disability rights and their contributions to society.

Many provisions in the Act address some of the physical challenges that confront persons with disabilities and reaffirm their rights. Section 3 of the Act for example guarantees the right of access to the physical environment and buildings by providing for the construction of public buildings with accessibility aids such as lifts, ramps and facilities that enhance their functionality to persons with disabilities. Section 7 of the Act also expressly prohibits the government, body, agency or individual from endorsing plans for government buildings that are not accessible to persons with disabilities. Apart from buildings, the Act mandates for suitable spaces to be marked and reserved for persons with disabilities at parking lots and directs public vehicles, seaways, railways and airports to be more inclusive by taking their special requirement into account. There are also other provisions that enable persons with disabilities free education up to secondary level and subsidise the tuition of special education personnel. Section 25 of the Act accords persons with mental disability with free medical and health care services.

The full implementation of the Act will manifest over a 5- year transition period. The Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD) estimates that over 27 million Nigerians live with a disability.