Dr. Chike (CARE) Story
March 1st every year is a remarkable day in my life and that of all wheelchair users around the globe as we mark the International Wheelchair Day and also the International Day for Zero Discrimination particularly against we Persons with Disabilities as like other issues of discrimination.
This day stands out very much in my 15-year journey of being a paraplegic and the struggle to have Accessible Aviation in Nigeria as it is the practice in many other countries as I recall with pains, even though it has now become gains today for the PWD community, the day December 20 2020, the day I was to travel to Lagos from Abuja for a medical appointment and an airline because of my being on a wheelchair discriminated against me by refusing to fly me after giving my carer and our business class boarding passes even after agreeing to their brazen discriminatory policy of being forced to fly with an aide or Carer at an extra cost and burden. This turned into a brawl at the airport that day and led to so many things like my arrest, detention, and subsequent arraignment in court and my counter-court case.
In the quest for finding solutions on how to bring about an end to the issues of discrimination against persons with disabilities in the Nigerian Aviation sector since mine was not the first as these discriminatory acts had become a reoccurring issue within the Nigerian Aviation sector, we at the Centre for Ability, Rehabilitation, and Empowerment (CARE) applied for an influencing grant with VOICE In Nigeria and behold we got an email and calls in May 2021 that we were approved for a grant and by August 2021, we had started implementing the grant.
Today as we speak courtesy of the grant, the issues of discrimination against persons with disabilities have begun to receive the maximum attention of the government, even though this zero discrimination had been enshrined in the Nigerian laws against discrimination against persons with disabilities in the Disability Act of 2019.
This year March 1st, 2022 commemoration will be the most remarkable for us PWDs in Nigeria as we have been able to stem the tide of discrimination in the Nigerian Aviation sector through our advocacies and actions with an emphasis on the work towards policy changes that have begun.
CARE has succeeded in providing a functional disability desk at the Abuja airport, a series of advocacy visits to the ministry of aviation, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has led to FAAN calling for a very important policy change meeting with the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON). The meeting is to ensure, courtesy of a letter from the Chairperson House of Representatives Committee on Disabilities and Special Needs, Princess Gloria Onuora who had received our petition, read it on the floor of the house, called for public hearings, and joined in advocacy visits to the executive arms of government implementing agencies a uniform world standard acceptable standards of treating PWD fairly in the aviation sector. FAAN called for the assurances that all Airlines operating in Nigeria conform to the Disability Act. To this end, all airlines have been asked to provide their procedural manual as it relates to persons with disabilities.
This move which will be concluded by the end of March 2021 which stands out as the month commemorating the zero discrimination and celebrating wheelchair usage is quite heartwarming because at the end of this process, all Airlines in Nigeria will sign a Charter with CARE and FAAN to ensure that they have zero discrimination against persons with disabilities particularly wheelchair users.
The impact of the above in the policy changes around discrimination against persons with disabilities can only be imagined and forever treasured. The journey of the end of discrimination against PWDs Nigeria has just begun. We may not be where we want to be but with what is going on today, we’re definitely not where we used to be.
So, in celebration and commemoration of this year celebrations of International Wheelchair Day and simultaneously The Day Of Zero tolerance to PWDs, CARE and all persons with disabilities in Nigeria dedicates this year’s commemoration themselves.
Viva PWD In Nigeria!
Viva VOICE in Nigeria!!
Viva to all PWD around the world.
Keep pushing. Victoria ascerta!
Dr. Chike Okogwu. Founder and Chief Responsibility Officer.