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How To Treat Persons with Disabilities – Duro Femi-Ajala

Persons with Disability (PWDs) equally have rights and should not be treated any differently than ordinary. Notwithstanding this, certain considerations have to be taken due to their disability, in order to know how to assist them and equally not making them feel incapable.  According to Section 57 of the Nigerian Discrimination Against Persons with Disability (Prohibition) Act, enacted in 2018, PWDs can be defined as a person with long term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment which may hinder their full and effective participation in society.

Treating PWD properly is essential in any inclusive state, and how better can we know other than to find out from the PWDs themselves. In this regard, Mr Daniel Isaiah who is visually impaired and Miss Uche Agbazue a physically challenged person were instrumental in this respect.

The two individuals had similar answers to the question posed at them on how to treat and especially how not to treat PWD. These include:

First and foremost, it is important to address them as Persons with Disability (PWD) and not as disabled persons, because although one may think it means the same, to these persons it means completely different things. The former relating only to a characteristic of themselves, while the latter relates to it being an integral part of themselves. So, it is more polite to refer to them first as PWDs than disabled, but it is also to note that some of them are fine with being referred to as a disabled person, in essence, one may prefer to ask which they prefer.

Secondly, asking for permission before helping out any PWD is essential because many times most of them do not want to feel incapable even with their disability, and as such would want to carry out some tasks themselves. Therefore, it is more polite to ask first before helping, do not automatically assume they need help just because they have a disability or if they meet a challenge they cannot handle then they would ask for assistance.

If there comes a time or moment a person with a disability asks for assistance but you are unable to help, never hesitate to politely let them know, as most times many realize it is forced and are offended by your assistance.

To the visually impaired person,  never hold them by the elbow as it restricts their movement and gives them the false alarm of danger. It is better you allow them to hold you first.

While assisting a visually impaired person, never forget to give them warnings while leading them. Such as telling them to watch their steps, where there are ditches giving them timely warnings, asking them to hold on to a rail nearby etc.

If you have observed an unpleasant occurrence in regards to a PWD never hesitate to tell them politely. For example, if a visually impaired person is wearing a burnt shirt, it is better to appreciate their appearance first before telling them your observation, that way their sense of insecurity isn’t heightened.

While speaking to a person with hearing disability while having an interpreter present, always speak to the deaf person directly and not with the interpreter, even though it is the interpreter that listens and signs what has been said to the deaf. Do not use words like “can you please tell him to tell us about himself” because here you are speaking to the interpreter and not the person one is actually in a conversation with. It is also important to let PWD respond for themselves, such as a person with hearing disability, one should not be answering questions on their behalf even if they know the answers, one should allow them to respond by themselves.

Also, this one covers all forms of disability, which is to never discriminate or pity them because of their disability. If they are good enough, competent for a job or role, do not hesitate to hire them. Lastly, never make offensive jokes about their disability whether such persons are present or not. The above guidelines are not exhaustive, but nevertheless are very important in one’s daily dealings with PWDs, and as such, it is important to be mindful of them.

Duro Femi-Ajala is a disability rights advocate.

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