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US to FG: Give electoral access to people living with disabilities

US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, made the call in Abuja Thursday while addressing newsmen after a courtesy visit to the chairman of the…

The United States Government has urged the Nigerian Government to provide electoral access to People Living with Disabilities (PLWD) in Nigeria.

US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, made the call in Abuja Thursday while addressing newsmen after a courtesy visit to the chairman of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, Hussaini Suleiman Kangiwa.

Leonard said they had a robust discussion about some programmes that would ensure affordable electoral access for the disabled community in Nigeria.

“They [disabled] need to have a voice and to have a voice, you need to have access to polling stations and have to be appropriate for people with visual impairment for example.

“United States believed strongly that no society or country succeeds unless all its members are able to fully participate. That is why we come to talk to them on some of our programmes dealing with disable,” she said.

She said, in an effort to create educational and professional opportunities for the PLWD, the US government had signed more than $2 million grant with a premier university for the deaf in the United States to support the education for the deaf.

“We have been working with the national association of the deaf on ways to make for educational and professional opportunities for the deaf people, for the training of sign language interpreters and many other measures.”

Leonard also noted that some elements of the new Nigerian Act about the disabled and some of the activities that Nigeria wishes to be involved with, “which my colleagues from the USAID were here to hear and understand how they can intercept with some of our programmings.”

Leonard noted that United States Embassy in Nigeria is highly compliant with accessibility by Persons Living with Disability and encourage them to seek employment at the embassy.

She also appreciated the assent to the Act establishing the commission by President Muhammadu Buhari and the calibre of people appointed, especially the chairman and other members of the governing council.

On his part, Kangiwa said it’s one of President Buhari’s vision to ensure the disability community enjoy inclusiveness and was able to demonstrate it by signing into law the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018.

He said, by this meeting, the American government had opened a window of opportunity for other development partners to come in and contribute to making life meaningful to persons living with disabilities in Nigeria.

“We can work more with other embassies as well as other stakeholders who are willing to collaborate with us to have a solid foundation for the Commission and get tangible results in no distant future.

“We have been engaging with three civil society organisations who have been very active in carrying out activities for the Disability community.

“In promoting this partnership, we have put together three programmes that we believe are very necessary and desirable in bringing to the fore the challenges faced by the Disability community in which we would require your support towards implementing these programmes.

“These civil societies are Advocacy for Women with Disability Initiative; Empathy Driven Women International Initiative and the Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities International.”

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