by David Temitope
Public works are a type of infrastructures and projects, financed and constructed or outsourced by the government, for recreational, employment, and health and safety uses of the citizens. By this definition, public works should be encompassing for all class of users. Consider a heavily pregnant woman, an elderly man with a walking stick, a youth recuperating from a long term illness, and a young child with lovely short legs. These people have one thing in common; to some extent they are all incapable of effectively using public facilities such as footbridges, easily like other people can. Each of us at some time in our lives may have found some public structure inaccessible, at the hospital, mosque, church, or road; simply because of how it was built. Let us consider another set of citizens; they are the wheelchair users, the visually impaired, the partially blind, the hearing impaired, the mentally disabled, and the physically unfit. These set of people may find it difficult to use some of the public infrastructures built with the nation’s commonwealth; to which they are rightly entitled to.
A tour around Lagos and you will realize that there is still a lot to do as regards easing the accessibility of disabled people. For example, the footbridges at Cele bus stop and Ijesha bus stop respectively do not have ramps for disabled people. Public places such as malls, mosques, churches, and hospitals, still lack the reservations for disabled people. Advertisement and direction signs including those by the Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency (LASSA) seem not to consider the visually impaired. A common example of this is found in erected street name sign which is above the United Nations recommended 2.50m for the ease of reading for partially blind and wheelchair users. Banking halls, Automated Teller Machines ATM, are structured in a way that does not make it easy for disabled people to access them. Colour combination of red/green and yellow/blue, which confuses blind people are also sometimes used together. Public buses popularly known as BRT buses and their stations such as the one at Costain are not easily accessible to disabled people. A culture we must break from as Lagos turns gold this year.
What Has Been Done?
The number of people living with disabilities per time is actually a significant one, so we should start incorporating them into public works designs and constructions. In Lagos State, some good steps have been taking to ease the access of disabled people to public infrastructures. A good example is the Oshodi pedestrian bridge which has a ramp for wheelchair users and other disabled people. The Lagos Rail Mass Transit stations have ramps for disabled people. The Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs (LASODA) established to uphold the rights of people with disabilities (PWDs) has an approved budget of ₦500 million to develop infrastructures for PWDs. The Lagos State secretariat at Alausa, Ikeja, also has reservations for people living with disabilities. Furthermore, Bus Rapid Transit and LAGBUS have been mandated by Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode to offer free rides across all routes to PWDs. All this is in a bid to create an inclusive society for all. Few signages in Lagos State are tilted a bit downwards thereby making it easier to read for people in wheelchairs.
Why Should We Be Bothered About Disabled People?
“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members” – Mahatma Ghandi. For Nigeria to be great, we need to start paying attention to our weak links, as they are actually our strongest; considering what they have to go through. These people have the same right as every other Nigerian to access infrastructures built with our sovereign wealth and as such should not be deprived. More so, when infrastructures are built to cater to the needs of the disabled people, such infrastructures actual tend to serve other people better. Advocating for disabled people profits us all.
How Do We Progress From This?
The Lagos State government has taken some good strides in ensuring the city is accessible to people living with disabilities but there is still more work to do for both the government and the people. Existing structures should be modified to be more accommodating for people living with disabilities. New structures and presently being constructed works like the bus terminal being constructed at Oshodi should incorporate the ease of access for disabled people. New public buses and trains to be used on the Lagos Rail Mass Transit should have ramps or lifts for wheelchairs, priority seating signs in proper colours of PWDs, and information stamped in Braille. A law should be passed insisting companies and industries buildings should be constructed for ease of access to PWDs, as this is one of the reasons PWDs sometimes do not get employed.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
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