MTN Nigeria joins the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development of Nigeria and the world at large to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPWD). IDPWD was established by the United Nations in 1992 and has been observed on December 3, every year since inception.
Despite the disruption that ensued in 2020, this year is no exception. This year’s theme, “Not all Disabilities are Visible”, focuses on spreading awareness and understanding of unapparent disabilities that are frequently overlooked, such as mental illness, chronic pain, sight or hearing impairments, terminal illness, and neurological disorders, amongst others.
We are here again to raise awareness, drive inclusion and also, celebrate the resilience of persons living with disabilities. In order to truly make a difference on a day such as this, it is important for us to encourage conversations that can help people to understand how to participate and get communally involved in the cause.
To that end, here are five ways that you can support people living with disabilities:
Less than a decade ago, the World report on disability (WRD) was published by the World Bank and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Amongst other key findings, it was noted that children with disabilities are less likely to attend school than non-disabled children. In fact, less than 25% of children with disabilities attend school.
NGOs, charity organisations, and other multinationals have since made their resources available to People with Disabilities (PwD), thus providing more opportunities and platforms that can be leveraged in order to fill the gap.
MTN, through its MTN Foundation Disability Support Project, has continued to help persons with disabilities to attain the highest level of academic achievement. To date, over 1200 undergraduate scholarships have been awarded to students in public tertiary institutions under the MTNF Scholarship Scheme for Blind Students.
Youth Development Programmes
People with disabilities face barriers in accessing services like health, transportation and, in many cases, employment. Programs and workshops that help expose PwD to employment opportunities and entrepreneurial training can help them overcome barriers that hinder their ability to chase their dreams. An example of such programs is the MTN Youth Entrepreneurship Development Programme.
This project, which is implemented in partnership with the Bank of Industry (BOI), provides entrepreneurship skills training and small business loans to Alumni of the MTNF Scholarship Scheme for Blind Students. This has helped people with disabilities to push themselves beyond their perceived limitations in order to accomplish their goals and aspirations.
Disability Support Projects
Another major finding from the World Report on Disability is that people with disabilities experience increased dependency and restricted participation in their societies. People with disabilities that impair movements, such as a cripple, a visually impaired person or hearing-impaired person find it difficult to navigate everyday life and rely on assistance from family and friends.
Projects that help provide relief and mobility items, including braille machines, crutches, wheelchairs and elbow pads help people living with disabilities to be more independent and less restricted, are always encouraged. The MTN Disability Support Project helps in the provision of mobility aids and appliances that enhance the physical capabilities of PwD, which allows them to be more participative in society.
Tricycles, wheelchairs, laptops, and other digital tools have been distributed through the project. MTN’s Hearing Aid Support Project has also helped provide 1,500 hearing aids to hearing-impaired persons across the country.
Empathy and Compassion
People with disabilities are stigmatized, avoided or, in certain unapparent cases, are often ignored or overlooked. This makes many PwD to suffer a feeling of exclusion, unwantedness, and in many cases, hopelessness and despair. PwD should be treated with empathy and compassion, and with justice and equity in terms of opportunity provision and consideration.
This helps to fill the void that has been left vacant by a lack of communication and deliberation, and bridge the gap between PwD and every other member of the community.
Most importantly, awareness should continue to be raised on behalf of people living with unapparent disabilities, which are often overlooked and downplayed. For a long time, some people have had the stereotypical view of a disabled person as one who makes use of a wheelchair. This is despite the fact that disability is in fact an umbrella term, and there are at least one billion persons living with diverse disabilities.
The only way forward is to continue to open dialogue, and encourage conversations that bring these important issues to light, and help others to understand and volunteer their attention, interest, and resources to make this world a better, kinder, more inclusive place.