Center for Ability, Rehabilitation and Empowerment (CARE) kick start the implementation of their project ACCESSIBLE AVIATION on Thursday through an advocacy visit to the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD).
The Executive Director/Chief Responsibility Officer, Center for Ability Rehabilitation and Empowerment (CARE), Dr. Chike Okogwu while stating the aim of their visit, said that persons with disabilities (PWDs) have been going through a lot of challenges going by ill-treatment being meted on them by airlines operators but rather than crying over spilt milk, Dr. Chike through his organization “CARE” took a step forward to begin strategic advocacy to enhance disability inclusion at the Aviation Industry. Since, there is commission saddled with the responsibility of piloting the affairs of PWDs, they decided to visit and share their plans with the Commission.
He explained that a lot of PWDs including himself have experienced a lot of challenges trying to embark on air travels, challenges emanated from accessible infrastructure at the airports, information is not in accessible format, and humiliation from airline officers.
Dr. Okogwu also said that project “ACCESSIBLE AVIATION” is being funded by Voice Nigeria and one major activity of the project is modelling what accessibility is for PWDs at our airports. Therefore, the group will provide some accessibility facilities for airports Abuja Airport as the pilot to showcase the kind of facilities that PWDs need at all our airports.
According to him, there would be elevator/lift that will take wheelchair users to the entrance of the flight and there would be Aisle that will take the person to his assigned seats.
He said that disability desk officers should be in all the airport, it is from the desk officers that NCPWD and other would be accessing data of PWDs who are traveling even though the grant cover only one desk officer, there is need for more desk officers so he urged the Commission to take it up with the authorities for more desk officers at the airport. It is also a means of creating employment.
The desk officers should make arrangement for someone to always guide blind passengers until they board, the grants cover for the provision of sign language interpreter at the airport so that deaf passengers would be aware of all that is going on at the airport, and for persons with albinism, the grant also cover the umbrellas that they will use at the airport to avoid sun burn until they board. Significantly, pregnant women are also going to enjoy the privileges within the grant for all persons with disabilities. He said that when a woman is pregnant, CARE team considers her a person with disability and should be given her the same treatment once the person present herself to the Disability Desk Officer at the airport.
Dr. Chike concluded by reminding that the issues are for everybody, no one knows what will happen in the next minutes, he admonished airport workers that they go to work every day by road, they should think what of them if it happens. He recalled how he become a person with disability for just travelling a short distance, from city centre to the airport and he had an accident that affected his spinal and found himself in his present state which he said may have happened for a reason. He urged everyone to support the initiative and seeks the support of the Commission all the way as they begin to engage all stakeholders in aviation industry.
The Executive Secretary, National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, Mr. James David Lalu in his response, commended CARE for the initiative and Voice Nigeria for supporting the initiative. He said the commission is pleased to be part of the project, noting that a lot of PWDs are going through a lot in the aviation industry which has been a nagging issue that the commission would be willing to resolve, the commission would do everything possible including budgetary allocation to ensure that access to Aviation for PWDs become a reality.
He recalled the ugly experience of his directors in the Airport recently are they are traveling together.
He also said that the Commission would see to the sustainability of the project by scaling it up to other airports across the country and they would stop until every airport have accessibility facilities.
He informed that the Commission is partnering with Federal Ministry of Works to make all transportation services accessible for persons with disabilities.
He disclosed that the commission resolve to assist regulators and operators in enhancing access for PWDs in the airports
He assured CARE team the partnership and commitment of the Commission to ensure that over 30 million Nigerians with disabilities have access to aviation.