Our attitude toward people living with special needs really matters; fine Nigeria is one of the nations where there is little or no accessible physical environment for people living with disability. Unlike in other part of the World where there are spaces for wheel chairs in the buses, trains (underground or over ground trains), trams and in other public transport system, Nigeria is one of the countries lacking behind in the area of creating accessible physical environment for people with disabilities. I fell so sad whenever I go on the street and I see people with special needs struggling to cross the busy roads. Even the so called ‘normal people’ find it difficult to cross these busy roads not to talk of people with special needs. And the most painful aspect of it is that people around will just walk pass the person with special needs without even asking if they need help or not.
Being disabled does not necessarily mean that one is abnormal but in many societies a disabled person is considered as a burden to the society and considered as abnormal. In this respect, societies relate the aspect of failure to undertake very important activities or duties with abnormality. This has increased stigma in society and hence most of the disabled people withdraw from their societies. Our attitude toward people living with special needs must be that of love and care not an “I don’t care” attitude. A lot of people feel so irritated by their appearance and move away from them as if they have plague on their bodies. They are humans just like everyone else within the society. Just because they have special needs does not means they should be disrespected by the so called “normal people”. Lets us remember that they could be our brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, cousins, nieces, nephews, etc, so let us treat them with dignity and respect. No parent prays to have children with special needs and it is not their faults that they have such kids, they are going through a lot already so let’s not make it any harder for them.
I am not saying that they don’t discriminate against people with special needs in other parts of world but what I am saying is in Nigeria and other African countries the discrimination rate is higher. And the fact that some Nigerians and Africans (especially in the villages) are superstitious makes the matter worst. Some will say those children with special needs are curses or that their parents have offended the gods of the land so they should be sent out of the village. They are treated as outcasts which is very wrong.
As my service director Dr Akindayomi will always say, even if we create the entire accessible environment for people with special needs but we still have the wrong attitude then it makes no difference. And this is very true. I think people need reorientation or should I say orientation on how to treat people with special needs.
Life is all about people and people need people, so let us extent our love and care toward people with special needs so that they can feel at home and be at peace with themselves. Even as we try to make our environment accessible for people with special needs, we should also consider a change of attitude towards them and make the World a happier place for them to live in.