PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday signed to law, the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018, which among other things, will ensure that corporate entities, as well as public institutions, reserve at least five per cent employment opportunities for persons living with disabilities.
The signing of the Act followed the consideration and the passage of the Bill for an Act to Ensure Full Integration of Persons with Disabilities into the Society and Establish a National Commission and Vest it with Responsibilities for their Education, Healthcare, Social, Economic and Civil Rights, 2016 by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The Bill was passed on Tuesday, November 22, 2016 by the Senate while the House of Representatives passed the Bill on Wednesday, May 18, 2016. A joint Conference Committee of the two Arms of National Assembly considered the final copy of the Act before it was sent to the President for his assent.
The signing of the Act opens a new chapter of hope for persons living with disability in the country who have over the years endured all forms of discrimination and unfriendly environment.
The Act, in its provisions explains opportunities and rights of persons living with disability as well as punishments for those who violate the provisions. Below are key aspects of the Act that every Nigerian must know.
Prohibits all forms discrimination
As a law, the Act prohibits all forms of discrimination on ground of disability and imposes fine of N1, 000, 000 for corporate bodies and N100, 000 for individuals or a term of six months imprisonment for violation concurrently.
It also guarantees right to maintain civil action for damage by the person injured against any defaulter.
Following this, the Act also saddles the Federal Ministry of information with the responsibility to make provisions for promotion of awareness regarding- the rights, respect and dignity of persons with disabilities. This must also include the capabilities, achievements and contributions of persons with disabilities to the society.
Public buildings and structures must be friendly to persons with disabilities
Like it is in developed countries and some parts of Africa such as South Africa, all public buildings, structures must be accessible to persons living with disabilities.
The Act states that a person with disabilities shall have the right and necessary facilities to access the physical environment and buildings on an equal basis with others.
Road side-walk, pedestrian crossing and all other special facilities made for public use shall be made accessible to and useable by persons with disabilities including those on wheelchairs and the visually impaired.
It, therefore, provides for a five-year transitional period within which public buildings, structures or automobile are to be modified to be accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, including those on wheelchairs.
No public building plan without recourse to physically challenged persons will be approved
Before erecting any public structure, its plan shall be scrutinised by the relevant authority to ensure that the plan conforms with the building code. The Act says no government or government agency or body or individual responsible for the approval of building plans shall approve the plan of a public building if the plan does not make provision for accessibility, facilities in line with the building code.
It stipulates that any officer or officers who approve(s) or direct(s) the approval of a building plan that contravenes the building code shall be liable to a fine of a minimum of N1, 000,000 or two years imprisonment or to both such fine and imprisonment.
It further stated that, in the event of existence of a state of inaccessibility or barrier to access of a person with disability to the environment that he or she has a right or duty to access, he may, without prejudice to his or her right to seek redress in court, notify the relevant authority in charge of the environment of the existence of the state of inaccessibility or barrier to accessibility of the environment, and it shall be the duty of the relevant authority in charge to take immediate and necessary steps to remove the barrier and make the environment accessible to the person with disability.
According to the Act, discrimination is prohibited in public transportation facilities and service providers are to make provision for the physically, visually and hearing impaired and all persons howsoever challenged. This applies to seaports, railways and airport facilities.
It says specifically that government transport providers shall make provisions for lifts, ramps and other accessibility aids to enhance the accessibility of their vehicles, parks and bus-stop to persons with disabilities including those on wheelchairs. It states that every public vehicle should have a functional audible and visual display of their destination within five years from the commencement of the Act. This is also applicable to airports and seaports across the country.
Right to first consideration in queues and in emergencies
In all situations of risk, including situations of violence, emergencies and the occurrences of natural disasters, the government shall take all necessary steps to ensure the safety and protection of persons with disabilities, taking cognizance of their peculiar vulnerability.
In queues, a person with disabilities shall be given first consideration, and as much as possible should be attended to outside the queue. The Act indicates that any person in breach of this section shall be liable on conviction to six months imprisonment or fine of N50, 000.00 or both
Access to social services
Every person with a disability shall have an unfettered right education without discrimination and they shall be entitled to free education to the secondary school level. The Commission shall provide educational assistive devices. All public school secondary or tertiary shall be run to be inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities, accordingly, every school shall have trained personnel and special facilities. Their rights and privileges also include access to health care services. And that all public organisations are to reserve at least five per cent of employment opportunities for these persons.