By Sunday Ojo
“My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you from doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically” – Stephen Hawking
Down Syndrome, succinctly put, is a chromosome 21 disorder causing development and intellectual delays. Research by the World Health Organization has shown that in every 1,100 live birth worldwide, there is a case of Down syndrome. Yet, the human spirit is the ability, perseverance, and courage that no disability can steal away.
Article 27 of the UNCRPD states that – ‘Persons living with disability all over the world have the right to work and earn a living on an equal basis with others. However, much advocacy and awareness work to create leverage between persons living with Down syndrome and society. There are laws supporting and advocating for this, but the implementation seems to be the big challenge.
There are many benefits that organizations can derive from employing persons with Down Syndrome in their fold; such benefits include a tax cut, utmost loyalty, diversity in the workforce, tested and trusted employee, to mention but a few.
The Down syndrome Foundation Nigeria has been at the forefront in advocating for the rights of persons with disability., not only in Lagos but all over the country. However, this effort is beginning to yield positive outcomes, with the setting up of different vocational units such as barbing and hairdressing, tailoring, art, and craft, livestock farming, to mention a few.
The Foundation remains a trailblazer, and we hope to break this jinx in the corporate world; it is just a matter of time. Furthermore, there is the need to focus on the potentials /skills these talented individuals possess rather than the certificates/qualifications. That is the only way to guarantee leverage between persons with Down Syndrome and their pairs.
The establishment of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities in Nigeria is the right step in the right direction; we only hope this commission would be alive to its responsibility of advocating for the rights of persons with disability in all aspects of human endeavor. However, we are optimistic that this is achievable; it is only a matter of time; we will get there.
Ojo is Head, Educational and Social Services, Down Syndrome Foundation, Nigeria.