About 30 million people are living with various forms of disability in Nigeria and considering the ways ableism manifests individually, interpersonally and structurally, they couldn’t be more a socially disadvantaged group. In the media, in Hollywood at least, there’s been a push for inclusion for performers with disabilities. In Nigeria, things are looking a little bright as the government has directed both state and private TV stations to include sign language interpreters in their news broadcast.
Sign language breaks the communication barriers for deaf people, and also people who are nonverbal due to conditions such as down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, trauma, and brain or speech disorders. Apparently, this is in line with the broadcasting code. The minister of information and culture Lai Mohammed, who, more often than not, gets in the news for all the wrong reasons, made this clear on Monday during a virtual meeting with officials of the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) in Abuja. Not only was this directive made, but the Mohammed has promised to see its implementation.
In 2019, President Buhari passed the Disability Rights Law, or more accurately the Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018, a landmark decision that protects the rights of disabled people imposes sanctions including fines and prison sentences on those who contravene it. It also pushes for public buildings to be modified so that people with physical disabilities can find them accessible.
While this bit of the law is yet to go full swing, as we still have banks, cinemas, cafes, restaurants and others unnavigable for disabled persons, sign language being integrated in news broadcast offers a vision of what our society can look like when we make inclusive policies.
When Bernard Dayo isn’t writing about pop culture, he’s watching horror movies and reading comics and trying to pretend his addiction to Netflix isn’t a serious condition.