I cannot believe I went MIA (missing in action) since April, Autism Awareness Month. I am very sorry. Although I have been silent on the blog, the Facebook page and Twitter account (@adelolaonautism) have been a bit active. About three weeks ago, I started #ThrowbackThursday #AutismAwareness posts on Facebook and Twitter; the response has been good. You can be part of it every Thursday. This week, I have decided to bring the throwback to the blog.
June was quite active in the Nigerian disability community, autism being involved as well. Between the 22nd and the 25th of June, the International Conference on Disability (ICD 2015) held at the Civic Center, Victoria Island, Lagos. The GTB Autism Awareness Seminar held at the MUSON Center on the 30th of June and the 1st of July. The ICD had in attendance stakeholders in the disability community; people with different disabilities, parents, educators, health professionals, lawyers, employers, policy makers, including representatives of the State and Federal Government. Governor Umaru Tanko Almakura of Nasarawa State (who gave the keynote address) and former governor of Ekiti State were also in attendance.
The focus of this year’s edition of the conference was on inclusion for people with disabilities (PWD) in the society. People with different form of disabilities talked about the challenges they had experienced, because certain things were not put in place to include them in the society. They also talked about how they have learnt to overcome these different challenges, how they have to work hard to prove themselves as competent. For me, there were certain things that struck me at the conference, and I’ll like to share two of them.
Talking about laws that protect PWDs in Nigeria, it was emphasized that rather than asking for new laws, we should seek for the enforcement of existing laws. Do you know that there is a Special People’s Law in Lagos State? Well there is, and we are not taking advantage of it because we do not know about it. Also we were told that PWDs can go to the office of the public defender to seek for legal help when needed. A plea was also given to lawyers present to volunteer some time in the week to the office of the public defender.
Another thing I must talk about is employment of PWDs. Farida Bedwei (an entrepreneur with cerebral palsy) said that PWDs should not be considered as incompetent, using her story as an example. She told the PWDs present not to expect jobs to fall on their laps, but should prove themselves as competent when seeking for employment. At the end of the session on employment, some employers present, including Tonye Cole (MD of Sahara group), promised to look into how their companies employ PWDs.
I mentioned the GTB Autism Awareness Seminar that also held in June. This last edition was the 5th; the first edition was in 2011. We had facilitators from the US and Nigeria speak to us on different issues; policies, caring for children with autism, positive behaviour, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, bio-medicals etc. Since it was primarily an autism awareness program, there were also lectures on introduction to autism. There was so much to learn. The questions and answers sessions were very helpful, as participants were able to find answers to their concerns that had not been addressed by the facilitators.
These two events were opportunities to learn new things, confirm things I had known before, and meet people. It is always a beautiful thing to meet people that are ahead of you in the field, and people that look up to you. In fact, I was encouraged with my blog, as I met two important people that said they follow Autism Gist with Adelola (I could not take pictures, as I was not with my phone).
Please plan to attend these events next year. As soon as I hear anything about them (and any other event), I will definitely announce them on the Facebook page and on Twitter.
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