As part of the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) engagement with people living with Disabilities, on Friday 17th June, 2022, CITAD conducted one-day panel discussion on ICTs and People Living with Disabilities. The objective of the panel discussion was to initiate and contribute in mobilizing and amplifying voice of people living with disabilities to demand accountability on issues that affect them. A research has shown that there are over 20 million people living with different types of disabilities in Nigeria. Digital migration of basic services threatening to leave them behind, many people living with disabilities, especially those with hearing and vision impairments, are facing challenges, as there are limited spaces for them to learn, access and use ICTs. One of the tools for demanding accountability today is social media. Of course using social media requires skill. The forum titled ‘Disabilities, ICTs and the Quest for Inclusive Development’, held at CITAD Annex, Women Development Centre, Court Road, Kano discussed challenges that people living with Disabilities face in accessing and using ICTs and attended by about 40 people living with different types of disabilities from across the state.
Malam Ali Sabo, CITAD Media and Communication Officer welcomed the participants on behalf of CITAD Executive Director Engr. Yunusa Ya’u. He extended the warm greeting of the Executive Director to the participants and informed that the panel discussion is part of CITAD wider project on accountability and good governance in Nigeria titled ‘Mobilizing and Catalyzing Citizens Actions for Accountable Election and Governance in Nigeria’. The wider objectives of the project were as follows:
- Galvanizing citizens’ voice to demand accountability from both candidates and parties, including mainstreaming gender, disability and other diversity inclusion in our electoral system
- To activate citizen agency for change to act towards rewording accountability and punishing corruption through the electoral process
- To generate critical mass of citizen active engagement with issues of accountability and anti-corruption in the context of the elections
He informed that today’s activity was not a one off activities but part of series of activities including radio programs for people with disability to be discussing issues affecting them and raising accountability. There is also training on how to use social media for accountability and how corruption is affecting the lives of some of their members in short video documentaries, and series of advocacies. He finally encouraged the participants to feel free and speak out on issues that affect them as CITAD focuses on how to support and amplify their voice in order to demand for accountability, especially on issues that affect them directly.
Professor Jibrin I Diso Department of Special Education, Bayero University, Kano, chaired the panel discussion. He thanked CITAD for organizing the panel discussion and admitted that CITAD is the only organization that cares about People living with Disabilities in the state. He added that in his experience beside CITAD, Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL) has been trying to support and improve public services for Persons with Disabilities in Nigeria and PERL is not an indigenous organization. Prof. Diso expressed his satisfaction with mixture of the participants in the panel discussion. He stated that the most common categories of people with special needs included the following, People with vision impairment, People with hearing impairment, People with speech difficulties, People who are physically challenged and there are some with multiple disabilities. Adding that from the general introduction the panel discussion has representation from all these groups.
Phar Tech. Auwalu Adamu Abdullahi is an interpreter from the department of Special Education, Bayero University, Kano made the first presentation. He presented paper titled ‘Understanding the Challenges of People Living with Disabilities in Accessing and Using ICTs’. In his paper, people of differing abilities face diverse challenges in accessing the Internet. The same Web site can offer opportunities for one group and excludes another. For example, regarding Web-based distance education, it has opened opportunities for persons with physical disabilities to take courses online, but if such persons also have weak or limited function of hands and fingers, their participation in the course may be limited or impossible. Similarly, a Web-enabled mobile device with a touch screen is wonderful to a user with a hearing impairment and yet horrendous to a user with a visual impairment, if it is not designed to provide alternative methods for interactions. He mentioned the following as major challenges that affect PWDs directly and indirectly. Lack of fund, insufficient of the ICTs devices, inappropriate chosen of the ICTs devices for PLWDs, installations of the softwares and calibrations of the ICTs devices.
The second presentation was made by Bilkisu Ado Zango, Zonal Coordinator, National Association of People with Physical Disability, Kano. She made presentation on ‘How People Living with Disabilities Use Digital Technology to Create Voice on Issues Affecting Them?’ She explained that PWDs can use technology especially social media to create voice because technology can lower barriers that people with disabilities encounter in their daily lives, such as speaking, travelling, reading, and writing. It can allow them to participate and enjoy the benefits of the digital society, with the same access to information as everyone. She added that social media allows people with disability to tell their own stories on their own terms, as well as feel connected to a community. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have the potential for making significant improvements in the lives of persons with disabilities, allowing them to enhance their social, cultural, political and economic integration in communities by enlarging the scope of activities available to them.
Malam Isyaku Garba, CITAD Program Coordinator made the last presentation. His paper addressed the training needs of People Living with Disabilities and highlited the possible solutions. He categorized the challenges according to the categories of people living with disabilities as follows:
- Institutions are struggling with relevant personnel such as sign language readers and interpreters and cannot afford to have a set for each faculty or department. Hence they have as pool in the department of special education.
- Institutions have structures, including libraries, laboratories, lecture halls, that have been built without consideration for the needs of students with disabilities.
- The lack of policies on disabilities and or policy on ICTs for Disabilities means that many lecturers do not know how to integrate students with special needs in their classes
- Institutions are lacking staff who have been specially trained to lecture and guide students with special needs.
Challenges with respect to vision impaired students
- Like physically challenged, they have the problem of mobility and therefore of physical access to digital resources.
- No training facilities and programmes for such students in the computer centers of the institutions.
- There is no sufficient number of sign language interpreters of the institutions.
- Digital resources such as e-books, e-journals etc have no appropriate voice interface for students with vision impairment to use them.
- There are no training facilities or programmes for this category of students to learn to use digital system in the institutions.
Challenges to digital inclusion with respect to Visual impairment includes:
- When projectors are used in lecture rooms, students with vision impairment cannot see what is being projected on the screen.
- There is no braille equipment ( except in the departments of Special Education. Consequently, examination and assignment questions have to be read for them and even when there is braille support (mostly on a personal basis) most staff, except in Special Education, and do not know how to read braille.
- Lack of policy and poor appreciation of needs of these students have seen a number of lecturers preventing or stopping vision impaired students from recording lectures, which they need as they cannot write lectures when there are no supported systems for braille recording ( except on personal basis).
- Digital resources do not have appropriate interface for this category of students, and therefore, even if they have physical access, they do not have terms of using the systems.
- There are no training facilities or programmes for this category of students.
- As admission and registration portals are disability friendly. Such students have to be assisted to register and in some cases the people assisting them with the registration make mistakes on the courses of study and this cannot easily be found out.
The paper then proposed the following:
- Review the National Disability Policy to include provision to address the challenges of people with special needs in accessing and using digital system in the country.
- Encourage all institutions of higher learning to develop and implement a disability policy that address the digital needs of students with special needs.
- Articulate and Implement National Digital Inclusion Agenda that addresses, among other thing, the digital marginalization of people living with disabilities.
- Direct relevant ICT-related authorities, such as NITDA, USPF etc to support initiative aimed at addressing the barriers of people living with disabilities from accessing and using ICTs.
- Support the production of devices and software for people with disabilities to access and use digital system for educational purposes.
- Encourage the Joint Matriculation Board (JAMB) to establish more special centers for people with disabilities to sit for UME.
- Enforce the implementation of the National Curriculum of Education which makes computer studies compulsory at the secondary school level and make sure that children with disabilities are catered for.
- State government to ensure that all schools for children with special needs and those in conventional schools have access to ICT training facilities.
Institutions of Learning:
- Develop and implement the ICT policy much in the line that the Gender policy was promoted to protect the students living with disabilities from discrimination and abuse and ensure that they properly incorporated into academic process by making available all the necessary disability assistance in teaching and study aids.
- Review their ICT policies to incorporate the needs of students (and staff) living with disabilities, such that they can have to and use ICTs as tools for academic work.
- All admission and registration portals / website of institutions of higher learning should be disability friendly and compliant by providing for content to be accessible for students with vision and hearing impairment.
- Institutions should not derail the ambition of people living with disabilities by deny them the courses they are interesting (discrimination). Rather, they should seek for innovative ways that should cater for the need of different disabilities.
- Academic staff of institutions should be made to understand the needs of students with special need and be trained on how to handle them in classrooms.
- Provision should be made for the necessary interface for students of higher learning to engage with digital systems in their education work in the institutions.
- Institutions should make provision for language interpreters as well as braille equipment and make this widely available across the departments and courses.
- Improve the design of structures, lecture halls and laboratories to make them accessible for students with special needs.
- Establish special libraries for the use of students with special needs and ensure that such students access and use all e-books and other digital learning materials.
- All institution ICT centers should create space for training students with special needs on digital skills as well as let them access and use the Internet for academic work.
- Given the people with disabilities constitute about 10% of the national population, all institutions should endeavor to about 10% of their admission space to people with disabilities.
- Institutions should accurately capture data of the disability at the point of registration and use that data for planning and provisionary purposes
- There should be uniform practice with respect how people with disabilities admitted into institutions of higher learning in the country. This should relate to the sitting of UME and post-UME examinations. Where institutions are not able to provide facilities for the candidates with disabilities to sit for these examinations, they should wave them or provide alternative test for them.
- There is need to sensitized both staff and students inhigher institutions to understand the special needs of students with disabilities and therefore, make staff and lecturers more sensitized to think on how they should mainstream them into their teaching.
- ICTs and telecommunication companies should devote a substantial part of their corporate social responsibilities and commitment to support social inclusion of people living with disabilities educationally in schools.
- CSOs should mount a substantial advocacy for national digital inclusion agenda that will that will mainstream people living with disabilities in national digital space.
- CSOs should monitor the extent to which institutions of higher learning implement digital inclusion programmes.
- CSOs should support digital skills provision for people living with disabilities at all levels.
- Philanthropist should establish centers for people living with disabilities on digital skills.
During the general discussion, participants made the following comments:
- PWDs must learn how to use social media platforms. If PWDs could not make the use of social media it could be difficult for them to attain and achieve their goals as social media platforms are major tools for the demand of accountability everywhere in the world
- CITAD should continue with its engagement with PWDs especially on internet and ICTs
- The issue of PWDs bill is still hanging around in Kano State, CITAD should spearhead for its actualization
- There is need for organizing step down training to larger society of PWDs in Kano to bring everyone involve particularly with regard to the issues raised at this panel discussion
- We shouldn’t limit ourselves on ICTs, there are other challenging issues that affect PWDs in the State
- We must part of Budget processes since from the planning, implementation and monitoring not limiting ourselves to the budget hearing.
- There is PWDs ICT special Center in Zaria, Kaduna State, Kano doesn’t answer her name in this regard. We must stand and see the establishment of such center in Kano state
- I was part of CITAD Digital Livelihood Training, CITAD should organize such training for PWDs
- PWDs used to encounter challenges since from home, I couldn’t be enrolled in primary school in 1976 because of my disability. As part of the polio victims, my parent sent me to beg for money and food on the streets and sent my siblings to school. We must wake up and challenge and change this narration.
- Inclusive education helps and motivates those that are physically okay when they see us among themselves.
- Ja’iz Bank is the only financial institutions that provides ATMs services for PWDs in Kano
- In developed countries, people with vision impairment can be able to separate monies in contact.
In closing remark, Prof. Jibrin Diso thanked CITAD for giving room for such kind of discussion. He also thanked the participants for their time and words and urged them to be in touch and join hands with CITAD to demand for accountability on issues that affect them.