Child educators and medical practitioners have urged governments and the private sector to create an environment for the independent and safe mobility of the visually impaired.
The stakeholders made the call at this year’s celebration of White Cane Safety Day in Calabar, the capital city of Cross River State, southern Nigeria.
Dr. Anne Ebri, the West Africa Manager, Brien Holden Vision Institute and ‘Seeing is Believing Comprehensive Child Eye Health Project in Cross River’ said that the White Cane Day, which was last commemorated in 2013, was to focus society’s attention on the challenges faced by the visually impaired.
Dr. Ebri, who hinted that the project, which stated in 2017 was winding down in January 2020, urged governments at all levels and private agencies to “include the blind in your development plans. Construction of public buildings, schools, churches, homes, should be speedily modified to cater to the visually impaired.”
“There is need for road marking across the state and country that would enhance the use of the white cane. In other areas, guide dogs, voiced elevators and escalators are provided for the blind and we need the collaboration of every sector to enable particularly children live better lives”, she stated.
According to Ebri, a 2006 study in Nigeria revealed that seven out of One thousand adults are blind and another conducted in Cross River State indicated that two in a thousand children are blind, a situation she described as “incredibly high”.
She argued, “this statistics of children is only for Cross River. We noticed that in the entire state, we have only one school for the physically challenged. This prompted the project with the support of our international partners, to establish a school for blind children. We need to create access and hope for stronger synergy with the Ministry of Education, Health”.
During a panel discussion, which was moderated by Professor Ekanem Braide, the participation from the military, paramilitary, education and medical sector emphasized the need for the provision of the necessary infrastructure, training of teachers, scholarships and funding to acquire technology to aid the visually impaired.
The celebration featured presentations by Dr. James Olayi and Dr. Jacob Agba, who are visually impaired and university lecturers alongside others.