This Month Discussion – No. 01: Visual Impairment in Nigeria

The Topic of the Month (TOM) is visual impairment in Nigeria from employment standpoint. Living with visual impairment or/and any kind of impairment is a challenge in most African nations, but in Nigeria it’s a different kind of challenge. Last week, I was talking to a friend and brought up this topic and his first respond was ‘’those that aren’t impaired, don’t have a job. What make you think those that can’t get around without aid, can get one?’’.

His answer was a bit harsh but the truth and find it insulting personally; however, I get where he was coming from, the entire country doesn’t value those with disabilities or health challenges. When I asked him ‘’what about those with physical impairment? You’re saying I can’t get a job at the end of the day!  That’s when he tried to take his words back.

High rate of unemployment in both developing and developed countries are the norm rather than the exception for individuals who are visually impaired (that is to say, those with low vision or blind). In developing countries like Nigeria, there is staggering unemployment, with estimate ranging from 90 – 100%, with rural zones mainly taking the hit. Employment is one of the factors that shows a country is developed or developing, and is determined by organisations like The World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the United Nations. As we all know, Nigeria has the largest population in Africa with a population estimate of 158 million, accounting for about 47% of West Africa’s population.

Based on a survey carried out between 2010 and 2011 by the Nigerian National Bureau of statistics, 2% of the respondents indicate that they have trouble with vision. These includes those who can’t see and those with some difficulty seeing even when wearing corrective lenses. Of those reported having trouble seeing, only 6% indicate they are working and 3% indicate that they are looking for work. Of those working, 16% report they have at least two jobs.

Approximately, a third of those working reported that they work less than 35 hours a week, just over a third (35%) working 35 – 45 hours a week, and a little less than third working more than 45 hours a week (The World Bank, 2019). In summary people with visual impairment work only for 2 day in a week compared to those without impairment, it doesn’t look bad putting it this way, but mathematically it is bad. More than half of Nigerian population are youth according to last year’s voter’s counts. Looking at this from mathematical viewpoint, only 3.16 million out of 158 are working, without including those with visual impairment who aren’t working and not included in Wolffe study.

The most common excuses Nigerian organisations give regarding employing someone with disabilities or health challenges are:

  1. They require constant support: first, that’s not true, there are various individuals with visual impairment that don’t actual require any support, except in a new environment. Everyone needs support in a new environment, that’s why in developed countries they trained employers before they start working. After the training, those with disabilities are normally shown around to see the facilities and get familiarised with the environment. People with visual impairments are good at mapping new environment and a week of training is all they need if given the chance.
  2. The need special resources and materials: well, one of the roles of human resources (HR) is to provide resources to their employers and for an organisation to run smoothly, working material need to be provided. People with visual impairment don’t need a lot of special materials, most of the materials they need in the office are software and few hardware, like keyboards among others.
  3. The need motivation: okay! If been employed isn’t motivational enough, earning salary instead of begging for alms is a motivation of itself. About 60% of people with visual impairment can be seen on the streets begging for money and risking their lives for what they can eat that day.

Out of those on the streets, 80% will accept any job. If it means for them to stop begging and risking their lives. Almost every day, one of them is been rushed to a hospital for hit and run or car-related accidents and they’re the only one at the receiving end.

Please feel free to leave you thoughts about this topic on the comment section. You can read more about this topic by clicking here. The next topic of the month (August) is Ebola.

If you’ve anything health-related stories to share, you can email it to us.

As always, thank you for your time!

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