WE WANT INCLUSIVENESS, OUR DISABILITY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH OUR ABILITY –SALISU IBRAHIM

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Zainab Tanimu —Kaduna

Mallam Salisu Ibrahim is one man who has carved a niche in the humanitarian circle. A visually impaired person he is but very active and foresighted.  One who fights the course of those living with disabilities.  He is the founder, ‘Life Education Training Centre for Persons with Disabilities. As part of his strive for the recognition and inclusiveness of his people, he came up with the thought of launching the use of the ‘white cane’ for the visually impaired persons as a way of enhancing their free movement wherever they find themselves.

The ‘white cane’ he said is an internationally accepted symbol of blindness and connotes the existence of the visually impaired person in a society. Ten thousand ‘white canes’ are to be distributed to 10,000 visually impaired persons and those with low vision in Nigeria in the next two years.

The actualization of this dream would be made possible through collaboration with Organizations like MOBILIZING FOR DEVELOPMENT (M4D), PARTNERSHIP TO ENGAGE AND  REFORM AND LEARN (PERL) and to be supported by SARDAUNA FOUNDATION. All have described the initiative as a very laudable one.

The launching was held at the Sardauna Memorial Foundation hall Kaduna where the Grants Manager, M4D Alhaji Mustapha Bello handed some of the ‘white canes’ to the visually impaired.

Salisu Ibrahim a broadcaster, a Master of Arts degree holder in an interview with Zainab Tanimu speaks more on the ‘white cane.’

Read on.

What is this ‘white Cane’ all about?

The ‘white cane’ is a collapsible cane which is an international symbol of the blindness and the symbol of the existence of visually impaired in our society.

What makes it different from the ordinary stick that the visually impaired (the blind) use?

The difference between the ‘white cane’ and the normal stick is that, it is a long modern ‘white cane’ made of aluminum. It is collapsible and light while the normal stick made of wood may be heavy and not be collapsible. So the difference between the ‘white cane’ and the normal stick is the collapsibility and the material that is used to make it.

Of what benefit is this event to people with disability?

Great benefits! One of the benefits is that it would expose visually impaired to the use and significance of ‘white cane’ as it affects their lives. It would also expose the general public  to the significance of the use of ‘white cane’ in achieving inclusive society of both people with all abilities and also to assist the visually impaired to live independently  in our society. It would also give room to have first -hand information and interact with the visually impaired and the relevant stakeholders on the best way to formulate policies or enact laws that would improve the lots of the visually impaired.  Like such law that would impose the use of white cane on the visually impaired.  Also, to give protection to the visually impaired who are users of the white cane on our roads and cities.

Something must have informed you to think about the use of white cane.  Can you share this with us?

Ha, ha, (laughs).

Many things informed this event. Worldwide, 15th of October is an international day of ‘white cane’.  We are not celebrating nor attaching an importance to the ‘white cane’ in Nigeria to the extent that people who are visually impaired are ashamed of using the ‘white cane’.  And our society thinks that if a blind person moves without a ‘white cane’ is a thing of pride which is not. More so, our drivers on the road have no consideration for visually impaired persons using the ‘white cane’. Let me give you an example, there was a time l was going with my ‘white cane’ and a driver hit my white cane and sped off. He didn’t stop. So you see, people are not attaching importance to it, and many of the visually impaired do not understand well the importance and significance of the white cane. So, these are some of the reasons that informed our decision to organize today’s event.

Has there been any sensitization for the users of this cane?

What we are planning after today’s launching of the three white cane scheme whereby we intend to distribute 10,000 white and green canes to 10,000 visually impaired Nigerians in the next 2yrs is to get them sensitized. That is to say we are targeting 31st December 2019.

During the period, we plan to train 500 mobility teachers in our respective special schools so that people who are visually impaired at the grass root would be educated on the best way to use their white canes.

How satisfied are you with the turn out?

I am very satisfied. It is very impressive. I am really happy because we targeted 60 participants because the event is  first of its kind in Kaduna state but to God be the glory, at the end we had 100 participants. This has signified that those with visual impairment and the general public want to learn and to know more about the people with disabilities and ‘white cane’ in particular.

Do you have any expectation from the visually impaired as regards the use of white cane?

First and for most, l want to say, they should know their stops and limitations and utilize the information and knowledge acquired about the use of ‘white cane’ as a way of being able to live independently. If they understand this, l believe it would be easy for them to manage the use of this ‘white cane’. The ‘white cane’ is given to them free.  I am appealing to them to use it wisely to be able to achieve their expectations and dreams in life. We have dreams to fulfill too.  Many of us have strived hard and made it.

Any call to government?

We want inclusiveness.  In this event, we would have loved to feel their presence.   I must say I am disappointed. I want to add that we would not be discouraged and we would continue initiating and making efforts to improve our living standard.