National Disability Act: CODO wants NCAA, relevant agencies to ensure full compliance

The Coalition of Disability Organizations (CODO) has called on the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and other relevant agencies to ensure full compliance with the National Disability Act at Nigerian airports.

The coalition, led by the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CDD), made the call at a news conference on Wednesday in Lagos on access to airport facilities and services for persons with disabilities (PWDs) in Nigeria.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Ms. Florence Attah, Programs Officer, CDD, said it was a fundamental human right for persons with disabilities to access airports on an equal basis with others.

Attah said that the recent incident involving Mr. Debola Daniel on March 27 at KFC restaurant, sited at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos, was a blatant violation of the National Disability Act.

“Airports are not just transit hubs; they are gateways to opportunities, connections, and experiences.

“However, for persons with disabilities, navigating through airports can often be a daunting and challenging experience, marked by various barriers that impede their mobility, independence, and overall travel experience.

“Many Nigerian airports lack adequate infrastructure such as ramps, elevators, and accessible restrooms, making it difficult for persons with physical disabilities to navigate through terminals.

“Informational signage, flight announcements, and other communication channels often do not cater for the needs of persons with hearing and/or visual impairments, leading to confusion and disorientation.

“The discriminatory attitudes and lack of awareness among airport staff and fellow travelers create uncomfortable and hostile environments for persons with disabilities.

“Similarly, complex security procedures, a lack of a functional disability desk, and a lack of disability-sensitive protocols result in delays and inconvenience for travelers with disabilities,” Attah lamented.

According to her, Mr. Daniel’s episode typifies the live experiences of many persons with disabilities that often go unspoken or unpublicized in Nigeria.

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Attah commended Daniel for calling out violators and asserting his rights.

She said, “His actions should serve as deterrence to other corporate organisations and individuals engaging in discriminatory practices across the country.

“We commend the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) for the prompt action against KFC in ensuring that the rights of persons with disabilities are respected and protected.

“While we see this as a bold step in the right direction, we are optimistic that FAAN will move to the next level of addressing other discriminatory practices.

“The practices, especially those resulting in the systematic exclusion of persons with disabilities from accessing the facilities at the Murtala Mohammed Airport,”

According to her, Section 14 of the National Disability Act mandates all airlines operating in Nigeria to ensure that all aircraft are made accessible to persons with disabilities and that persons with disabilities are assisted to get on and off board in safety and reasonable comfort.

Attah added that the Act also mandated airlines to ensure that persons with disabilities are accorded priority while boarding and disembarking from the aircraft, and all airports should make available presentable and functional wheelchairs for conveyance of persons with disabilities to and from the aircraft.

She, however, noted that the reality on the ground painted a starkly different picture.

Attah specifically said that the lift leading to the Murtala Mohammed Airport lounge was non-functional, depriving passengers with disabilities of accessing an essential service.

She said that the CODO-led CCD, in partnership with Hope Alive for Possibilities Initiatives (HAPI) and the Spinal Cord Injuries Association of Nigerians (SCIAN), expressed deep concern over the trend.

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Attah decried that the situation had persisted, despite the series of interventions and stakeholders’ engagements carried out in the last two years.

She said that research conducted by CODO on “Access to Airport in Nigeria” across the six geo-political zones, including the F.C.T., showed that PWDs were generally at a disadvantage, deprived, discriminated against, and denied their rights.

Attah said: “There are numerous reports of total denial of air travel opportunities, as well as humiliating and embarrassing treatment or responses to the needs of PWDs.

“Despite the existence of national and international provisions for the rights of persons with disability, the plight of Persons with Disabilities continues to be compounded by societal attitudes.

“This is particularly true in terms of being treated condescendingly, resulting to repeated violation of their rights in silence.”

Highlighting roles and responsibilities of FAAN, NCAA, and other relevant stakeholders, decried the slow enforcement of the relevant legal frameworks by agencies tasked with managing the various aspects of the airports in Nigeria.

She said that this had led to the continued exclusion of persons with disabilities from accessing airport facilities and services.”

She said that the group recommended that Ministry of Aviation develop and implement comprehensive accessibility policies and guidelines for all airports under its jurisdiction.

Attah added that FAAN should ensure that infrastructure upgrades and new construction adhere to universal design principles.

According to her, FAAN and Ministry of Aviation should coordinate training and sensitisation programmes for airport staff on disability rights and inclusion.

She said: “Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority should monitor and enforce compliance with accessibility standards and regulations at airports towards ensuring maximum safety for passengers with disabilities

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“Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority Should Collaborate with FAAN and other stakeholders to develop inclusive aviation policies and practices.

“The National Commission for Persons with Disabilities should advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities in the aviation sector and provide guidance and support to airports and relevant authorities on disability inclusion initiatives.

“National Commission for Persons with Disabilities should facilitate the participation of persons with disabilities in decision-making processes related to airport accessibility.”

She said that the security agencies should ensure the safety and security of all airport users, including persons with disabilities.

Attah said that security should also provide assistance and support to travelers with disabilities during security screenings and other procedures and address any incidents of discrimination or harassment against persons with disabilities at airports.

“The Ministry of Aviation, FAAN and NCAA should ensure that airports and aviation service providers comply with national laws and international standards regarding accessibility for persons with disabilities

“The Ministry of Aviation should allocate inclusive budgets and resources to support accessibility initiatives at airports, including infrastructure upgrades and training programmes for airport staff.

“The Ministry of Aviation should monitor the implementation of accessibility policies and conduct periodic evaluations to assess the effectiveness of measures taken to enhance access for persons with disabilities,” she added.

Attah said that the coalition remained committed to advocating for the rights and inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society, including air travel.

“We urge the Nigerian government and airport authorities to take immediate actions to rectify the systemic barriers that continue to impede the mobility and independence of persons with disabilities at airports across the country,” she said. (NAN)

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