Members of the Association of Lawyers with Disabilities in Nigeria (ALDIN) have asked the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN to ensure that the welfare of lawyers living with disability is given priority by his administration.
The above and more are contained in a letter to the NBA President tagged “LETTER OF FELICITATION ANDOUR HOPE FOR AN INCLUSIVE BAR” signed by Daniel Amaechi Onwe , President and Gaius Ogan the Secretary of the Association.
According to the letter, ALDIN is concerned about a number of issues affecting lawyers with disability and hope that the present NBA leadership will address them. The letter highlights areas requiring the attention of the NBA.
“ALDIN is concerned about a number of issues affecting LWDs and earnestly hope that your leadership will address them. These concerns had in no small way stultified the capacities – and narrowed opportunities – of LWDs in the legal profession and in life generally. Below is a potted outline of our concerns:
INACCESSIBLE COURT ROOMS AND OTHER PUBLIC BUILDINGS: LWDs have been systematically shut out from the practice of their chosen and earned profession. Their access to the temple of justice – where they are ministers – is being denied by way of architectural barriers of diverse forms. Those on wheelchair would either crawl on all fours to courtrooms upstairs or be hauled. Those on crutches will have to wobble upstairs with excruciating pains. The blind are left in the woods without accessible working materials. The lot of the deaf is in no way any better. Their livelihoods are thus precarious. The NBA can add voice to ours to ensure that courts and other public buildings are accessible to all.
EMPLOYMENT OF LAWYERS WITH DISABILITIES: Some LWDs are not disposed to the private practice of law, especially because of the architectural barriers incident in the construction of courtrooms and other public buildings. Their employment in the private and public sector is therefore necessary. The NBA can assist our members in securing sedentary jobs in the public and private sectors by recommending our members where such vacancies occur. We also look forward to the employment of our members by the NBA also.
ESTABLISHMENT OF NBA “DESKS” FOR DISABILITY ISSUES AT THE NATIONAL TIER AND BRANCH CHAPTERS OF THE NBA: LWDs are not considered in the allocation of the opportunities that exist in the NBA and the legal profession at large. Issues affecting LWDs are relegated to the background either because of negligence or lack of adequate understanding of disability issues. We recommend that NBA establish a “desk” to be occupied by a Lawyer With Disability (LWD) – who will be recommended by ALDIN; the occupier of the “desk” will be a liaison officer of sorts who will bring to the fore issues that affects LWDs. We recommend that this be replicated at the various Branches of the NBA. It will help in no small way to address our concerns and enhance inclusivity at the Bar.
HAVING A LAWYER WITH DISABILITY IN THE NBA ANNUAL CONFERENCE PLANNING COMMITTEE: The difficulties that LWDs face at the Annual Conferences of the NBA is enormous. Virtually nothing about the concerns we have as LWDs are considered in the planning of the Conferences. We recommend that an LWD – who will be recommended by ALDIN – be a member of the Technical Committee on Conference Planning (TCCP) so that the sensitivities of LWDs will be factored at the planning stage.
AMENDMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION TO PROVIDE FOR THE INCLUSION OF
LAWYERS WITH DISABILITIES IN THE AFFAIRS OF THE NBA
ALDIN in its letter reminded the NBA President of his campaign manifesto which promised to ameliorate the sufferings of lawyers with disabilities and the aged.
Mr. President, your manifesto emboldens us to look forward for a more inclusive Bar under your leadership. A pericope of the relevant part of your manifesto holds: “Another category of lawyers whose welfare I will work towards ameliorating, from a professional standpoint, is that of the aged and disabled lawyers. If I am elected as the NBA President, I will work towards achieving better welfare programmes for these categories of lawyers and generally for all lawyers …
… Persons living with disability and the aged have special needs which unfortunately are not generally catered for in our Nigerian environment. These needs include access facilities into buildings, toilet facilities, specialized reading and legal practice materials and aids, customized technology aids and facilities. My administration as the NBA President will work at installing these facilities at the NBA Secretariat where the model law office would be located. The model law office at the National Secretariat would also be made friendly to and usable by agreed persons and persons living with disability. These facilities would gradually be expanded and provided at the NBA Zonal Offices in the 3 Zones of the NBA. We would also open dialogue with the Chief Justice of the Federation and the heads of various courts in the Federation and the States on the required modifications for making the courts and the court facilities accessible to and usable by the aged and persons living with disability. More importantly, we shall dialogue constantly with these categories of lawyers to continually understand their needs and how best we can assist in meeting them.”