Intellectual Disability: Stereotypes And Rights

The Albino Foundation Public Notice

The Albino Foundation Public Notice

By Barr. Ijeoma Blessing Fynecontry.

The major challenges faced by persons with intellectual disability generally is the problem of stereotyping. Disability Stereotyping bears when the society make assumptions, often times wrongly, about persons with disability based on their physical or intellectual disability.

Most persons with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities can in actual fact, be and achieve more than the societal perceived limitations. A fact which many people and particularly Nigerians are yet to embrace, whether for lack of information or baseless close mindedness is the many ability in the group of people generally tagged disabled in Nigeria. It may seem that this social division stem from a social reactionary tendency to out- group people who do not belong to the social group we psychologically identify with, thus having the mindset of limitation regarding such persons. 

While there has been a huge advancement in the global push for inclusion and recognition of the rights of persons with disability, negative altitude and stereotyping has been a major setback in achieving major success particularly in Nigeria despite the absence of any definite legal barrier. Persons with intellectual disability in Nigeria tends be pitied rather than being actively encouraged and supported socially, legally and politically to contribute and make valuable impact in their society. This attitude have greatly jeopardized their chances of success as valuable members of their communities.

The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria(As amended) and other legal frameworks both local, Regional and International relating to citizens’ rights and obligations of government to its citizens defines those rights as rights accruing to CITIZENS equally and which they are entitled to by virtue of being human. Some of these laws includes Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2019, National Policy on Disability in Nigeria, United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (which has been domesticated in Nigeria), African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right etc.

The sad reality of the challenges faced by Persons with disability in Nigeria today is that the situation still subsist not for lack of targeted legislations but majorly due to lack of political will to ensure effective implementation. It is therefore not surprising that while there exist the necessary laws, in practice, Nigeria has fallen short of expectations with regard to current global best practices as it concerns inclusion and right support for the growth, wellbeing and advancement of persons with disability particularly, intellectual disability.

As the world celebrate the 2024 World Down syndrome day on 21st of March with the theme “End the Stereotypes”, the message is to recognize that persons with Down syndrome can achieve and be valuable members of their communities with the right support and equal opportunity as is availed to every other citizen. The right support is given when there are intentional governmental policies encouraging the applicability of all legal rights as well as conscious efforts by all agencies, stakeholders and general corporate/civil society to ensure such rights are protected or asserted when need be.  

This year, the demand is for total end to any form of stereotype against persons with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities as a legally guaranteed rights. Persons with Down syndrome are entitled to the provision and protection accorded under chapters II and IV of the Constitution and other relevant laws. The responsibility of ensuring this goal is achieved should not just be on the government alone but every sector of the society. Ending the stereotypes against persons with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities should be seen in promoting adequate and fit for purpose basic rights like equity in specialized education, Health and medical care, employment opportunities, specialized and accessible social amenities.

No human right is more important over the other notwithstanding their physical or intellectual ability. No person is legally more person than the other, the quotient of their ability notwithstanding.

End the stereotypes by intentional promotion, protection and upholding of the rights of persons with intellectual disability, not out of pity but as a recognized legally guaranteed rights.

Ijeoma Blessing Fynecontry is a Lagos based legal practitioner and the legal resource person for Down Syndrome Foundation Nigeria.

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