The World Bank estimates that there are around 29 million people in Nigeria living with a disability or around 14% of the population. One of the major constraints facing individuals with an infirmity is general access to spaces.
The good news is Nigeria does not only acknowledge the importance of sustainable development, but it is also committed to creating eco-friendly spaces. However, without an improved access to green spaces and buildings, it is difficult for those with a handicap to stay mobile and enjoy the benefits of healthy spaces or zones.
Under the Nigerian Disability Bill, the rights of people with disabilities are enshrined and protected. In this regard, public buildings, transportation, and infrastructure must also accommodate the needs of people with frailties. In 2019, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) instructed all telecom operators to prepare a Disability Access and Inclusion Plan (DAIP) which outlines improved access to telecommunications for those who are incapacitated.
Admittedly, the lack of awareness concerning the requirements of people with disabilities is a stumbling block in providing access to sustainable spaces. Furthermore, resources are limited to modify structures and enforcement of accessibility regulations is lacking. For example, many parks in the country do not have the capability to accommodate wheelchair users. They cannot enter or leave a park without the necessary infrastructure and modifications such as ramps, rails, and pathways.
A main project of the government is the Greening Nigeria Project which aims to plant 1 billion trees across the country to combat deforestation and climate change and, at the same time, improve access to green spaces for its citizens.
Unfortunately, access outdoors for people with disabilities is often limited due to the layout and the type of terrain. On a positive note, the government has launched several projects to promote accessibility and enhance ease of use of parks and public spaces.
Take the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI) which has formulated accessibility guidelines for public buildings, spaces, and parks. Moreover, some parks such as the Millennium Park in Abuja have also made improvements to include walkways and paths for the convenience of wheelchair users.
In addition, the Lagos State Parks and Gardens Agency (LASPARK), which is tasked with the development and upkeep of parks and gardens in the state, also focuses on creating recreational and relaxing spaces. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs), notably the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, are working to preserve the biodiversity and the rich natural resources of the country. The same can be said of the Lekki Conservation Centre which is a nature reserve in Lagos.
Consequently, more sustainable spaces will be created that everyone, regardless of capability, can enjoy. Other organisations that are dedicated to fostering sustainability include the Nigerian Building Council and the Nigeria Climate Innovation Centre. The Green Building Certification programme is in line, too with creating sustainable spaces through the construction of energy-efficient and eco-friendly buildings. Integrating NBRRI codes during construction will ensure that the requirements of special needs groups are included.
No doubt, there is a lot that needs to be done to increase access to green spaces and focus on environmental sustainability. Overall, the country is committed to promote accessibility of green spaces for those with debility. It is also moving towards inclusion and equality.
By Jackie Edwards