According to statistical reports from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) 2021 World Population Dashboard and the World Health Organization (WHO)/World Bank, Nigeria has an estimated population of 32 million Persons With Disabilities (PWDs). An entry on Wikipedia found that the five most common types of disabilities in Nigeria are, in descending order, visual impairment, hearing impairment, physical impairment, intellectual impairment, and communication impairment.

A 2008 study by the United Kingdom Department for International Development found that in Nigeria, the public, the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, and Disability Support Organizations tend to view disability from the perspective of “welfare and charity” and so support interventions on PWDs needs is generally limited to simply providing food, shelter and clothing for PWDs. Consequently, there are no all-encompassing disabilities’ inclusion policies and programmes on the part of government and private organizations such that PWDs are usually faced with a host of challenges including stigma, discrimination, violence, lack of access to gainful employment, healthcare, housing, education, overall self-enhancement. This situation is contrary to the social model of disability which states that people are disabled by barriers in society and therefore emphasizes on social adaptation, inclusion, and empowerment.

Presently, given the advocacy of various Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) on the subject and the realization by the Federal Government of the need to deliberately integrate PWDs in the national life and agenda, government has enacted the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018 and also constituted the Council and National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (the Commission). By these acts the basic regulatory and administrative framework for designing and implementing PWDs inclusion policies and programmes are now in place. Among other provisions, the Act which is to be enforced primarily by the Commission prescribes for the inclusion of PWDs in the area of physical accessibility, education, healthcare and equal employment, prohibits the use of PWDs in begging and alms solicitation and accords priority to PWDs in accessing certain public services. The Commission also has the mandate to design and implement policies and programmes that integrate and advance the inclusion of PWDs into the social, economic, political and public life of the nation. Unquestionably, facilitation of the digital inclusion of PWDs is within the remit of the Commission even though not expressly stated in the enabling instruments.


In fulfilling the above mandate, the Commission has collaborated with various public and private organizations such as the Nigeria Population Commission (to build a database of PWDs), National Automotive Design and Development Council (to promote automotive accessibility of PWDs), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (built the capacity of over sixty personnel of the Corps on modalities in handling disability related cases), National Identity Management Commission (to facilitate the registration and issuance of Disability certificate), Nigeria Digital Identification for Development Projects (for the purpose of easy identification of PWDs) and others along the lines of their core functions. However, the above collaboration do not directly impact on the digital inclusion of PWDs.

The potential of technology for improving lives by helping citizens and organizations to beneficially participate in social and economic activities is limitless. PWDs need unhindered access to technology so as to acquire knowledge, skills, vocations and abilities which will enable them contribute to society in productive ways like other citizens and to make their daily lives more comfortable. A lot of factors militate against the digital inclusion of PWDs. They mainly include lack of digital training and skills which tend to undermine the self-confidence of PWDs, lack of resources (equipment, devices, affordable data services, network connectivity), limited access to opportunities especially in rural locations and lack of specialized support equipment.  Unfortunately, only few public institutions responsible for ICT/digital economy enhancement like the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) have implemented definitive initiatives towards the digital inclusion of PWDs. The NCC, through the E-Accessibility Programme of its Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) provided ICT tools and Assistive Technologies (ATs) which give insight on a series of IT tools that support creative and innovative learning to categories of PWDs. Also, the NITDA has continually promoted the digital literacy and skills of PWDs through various capacity development programmes. While the above interventions by afore-referenced government agencies are in the right direction, we note that much more can be done towards the digital inclusion of PWDs. The private sector, especially service providers such as mobile network operators and internet service providers have an equally important role to play in this regard.   


Based on the foregoing highlighted areas of needs, we suggest the following for implementation to facilitate the digital inclusion of PWDs.

  1. Given the indispensability of minimum digital skills to quality living and excellence in today’s world, there should be a deliberate effort towards infusing education on use of information, communication and technology in the programmes and plans for PWDs. This can be achieved through regulatory and policy interventions by the Commission.
  2. The Commission should ensure that PWDs programmes, plans and opportunities are designed to ensure spread across the rural and urban areas. Design of trainings should also be accompanied with opportunities. Programmes should, for maximum impact, be specialized along the lines of the peculiarities of the PWDs.
  3. The Commission should ensure consistent and widespread training and education of PWDs across the country on various areas of technology. This can be achieved through greater and wider collaboration with stakeholders such as NGOs, the private sector, MDAs, et cetera. Collaboration with NITDA will be helpful in this regard.
  4. Collaborate with original equipment manufacturers (OEM) to ensure production of affordable devices as well as the integration of PWD specialized, assistive software, applications and features like speech inputs, magnifiers, eye gaze tracking, et cetera in such devices.
  5. The Commission should liaise with the NCC for mobile network operators, internet and other relevant service providers to offer subsidized rates in data, text messages and call services to PWDs.
  6. The Commission should ensure that opportunities for training and employment in the digital space are designed and promptly made available to PWDs.


The acquisition, deployment and use of digital skills and services is necessary for optimization in all aspects of human endeavour today.  PWDs have as much stake in the digital economy as the non disabled and so should not be neglected or overlooked in that context.  It is therefore imperative that the above recommendations are taken on board by the National Commission for Persons With Disabilities as it seeks to drive the digital inclusion of PWDs in Nigeria.

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