Nigeria Association of the Blind


Accessibility Towards A Safer Society for All By David Okon Click to download a Copy

TOMORROW'S LEADER by David Okon Click to download a Copy


Accessibility Towards A Safer Society For All








Ladies and gentlemen, I speak for all members of the Nigeria association of the Blind when I express our gratitude to MTN for this wonderful gift.  I can say with all assurance that all stakeholders have inexpressible joy today; parents, teachers, friends, all those who have watched these clever visually impaired people and hoped that they would one day shine.  All are pleased for this opportunity.

I have a message for recipients of this award; I want to urge you to look at success stories and emulate the principles that are embodied in them.  It was never easy, but perseverance, taking opportunities and vision are among the qualities you will find in every success story.  We pray that yours too will join the many success stories that pave our memories with gold.  We hope that you will continue to receive the support of your families, teachers and friends, and we assure you of the support of the Nigeria Association of the Blind and other similar organisations.

I also have a message for parents, guardians and friends.  We know how proud you are of the recipients of these awards.  We too are proud of them.  There was a sifting process which resulted in their selection.  They are deserving recipients, and you are justly proud.  Please continue to give these winners your support.

I have a message for our government and other stakeholders.  Here are some worthy winners who look to their country and its citizens to assist in their achievements.  Please remember that they are entitled to equality in their rights to education, employment, social and other amenities.  The more equally they are treated, the more likely they are to feel a part of their society.  The more equally they are treated, the more likely Nigeria is to become a great nation.

And finally, I have a message for our Dear MTN.  We owe you a debt of gratitude, not because you gave, but because you gave specially.  You did not give to a popular cause, but to a just one.  You did not give to attract newspaper reports, but to bring equality in an inequal world.  It is laudable because it is better than what is usually counted as popular.  We applaud you today and always.

But there is more.  We look at MTN and wish other companies were just like that.  We see what MTN have seen and wonder why other companies missed it.  Your foresight is great, but sadly, it is not shared by others.  For if it were, opportunities would be open to many other intelligent visually impaired people who are denied proper education because the cost is higher than what sighted people pay.  These denial is worse, because they need it more.  It is a fact that visually impaired people have less, not because they are less clever, but because their society, Nigeria, does not give them the ability that their visual disability has deprived them.  There is technology, but it is expensive.  There are opportunities, but unless things have been adapted, they are inaccessible to visually impaired people.  After education, everyone goes to work, but visually impaired people are even less prepared than others, if they have not been exposed to the right education.

So, while thanking MTN for an excellent gift today, we urge other companies to explore the possibilities of providing some funding for blind and visually impaired people.  It would open up new opportunities, both for the blind people, and the companies.  A company that cares for the most vulnerable citizens must of necessity be a company that cares for all.  By granting these awards, MTN has taken corporate social responsibility to another level, shifted the goal posts.

We call on Nigerian companies  to now begin to think of innovative ways to tackle the deprivations in our society.  As these awards have shown, not all deprivations are due to low intelligence.  We can only urge other companies to follow suit.  We remain here to demonstrate the advantages of this new approach.  We remain here to show the results of thinking outside the box.  We hope that we do not stand alone, but that we are soon joined by throngs of people and companies, seeking to do real good. Call on us, we will partner with your organizations to make life better for blind and vision impaired Nigerians. Again, I say thank you MTN and thank you all.

for Nigeria Association of the Blind,
David Okon,
National President,
Tel: +2348026615415/2348055056840,
E-mail: david.u.okon@nigeriaassociationoftheblind.org,
Website: www.nigeriaassociationoftheblind.org.

10TH JULY 2012

NAB Remarks by The National President, Mr David Okon

Good day ladies and gentlemen,

Today, we are at a crucial point in the debate to drastically transform the copyright regime.  As in all similar situations, there are competing voices, alternative ideas, irreconcileable controversies.  Experts debate and committee meetings are held.

However, at the heart of this discussions, the debates become academic if they do not materially change things.  The treaty being currently proposed will bring major change to how copyright affects millions of people in Africa ant the world.  It is surprising how crucial a piece of paper, (or perhaps an electronic document) can be, but if this one controls how other papers, books and electronic documents are shared, then its value suddenly becomes clear.

For 3 years, we have debated how the law can be changed; but today, I wish to remind you of what it would mean.  Imagine a standard book, any book will do, so long as it is widely read in Nigeria, but published abroad.  Imagine that all the people in this room can read this book, simply by going to their local bookseller and purchasing it.  I cannot do this for several reasons.  First, even in advanced countries, only 5% of all books end up being converted to a format that I can use.  In Nigeria and other developing countries, the number is less than 1%.  It is therefore likely that this book has not been produced in Nigeria.  There is a probability that it has been produced in another country, but because current laws restrict how copyrighted material is shared across borders, I cannot access this book. 

In Nigeria, there are a few organisations which produce books for print disabled persons.  These generally produce at very low capacity, compared to the European or American counterparts.  Indeed, the difference is staggering; in the UK for example, there is a quarterly catalogue of books produced in Braille, another of books produced in large print and another of books produced in electronic format.  This is produced by one organisation, the Royal National Institute of blind people, and does not include those produced by competing institutions, small Braille presses, prisons, etc.  Yet, even in all these, they still lag behind the books produced for non print disabled people.  Imagine how much better it would be if we did not have to reproduce these works, with our own very limited resources.  And we could call upon books produced in Australia, the USA, Kenya, South Africa, and everywhere else.

Since the resources available for visually impaired people are so restricted, it makes sense for sharing across borders.  If this does not happen, visually impaired and print disabled people will remain less informed than their sighted counterparts.  I do not believe this is the intention of our country, which is one of the few that has already provided legislation to  give easier access to documents by print disabled people.  What we are asking is that our country should extend this goodwill to include support for an international copyright law that extends access to printed information for print disabled people all over the world.

Of course, we understand that copyright legislation must take account of other interests; the interests of the publishers, information providers, libraries, etc.  We are happy to support the general provision of information to everyone; why should we be the only ones who have access.  However, the current evidence is that we have less access to printed information than any other group in Nigeria, which makes our situation more urgent.  As we have already noted, this debate has been ongoing for three years.  We can either make progress now, or wait and wait, ... and wait, indefinitely, till some concensus is reached between the myriad of interest groups that are involved.  In the meantime, the print disabled people which include vblind, partially sighted and dyslexic people, will remain without access to books.

What we argue is that different interest groups should strive to improve their positions, but that one should not affect the other.  We know that other groups are fighting for changes to the current international copyright regime, and we wish them all the very best.  However, we do not believe that our own solutions should be tied to theirs.  It would be like arguing that we should suspend the improvements in telecommunications until we can improve our power supply.  Every interest group must expect its positions to be recognized at a different pace.

Now, our campaign and all the hard work it entails cannot move past this stage without political support.  We would ask our government to support us, because blind and partially sighted people need their democratically elected government to stand up for them, for once.  We are already frustrated about difficult access in so many other areas that just one step in the right direction will be a great morale boost for us.  With the influence Nigeria has in Africa, the support of our government will go a long way towards swinging the entire African vote.

We at the Nigerian Association of the Blind will do all within our power to ensure this.  We are happy to continue the process of dialogue with all relevant authorities, and to give further practical demonstrations of how the proposed international treaty will affect us.  However, this decision has to be taken now, in July, and we urge you to consider this proposal very seriously indeed.