Oluwatele is not just a blind man. He is one with a difference. With about 17 people in his employ he contends that disability is not a passport to begging. Dayo Emmanuel examines his world
Though blind, Dr. Olaide Oluwatele is not one that will submit to self pity. He has learnt to live with his condition and also gone a step further to do what most people with sight find difficult to do.
He is an entrepreneur per excellence and has in his employ about 17 able people who work day and night to earn their pay from him. “Disability is not a passport for a beggarly life.” He said with a tone of confidence during a session with Church Times reporter.
Olaide, who became blind at 17 is obviously a living proof that there is ability in disability. In his words “when I suddenly became blind and my parents sought help from all quarters without success I was advised to come to Oshodi where I will earn N500 per week through alms begging.” He recalled
But that was not to be as God in His mercy turned the situation around for him. Rather than beg, she met one Mrs. Mojisola Abdul who introduced her to Federal School for the blind where he learnt basket weaving. Upon graduation, the woman gave her N2,500 to rent a shop where he practiced his trade and improved upon his skill.
Since then his life has not remained the same again. Olaide who now runs a training centre for the disabled people in Lagos however did not stop at that as he proceeded to the US thereafter to pursue further studies culiminating in a doctoral degree.
He is presently the founder and President of Competent Handicapped Industry and Vocational Training Centre, Lagos, an organisation that seeks to better the lot of handicapped people in Nigeria.
“Handicapped people are not lazy and useless, but the government in Nigeria treat them like dirt”, he lamented, adding that “if given enabling environment and support, there is no limit to what the government can benefit from the so-called disabled people in Nigeria.”
He listed transportation, housing and medical facilities as challenges facing disabled persons. His organisation has however gone ahead to proffer solution to the transportation challenge of the disabled persons in Nigeria with the procurement of commercial buses.
With a fleet of commercial busses to convey disabled people free of charge, Olaide and his organisation have wadded into the transportation challenge of the handicapped in Lagos State. “We started with five vehicles, later we got 15 and we told our drivers not to charge disabled persons who are with our identification cards, we also help the handicapped convey their
loads free of charge.”
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He however noted that men of the Lagos State Transport Management Authority (LASTMA) have made the business of transportation unpalatable for us. “They have in many occations seized out vehicles and we have had to pay through out nose to retrieve them. Even when
we make them know that we are rendering service and doing what should be encouraged they fail to budge,” he stated.
He explained that there buses had to drop the blind at places where it will be convenient for them to trace their way. “But whenever we do that LASTMA officials impound our vehicles. They don’t want to care that we are rendering essential services.
“We lost five of our busses to the dealers when we couldn’t pay in time because LASTMA officials seized them for two weeks, we want the government to recognise us and appreciate the good work we are doing to ease the sufferings of the disabled people on our roads, LASTMA officials should be trained and educated about the disabled persons, they should try to be considerate”, he lamented.
“When ever I travel abroad, especially in the United States, roads are well built to accommodate the blind who can trace their ways through the walkways, but
not so in Nigeria and that is why we want our busses to be able to drop the blind people where ever it will be easy for them to find their ways even if unassisted,” he said.
The organisation now has over 30 commercial busses through which it generates its income to sponsor its training arm. “We have specialised trainings for the blind on basket weaving, we train the deaf also on
vocational things like
detergent and antiseptic manufacturing. In all these, we are yet to be assisted by the government despite much appeal. We
want the government to patronise us.
They can influence their hospitals to buy certain percentage of their disinfectants and detergents from us, this will go a long way because these training are free and they help
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Olaide who wants a law to protect the disabled enacted disclosed that the situation outside the country is different “when ever I am in the USA, they are so accommodating, they open the door for the disabled, the busses wait patiently for the disabled and I feel Nigeria should emulate this”.
On building construction, he noted that “the Canadian embassy in Lagos is a wonderful place, constructed to assist the disabled, when I visited the place, I was able to trace my ways within the building, and their toilets are disabled people friendly. Our government houses are not even constructed that way, not to mention other private buildings.”
Competent Handicapped Industry and Vocational Training Centre is proposing a centre for the physically challenged persons. “Our facility now can not accommodate the crippled because of the stair case, we are on the second floor and they find it difficult to climb, we are proposing a permanent site, a large place that can accommodate all the disabled people. It is a place designed for their accommodation and training, we are appealing for support in this wise” he requested.
At his Alagbodo, Lagos office, Oluwatele is very much revered. His staff describe him as a dutiful boss with a servant heart. One of his staff who craves anonymity says, “I can tell you that my boss is one out of many. His senses are sharper than many of us in his employment and it is really difficult to play pranks with him as he will easily detect. How he does that nobody knows. But he is not the type that wants you to pity him. He walks around in most times unaided and he has been able to accomplish a lot despite his condition.
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