Dr. Irene Titilola Olumese is a doctor from Ibadan, Nigeria who is weighing in on what action can be taken to help persons with disabilities in Nigeria and beyond.
I started my professional career as a nutrition scientist with UNICEF, advocating for women and children to gain access to adequate nutrition in Nigeria, Ghana, and Egypt. But I was forced to give up my job due to chronic respiratory problems, and I later had both of my legs amputated due to complications during a lung transplant.
Getting on with my life beyond amputation was hard. But I decided to transform my painful experience into something that would have a meaningful impact on the lives of people around me.
I believe our pain will be wasted if it does not serve as a gain for others.
It was during the process of learning to walk again, through prosthetic rehabilitation, that I began to consider how amputees in Nigeria were coping following amputation. I knew how much it cost and I knew how much effort it took to be able to learn how to walk again. I wanted to do something to help amputees, especially those in poor communities.
We set up the Feet of Grace Foundation, which provides prosthetic limbs for amputees who are unable to afford them, with a focus on women and children. It also provides ongoing support, access to education, and socio-economic empowerment. Today, 46 amputees have received support from the foundation.
We are making a difference, one amputee at a time.
I believe that we need to promote an inclusive world where disability will not stop people from living a fulfilling and productive life. My story shows that people with a disability can contribute in meaningful ways to society. Employment policies and work environments must be disability sensitive and inclusive. In a rapidly expanding digital world, we need to identify ways to create more non-site based opportunities for people with disabilities.
For those living with disabilities, we must refuse to be discouraged. The challenges can be overwhelming, considering all that we must deal with already. However, we need to acquire marketable skills that are relevant to society. We must continue to think outside the box and create opportunities for ourselves.
Together, we will go further