Disability Advocate Amina Rahma Audu Improves Wheelchair Life in Nigeria

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Amina Rahma Audu, a lecturer from Gusau, Zamafara State in Nigeria, is on a mission to educate the world on what life is like for people with paralysis where she is from. Injured in 1986 in a car crash, Amina was just 14 years old at the time of her injury. She was diagnosed with a T8 injury.

After her injury, Amina went abroad for rehabilitation to the UK since no adequate spinal cord injury rehabilitation centers existed in Nigeria (nor still do). “We have orthopedic hospitals with spinal injury wards but patients are discharged without rehabilitation. Therefore, patients do not have much knowledge about their injury or how they can start living with it when they get home,” she says.

Power of Peer Support

Amina has become a huge believer in the power of peer support as a stand-in for spinal cord injury rehabilitation anywhere spinal cord injury rehab isn’t possible. “More people with spinal cord injuries rely on peer support group than go to hospital,” she explains. “It is in our peer group where we talk about the complications of SCI, and if they happen, we tell them where to go and how to speak with (medical staff) or otherwise they can easily be misunderstood.”

After returning to Nigeria after rehabilitation and realizing the power of peer support, Amina began to work with others with spinal cord injuries to set up additional spinal cord injury associations in states throughout in Nigeria. Some were already in place. “Through these associations one can get information on how to go about things, especially in their locality (after a spinal cord injury).”

Amina adds that SCI peer support has become popular in Nigeria because of a lack of specialists in the medical system. “One can easily be misdiagnosed and therefore wrongly treated. There are other health concerns that have similar symptoms, such fever during a bladder infection can easily be diagnosed as malaria or typhoid fever. During Covid, we had friends who were thought to have Covid, but instead they had deep vein thrombosis.”

Sadly, 37 years after her injury, Amina still has to travel abroad if she has health complications stemming from her spinal cord injury. “I normally save money or get supported by a support system to travel abroad since we don’t have specialists in such complications. Even if they do, they end up ripping you off,” she says.

Moving On

Despite the fact that Amina, now 51, lives where services for people with spinal cord injuries are scarce, she says she’s lived a full life since her injury. Post-injury, she went to college and became a university lecturer. “Before my lecturing job, I was an education supervisor in the state universal basic education board. I got my lecturing job by going to the vice chancellor and asking for a job and I got it because I was qualified. It was a new university and needed lecturers.”

Amina enjoys life fiercely outside of work, and driving is something she loves. “I figured out how to get in and out of my car in my earlier rehabilitation years. I have been driving for over 20 years now and I enjoy driving long distances around Nigeria,” she says. “And guess what? In all the various cars that I have driven, I have used the same hand controls.” She also enjoys the outdoors. “I love planting trees, flowers, traveling, watering my plants, cooking and baking.”

Amina does admit she’s been lucky in regards to her career. “The disability discrimination prohibition law stipulates that persons with disability are allocated 5% of the vacancy slots when ever there is a recruitment. This is slowly being realized.” Amina is currently studying her PhD as well.

Despite Nigeria still being a work in progress, she says she’s seen improvements for people with disabilities in her country, especially in public accessibility. “The establishment of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities and the Accessibility Department is a positive step towards promoting disability inclusion,” Amina says about the Commission that was created in 2020.

“The Commission, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Works, has created the building code. The building code that has since been passed to the Federal Executive Council for approval. This is a significant milestone towards ensuring that buildings in Nigeria are accessible to everyone, including persons with disabilities,” says Amina. “I hope the building code will be approved and implemented effectively, and that Nigeria continues to make progress towards creating a more inclusive society.”

Advocate Work

To help her advocacy work, Amina founded Rebuilding Hope on Wheels Initiatives (RHOWI) after her injury, a nonprofit that aims to improve the lives of people with disabilities, especially people with spinal cord injuries, who are living in Africa by helping to make society more inclusive.

In the future, Amina would love to expand her disability advocacy work by engaging more younger people. “This can be done through a center or a disability transitional center, so people with spinal cord injuries can easily adapt to their new life and do the best they can to move on. We will have more informed people both disabled and non disabled.”

Amina above all wants to the world to know that Nigeria could use their help. “I have read about so many organizations abroad who are focused on spinal cord injuries, but you can hardly find any working with those of us in Africa. African countries have more problems than abroad, but the complications of spinal cord injuries are the same regardless of where some one comes from,” she adds.

“We also hope well-to-do countries will collaborate with us in getting appliances, equipment and share the latest hacks and remedies for living with a SCI. Supporting us will make our work easier and it will help raise our voices, making them louder and clearer. “

Follow Amina — https://twitter.com/sarauniyamina?t=gY9Ksc4uwKBBnQ9nT3pVtg&s=09
Follow RHOWI — https://www.instagram.com/rhowi_ng/

Amina in 2021 at a training conference.


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