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Cosmas I. Okoli

Cosmas Okoli was disabled by polio at the age of 4 and could not walk until he was 10 because rehabilitation and prostheses were unavailable during the civil war that ravaged eastern parts of Nigeria. Although his father had plans to have him trained as a cobbler, Cosmas insisted that he be enrolled in school. His siblings and other students carried him to and from school. Against all obstacles Cosmas excelled in his studies and graduated from the University of Lagos as a medical physiologist. He went on to head the Special Sports Federation of Nigeria and National Paralympics Committee. He took Nigeria to the Atlanta and Sydney Paralympics where Nigeria won a number of medals. Cosmas received the National Honours Award of Officer of the Order of the Niger by the government of Nigeria in December 2006.

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Mobility Aid and Appliances Research and Development Centre (MAARDEC)
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Non-profit Social Enterprise
Global Health; Values
Areas of Impact
Africa, Nigeria

Mobility Aid and Appliances Research and Development Centre (MAARDEC)

The Mobility Aid and Appliances Research and Development Centre (MAARDEC) was born out of Cosmas Okoli’s quest to find solutions to the challenges faced by millions of people with disabilities in Nigeria, himself included. It seeks to address the lack of adequate mobility aids and appliances, and help eliminate social, cultural and environmental barriers and prejudices against people with disabilities in Nigeria. About 50% of the MAARDEC staff has disabilities. In pursuit of its goals the centre offers counselling and guidance for the disabled and promotes public education around the capacities of disabled persons.

MAARDEC founded the Association for Comprehensive Empowerment of Nigerians with Disabilities (ASCEND), which is at the forefront of advocacy for persons with disabilities. Okoli also founded the Nigerian chapter of the Achilles Track Club, which encourages persons with disabilities to run for recreation alongside the non-disabled and volunteers. MAARDEC initiated the first ever Ms. Wheelchair Nigeria pageant in 2010, providing a platform to celebrate accomplished women with disabilities and equip them to serve as advocates for all Nigerians with disabilities.

MAARDEC has partnered with the MTN Foundation to provide over 15,000 mobility aids to persons with disabilities in Nigeria since 2009. MAARDEC is also in partnership with Contact Solutions Limited to provide qualified persons with disabilities employment as customer service representatives. It also forged a partnership with Conversion Sound to assemble and market digital hearing aids in Nigeria, making them affordable and providing employment for persons with disabilities. Other aids being developed by MAARDEC include a more effective leg brace and specially-designed hand controls that allow those who have lost the use of their legs to drive.


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