This profile was prepared when Cosmas Okoli was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1991.
The New Idea
Cosmas is building two mutually supportive institutions: his national association and a venture that manufactures special equipment for the disabled. Both seek to enhance the mobility, productivity, and independence of disabled people.Cosmas believes that a disabled population that has the ability to be fully productive will be a valuable asset to themselves and to society. To achieve this end, it is necessary to reach out to and engage young disabled people. Bringing them together enables them to share their experiences, to inform each other of opportunities, and to supply the necessary support to achieve their goals. His program also includes an organized sports program for disabled youth and a network of positive peer counselling.As Cosmas has faced a variety of problems endemic to the disabled, he has been able to devise creative solutions to them. He first developed a more effective and efficient leg brace than existed before in Nigeria. More recently he developed hand controls that allow those who, like himself, have lost the use of their legs, to drive automobiles.Cosmos plans to introduce large-scale production of these and other apparatuses for the disabled. Doing so will serve multiple purposes. It will provide training and employment opportunities for the disabled; it will allow this population greater access to affordable special aids for mobility; and it will supply funding for the rest of his work on behalf of the disabled.