disability

Mr Yaw Ofori Debra said the law which was passed in 2006 to defend rights of persons with disability (PWDs) and improve their living conditions, has seen its provisions being abused consistently by entities, with government being “the number one violator.”

Speaking at the 10th anniversary celebration of the Act on: “10 years of PWDs Act: its impact in on lives of PWDs,” he said, such abuses have rendered members helpless in the society since repercussion of non-compliance was “negative and extensive.”

He said it has impeded members’ access to economic, education, healthcare and employment opportunities, and taken away their privileges to participate in national decision-making process.

According to Section 60 of the law “the owner or occupier of a place to which the public has access shall provide appropriate facilities that make the place accessible to and available for use by a PWD.”

Parliament passed the groundbreaking law on June 23, 2006, and received presidential assent on August 9 the same year, to promote and protect rights of PWDs and ensure their effective participation in society.

Disability Movements led by GFD expressed dissatisfaction at its operation and impact on lives of members, fetching them onto the streets in a procession to petition President John Dramani Mahama.

The Deputy Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Mrs Dela Sowah received the petition on behalf of government, pledging President Mahama’s commitment to look into their concerns.

The transitional provision – Section 60 of Act 715 – also known as the 10-year moratorium, provides that “the owner or occupier of an existing building to which the public has access shall within 10 years of the commencement of this Act make that building accessible to and available for use by a PWD”.

But the Federation said, in July it inspected 29 public buildings – comprising courts, ministries, departments, agencies, schools, hospitals and district assembly offices.

The areas audited included the environment, pathways, passage, handrails, toilet facilities, with doors, elevators, and the height of desks of receptionists.

The exercise was meant to determine whether occupiers or owners had modified the structures as required by law.

“All the buildings audited were found to be inaccessible to PWDs. The fact remains that the finding is a true national picture of noncompliance with the 10-year moratorium,” Mr Debra said.

A visit to mosques, churches, corporate institutions, train stations and lorry parks and ministries, remain closed to PWDs, he added.

He said government ignored the law and defied the repeated warnings of PWDs following the construction of the N1 road without accessibility components which has marooned them.

The road has six foot bridges but no single ramp to enable PWDs cross to attend school, clinic, learn a trade, work or participate in social events.

“This is violation of the rights of PWDs. the matter has been in court for the past three years while PWDs are restricted from participating in economic, political, and cultural lives in the communities along the N1 road.”

He said many polling stations are unreachable to voters with disability while “mobility of PWDs is equally impeded by open gutters, erection of bill boards, electricity and telephone poles on pavements”.

“People also park cars on the pavement for sale, all these violate the Act, yet those with the mandate to enforce compliance with provisions of the Act pretend not know about these,” Mr Debra said.

He said government 200 community day senior high schools also lack accessibility features as “the powers that be ignored our request to ensure that the designs include appropriate accessibility features”.

He cited such schools inaugurated in Nyanoh in the Eastern Region, Otuam in the Central Region, Krachi Nchumuru, Nkwanta, and Nzem as examples.

“Students with disability cannot access education from these schools on equal basis with their colleagues without disabilities. This compels many to doubt the sincerity of government in implementing the inclusive education policy it has rolled out.”

Mr Debra said it is sad that people with hearing impairment are losing their lives, spend days at hospitals without treatment and when treated, it is on trial-and-error basis, due to communication barriers.

“A deaf lady lost her husband who was also deaf due to a communication barrier. There was no sign language interpreter to facilitate communication between the doctor and the nurses and the deaf lady whose husband was in coma.”

Mr Debra said inaccessible transportation system and work places have been cited as reasons why employers shy away from recruiting qualified PWDs, but regrettably, metro mass transit buses are not accessible.

“Buses imported by the Bus Rapid Transit have facility for only one wheelchair user at a time but they are yet to be piloted in Accra only.

“Provision for reserve seats and parking places is not being enforced, PWDs continue to suffer unemployment and daily mobility challenges, for they mostly have to hire taxis at high cost in order to move from one place to another.”

He consoled members that all is not lost as “minimal positive impact of Act 715 in their lives is a fact that they could assert their rights and pursue legal action in court on violations of their rights.

Source: GNA/News Ghana

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