It is disappointing that fourteen (14) years after the passage of the Disability Act, very little has been done to actualise it as successive governments failed to fully implement key provisions in the Persons With Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715).
Even though the Act was meant to mainstream persons with disability into the national economy, and ensure they live very normal lives, this objective has unfortunately not been met.
The Disability Act
The Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715) is aimed at ensuring that Persons With Disability (PWDs) enjoy the rights enshrined in Article 29 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, with a vision to improve on their quality of life and mainstreaming PWDs activities.
However, the plight of persons with disability now is worse than it was some 14 years ago as public structures continue to be inaccessible to persons with mobility impairment, while educational institutions continue to construct more than one storey structures without elevators, making access to these structures almost impossible for students with disability.
The Act, passed in response to concerns by persons with disability that their peculiar circumstances had not been sufficiently addressed by existing laws, policies and programmes, had wide ranging provisions to address these concerns, and more importantly, assert their constitutional rights as Ghanaians.
Nevertheless, it is noted with sadness that authorities in tertiary institutions are especially guilty of this despicable practice and most hospitals in the country, particularly in the Districts still do not have sign language interpreters to help brothers and sisters with hearing and speech impairment.
Public Transport System
Our public transport system does not have room for persons with disabilities. It was a pity to have recently witnessed a case where a wheelchair-bound woman was prevented from boarding a Sprinter bus because according to the driver, there was no room for her wheelchair.
Generally, the Ghanaian economy which has been touted as one of the best in Africa, has no room for persons with disability which in other words, even in our economic miracle, we have left persons with disability on the fringes.
Meeting the needs of persons with disability is not a favour the state is doing for them, but an obligation that ought to be conscientiously met. We cannot claim to be fully developed as a country if a significant percentage of our population is left behind.
As political parties put finishing touches to their various manifestoes with some launching or about to launch theirs, there should be a wakeup call on them to incorporate these concerns into the programmes they plan to implement if they win power.
The parties should move away from the tokenism that has characterized past responses to the concerns of the disability community.
For instance, where one or two persons with disability employed by the state are projected as an example of the state’s commitment to addressing disability issues.
This time, there should be a systemic shift to an era, where disability issues are addressed holistically across the socio-economic spectrum.
It is said that how well a country is developed is measured by how well it treats its population who are underprivileged.
This is the same standard we will be holding our governments, both present and future.
To this instance, all political parties must commit to mainstreaming persons with disability into the wider economy by fully implementing the Persons With Disability Act, 2006 to ensure they live in dignity as Ghanaians.