Disability is a natural occurrence. It comes from the interplay of several environmental and individual factors with health disorders. The definition of “disability” and who can be considered a “disabled” person has been a sensitive topic.
Persons with disabilities (PWDs) is a general phrase that refers to those who, in comparison to people without disabilities, have some sort of functional limitation and may consequently require or utilize an assistive device in order to accomplish daily activities.
That said, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) however, defines people with disabilities as “include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments, which in combination with various barriers may prevent their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”.
In Ghana, according to Ghana’s Persons with Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715), a person with a disability is defined as “an individual who has a physical, mental, or sensory impairment, including a functional disability of the visual, hearing, or speech that results in physical, cultural, or social barriers that substantially limit one or more of that individual’s major life activities” (p.17).
People with disabilities are among the most vulnerable members of their communities all across the world. Thus, according to a WHO; UN (2022) report, 16% of the world’s population, or 1.3 billion individuals, are thought to have a major disability: a majority of whom live in developing countries (World Health Organization, 2011).
In Africa, for instance, 80 million people are thought of as being disabled. Likewise in Ghana, data from the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) shows that 8% of Ghana’s population representing some 2.4 million persons have some form of disability as compared to 3% in 2010. These figures are however rising because of the rise in non-communicable diseases and longer lifespans. A wide range of characteristics, including sex, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, colour, ethnicity, and economic condition, affect the experiences of people with disabilities in their daily life as well as their health needs.
People with disability typically have more limitations in daily functioning than non-disabled people, as well as a shorter lifespan; the data speaks to this. Persons with disabilities have twice the risk of developing conditions such as depression, asthma, diabetes, stroke, obesity or poor oral health. Inaccessible health facilities are up to 6 times more difficult for persons with disabilities. Accessible and affordable transportation is 15 times more difficult to find for people with disabilities than it is for those without impairments.
Health disparities are also caused by unjust circumstances that affect people with disabilities, such as stigma, discrimination, poverty, exclusion from work and education, and obstacles within the healthcare system. That said, in Ghana, having a disability and households that have a person with a disability experience poverty at more than 10% of the rate of other households.
Thus far, the world has fought and advocated so hard for the inclusion of people with disabilities needs in national policies and programs. Despite this considerable lobbying, persons with disabilities continue to face employment and other types of discrimination (Kassah et al., 2004).
In Ghana, when the Persons with Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715) was eventually approved by the Ghanaian Parliament in June 2006, many stakeholders, including persons with disability (PWDs), welcomed it with open arms. PWDs in Ghana were among the fortunate few at the time because the majority of African nations lacked specific disability legislation. This was a dream come true, especially for PWDs in Ghana, giving the long battle that the Ghana Federation of the Disabled (GFD) and other civil society organizations waged to convince the Ghanaian Parliament to pass legislation to implement the provisions of Article 29 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.
The passing of the Act was regarded as a significant turning point in the nation’s human rights debate since it gave rise to the expectation that it would enhance the lives of PWDs and make it possible for them to integrate into society more fully (Oduro, 2009; Eleweke, 2013). The Act covers a variety of topics, including the establishment and duties of a National Council on Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), rights, accessibility, employment, education, transportation, and health care for PWDs. It also contains a few other provisions.
Mitra et al., (2013) discovered that the reasons why persons with disabilities experience disproportionately high rates of poverty include their exclusion from formal and informal education, basic health care, employment, political, and legal processes. As a result, such persons are left with poorer health, fewer marketable skills, reduced self-esteem, and a lack of ability to stand up for their rights (Opoku, Mprah, Dogbe, et al., 2017; Yeo & Moore, 2003).
On a similar note, having a disability is frequently associated with stigma. In Ghana, many families keep disabled relatives hidden from their neighbours within their homes. This is because, disabilities in Ghana have historically been thought to be the result of sorcery, curses, atonement for sins committed against the gods or ancestors, witchcraft, magic, or “juju.” These ideas lead to conflicting attitudes toward disabled people in traditional communities. This restricts how Ghanaian people with disabilities can interact with society.
Disabled persons have a quota to the national agenda.
The world over, people with disabilities deserve their fair share. It is a human rights issue with respect to non-discrimination. Take this for instance: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) specifies in its Article 26 that “All individuals are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the law without any discrimination.”
In this regard, the law must forbid all forms of discrimination and ensure that everyone has access to equal and effective protection from discrimination based on any factor, including race, colour, sex, language, religion, political opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or another status. Additionally, Article 15 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights states that “Everyone shall have the right to work under just and acceptable conditions and shall be compensated fairly for the task performed.”
Moving on, the worldwide society has become aware of these circumstances when people with disabilities lack authority even at the back of all these international and national policies and laws. Away from the “paper works”, countries are now required to take adequate action to guarantee that people with disabilities have the same employment opportunities as people without impairments, per UNCRPD Article 27.
Through self-employment, entrepreneurship, and employment in the public and private sectors, this right obliges nations to develop work opportunities for people with disabilities.
Against all the above, the current state of persons living with disability in Ghana according to a recent stakeholders meeting cited on the Citi Newsroom page, held on Thursday, 28th April 2022, which was organised by the Ghana Disability Forum with the various federations of PWDs in attendance reveals that accessibility barriers in constructed settings, such as in transportation, goods, and services, are among the difficulties PWDs in Ghana confront.
Lack of interagency coordination and inadequate disability support services, as well as non-inclusive education and vocational training that results in lower levels of education and training among people with disabilities, all contribute to misrepresentation and stigma in the workplace.
The Government has executed initiatives in the past that seek to address all the aforementioned. Nonetheless, there is still a considerable lack of formal support for young people with disabilities transitioning from school to work, owing to a lack of awareness and confidence in how to incorporate people with impairments in the workplace.
There is also a mistaken fear of employees with impairments filing legal challenges should their employment not work out for them. Another important issue that PWDs encounter is a lack of support for people with disabilities in securing and maintaining employment due to a lack of knowledge and support for businesses considering hiring people with disabilities.
Perspective helps. The article is an opinion piece aimed at attracting support for Persons with disabilities (PWDs).
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Attipoe, B. (2017). Employment Status of Persons with Disabilities in the Greater Accra Region (Doctoral dissertation, University of Ghana).
Citi Newsroom. (2022, May 2). Xavier Sosu makes case for mandatory minimum employment of Persons with Disabilities. Retrieved from https://citinewsroom.com/2022/05/xavier-sosu-makes-case-for-mandatory-minimum-employment-of-persons-with-disabilities/
Eleweke, C.J. (2013) A Review of the Challenges of Achieving the Goals in the African Plan of Action for People with Disabilities in Nigeria, Disability and Society, Vol. 28(3), pp. 313-323.
Kassah, B. L. L., Kassah, A. K., & Agbota, T. K. (2014). Abuse of physically disabled women in Ghana: Its emotional consequences and coping strategies. Disability and Rehabilitation, 36(8), 665–671. https://doi.org/10.3109/09638288.2013.808272
Mitra, S., Posarac, A., & Vick, B. (2013). Disability and poverty in developing countries: A multidimensional study.
Oduro, F. (2009) The Quest For Inclusion and Citizenship in Ghana: Challenges and Prospects, Citizenship Studies, Vol. 13 (6), pp. 621-639
Opoku, M. P., Swabey, K., Pullen, D., & Dowden, T. (2018). Poverty alleviation among persons with disabilities via United Nations’ sustainable development goals in Ghana: Voices of stakeholders with disabilities. Sustainable Development, 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1002/sd.1899
World Health Organization (2011). World report on disability. Geneva: WHO
Yeo, R., & Moore, K. (2003). Including disabled people in poverty reduction work: “Nothing about us, without us”. World Development, 31(3), 571–590