Mr Eric Ofori, Director of New Horizon Foundation of the Blind (NHFB) has said prejudices, stigma and discrimination and failure of society to accommodate the needs of persons with disability (PWDs) constituted physical barriers to accessibility of the visually impaired.
He said this challenge was mostly attributed to the social environment and culture, which needed transformation to the benefit of the disabled.
Mr Ofori said this at the International White Cane Safety Day, organized by the NHFB in conjunction with the Ghana Blind Union and the Sentinel Lions Club of Ho on the theme, “The White Cane: Sight for the Blind, Symbol of Independent and Inclusive Amid the Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic.”
The event is to create awareness among the public to appreciate the rights of persons with visual impairment to freedom of movement, enabling them to feel and explore the environment as they continued to engage in their daily activities.
He said the highlight of the event was to demand the inclusion of PWDs, which implied the provision of fully accessible barrier-free environment, information and other forms of support for persons with visual impairment in all spheres of development.
The Director said the visually impaired was badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in the country by observing the safety protocols especially the social distancing in the family setting, disruption in their education and the rehabilitation support services, welfare and economic frustrations and free movement as a result of the restrictions instituted to contain the virus.
Mr Ofori reminded all parties that Article 20 of the Conventions of the Rights of PWDs state parties shall take effective measures to ensure personal mobility with the greatest possible independence for PWDs facilitating the personal mobility of PWDs in a manner and at a time of their choice and at affordable cost and creating access for PWDs to quality mobility aids, devices, assistive technologies including; making them available at affordable cost.
He said these “provisions specified above require our support to achieve our desired objectives and outcomes and appealed to all stakeholders to demonstrate commitment to the collective efforts in an atmosphere of a multi-
sectoral collaboration to ensure these rights as enshrined in the laws and conventions are promoted and protected.”
“These can happen through strategic planning in advocacy and lobbying by the key institutions in mobilising the available resources at the community, local, district or municipal and regional levels to make the visually impaired and their family product of development.”
Mr Ofori appealed to political parties and their supporters to exercise maturity in their campaigning for a peaceful election and urged the Electoral Commission to the elections activities more inclusive for persons with disability to vote independently.
“We want to say a big no to violence in this period of our elections as citizens of Ghana.”
Mr Cyril Xatse, Human Resource Manager of Volta Regional Coordinating Council (VRCC) said the government would continue to partner and support the GBU and other Vulnerable groups in the nation.
Mr Prince Akonnor, President, Volta Regional branch of Ghana Blind Union (GBU) called on the public to respect the white cane and offer the visually impaired the necessary support to earn a decent living. He said the cane was a tool that made lives easier for the visually impaired.
Mama Sewa Fenu III, Queenmother of Taviefe-Avenyah in the Ho Municipality, presiding said that due to interventions of stakeholders and individuals, many visually impaired persons were independent and held in the development of the nation.
She said the occasion was a good platform to celebrate with the visually impaired and encourage them to be productive in their diverse profession despite their predicament. Sentinel Lions Club of Ho donated 25 white canes to the GBU.