Stakeholders in the building construction sector have developed a draft document on accessibility standards in the built environment to improve access and inclusion for persons with disabilities.
According to Mr John Tettey, the Director of Water Resources Works and Housing, when the accessibility design standards finally becomes law, it would guide people who did not provide access ways for the disabled to remodel their facilities and new constructions would have to go by standards.
He said the document had been developed as a result of extensive consultation with a wide range of stakeholders aimed at offering a useful tool for those involved in the design, implementation, supervision and decision-making on various programmes where accessibility was a component.
Mr Tettey said this at the opening of a two-day stakeholder workshop on the draft document. It was organised by the National Council for Persons with Disability with support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa.
He said for some places in the country, people with disabilities could not cross the roads and make use of some facilities so the standards were to help the designers to work according to the specifications and correct things already in the built environment that were not serving the right purpose.
Mr Tettey said the standards would facilitate the enforcement of the provisions in the Disability Act (Act 715 of 2006) and public buildings would have to put all the facilities in place to make them accessible to persons with disabilities.
He said international building codes were reviewed every three years but Ghana?s building regulations had not been reviewed since its development.
He said when the building regulation was reviewed and the standards also were in force, they would be incorporated in the regulations.
Mr Tettey said any one who failed to comply with the standards would have their facilities closed down.
He said per the document, an audit would be conducted and all those not complying would be found out because as at now there were some public places like shopping malls that did not provide space for wheel chairs.
He said the document, which sets the accessibility standards for the built environment, were to be applied during the design, construction, and alteration of such buildings to the extent required by regulations to operationalise the Disability Act 715 of 2006.
?This Accessibility design standard is a document, which sets up requirements for accessibility intended to secure a proper and accessible built environment,? he said.
The standards, according to Mr Tettey, would benefit wheel chair users, people with limited walking/movement abilities, people with visual impairment or low vision, people with hearing impairment, elderly persons, pregnant women, children, and people carrying heavy or cumbersome luggage.
Accessibility is one of the key elements in our disability policies and regulations but has remained largely ignored by civil society, government agencies and partners due to limited enforcement of the laws, minimal advocacy, lack of national accessibility standards and ignorance of the rights to accessibility.
Mr Tettey said the built environment in Ghana was a barrier-free mechanism to allow easy and safe movement function and access for all, regardless of age, sex or condition as the space or set of services could not be accessed by all without obstacles resulting in loss of dignity and independence.
The barrier-free environment enables an individual regardless of disability to access all services with dignity and independence in the built environment, which includes buildings, roads, parks, walkways, gardens and places of leisure services, means of transportation or product of daily use.
?It must be understood that a barrier-free environment goes far beyond just a ramp and has many other necessary aspects including doors and passage widths to floor surface, counter heights, door handle, railings, signage and auditing signal to tactile guides,? he explained.
Mr Seth Attipoe-Denyah, the Chief Executive Officer of Appro-Plant Consult, said in March 2012, the Government ratified the UN-Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
He said Chapter Nine of the Convention, which dealt with accessibility mandated all member states to put in place measures to ensure that services were accessible to PWDs, noting that the accessibility standards was within the existing Laws, and service providers must abide by them accordingly.
Mr Attipoe noted that the standards would become part of the building permitting requirements when it becomes law.
Source : GNA /newsghana.com.gh