Today marks exactly eleven years when the Disability Act, Act 715, which was passed by the Parliament of Ghana on Thursday, June 23, 2006 received the President’s assent, and one year of the expiration of the transitional clause.
The transitional provision, (section 60), gives a grace period of ten years to owners of public buildings predating the Act to modify and make them accessible and available for use by persons with disabilities.
This provision expired on August 9, last year. But what do we see today? Public places including the parliament house where this law was made are still inaccessible to persons with disabilities.
The Act preceded the construction of major roads across the country, Community Day Senior High Schools and many more public places yet they are not accessible to persons with disabilities.
The national standards authority took ten years to develop accessibility standards which were launched just as the moratorium was expiring. This has provided a haven for individuals and corporate bodies including government entities breaching Act 715 and other legislations and policies intended to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities.
In section 18, the Act provided that the government shall provide free education for a person with disability, and establishes special schools for persons with disability who by reason of their disability cannot be enrolled in mainstream schools; school authorities cannot refuse admission of a person because of his or her disability but these are not entirely happening in Ghana now.
Healthcare delivery and public transport services are also still not accessible to the average person with disability. Persons with hearing impairment most of the time spend unreasonable time at health facilities without accessing the services due to communication barriers. Persons with physical disability are mostly denied access to “trotro” buses or are forced to pay for two or more extra seats for their wheelchairs or guides/personal assistants.
Section 9 of the Act states “the Ministry shall through the public employment centres, assist to secure jobs for persons with disability”, and section 10 emphasizes that the government shall grant a person who employs a person with disability an annual tax rebate of the taxable income in respect of each person with disability employed as shall be prescribed in Regulations made under the Act.
The Act also stipulates that government shall grant special incentives to persons with disability engaged in business and to business organizations that employ persons with disability. This provision is also not complied with.
Ghana is among the first countries that signed and ratified the United Nations Conventions on the rights of persons with disabilities and its optional protocols; the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2006. The Convention sets out the obligations of States Parties to promote, protect and ensure the rights of all people with disabilities and promotes equal rights in all areas of life.
Ratifying the Convention means that Ghana as a state has accepted the obligation to modify existing laws and policies, as well as make new ones to comply with the Convention.
From the above-mentioned issues, it is clear that Ghana still has a long way to go in ensuring full inclusion and effective participation of persons with disabilities in the Ghanaian society.
GFD therefore calls on government and relevant stakeholders to fully support disability rights advocacy in Ghana to ensure that the provisions of our laws on disability are fully complied by all citizens.
Ghana Federation of Disability Organisations (GFD)