The Centre for Social Impact Studies (CeSIS) notes with disappointment the failure of successive governments to fully implement key provisions in the Persons With Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715).
The Act, passed in response to concerns by persons with disability that their peculiar circumstances have not been sufficiently addressed by existing laws, policies and programmes, have wide-ranging provisions to address these concerns, and more importantly, assert their constitutional rights as Ghanaians.
It is disappointing that 14 years after the passage of the Act, very little has been done to actualise this very important legislation.
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 plight of persons with a disability now is worse than it was 14 years ago.
Public structures continue to be inaccessible to persons with mobility impairment. Educational institutions continue to construct more than one storey structures without elevators, making access to these structures almost impossible for students with disability.
We note with sadness that authorities in our tertiary institutions are especially guilty of this despicable practice. Most hospitals in the country, particularly in the districts still do not have sign language interpreters to help our brothers and sisters with hearing and speech impairment. Our public transport system does not have room for persons with disability.
There is a recent 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. 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. It is 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.
The Centre for Social Impact Studies (CeSIS), a research and advocacy organisation committed to social justice and equity, wishes to call on all political parties to commit to mainstreaming persons with disability into the wider economy by fully implementing the Persons With Disability Act. This will ensure they live in dignity as Ghanaians. As political parties put finishing touches to their various manifestoes, we wish to call on them to incorporate these concerns into the programmes they plan to implement if they win power.
CeSIS proposes that the parties move away from the tokenism that has characterised 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 we call for a systemic shift to an era where disability issues are addressed holistically across the socioeconomic 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.