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21.06.2005 Politics

Lack of political will holding up Disability Bill - CDD

GNA

Accra, June 21, GNA - The Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) says lack of political will is one key factor in the reluctance of the authorities to pass the Disability Bill, which cannot be traced.

Professor Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, Associate Director of CDD, at a seminar on Tuesday in Accra to highlight issues on the Bill questioned its whereabouts. He said they did not know exactly why the Bill had not been passed "but we suspect lack of political will." Prof. Gyimah-Boadi said there was a general sense at the time that the nation was ready to fulfil its obligation under the constitution and grant the estimated 1.9 million persons living with disability a dignified way of life. However, somewhere along the line trail went cold and till date it is impossible to even locate it.

Prof. Gyimah-Boadi said government claimed to have issued administrative guidelines to Ministries, Departments and Agencies to address the needs of persons living with disability. This means that persons with disability have to rely on essentially non-binding and undisclosed instructions to access their rights. He described this as an incredible response to the instructions explicitly contained in the Constitution that a law be passed. "It did not talk of administrative guidelines," Prof. Gyimah-Boadi said, pointing out that lack of protection for the disabled was one of the governance deficits noted in the recent African Peer Review Mechanism assessment of Ghana. He, however, noted that he was encouraged by recent promises by the government to revive the Bill, saying Mrs Frema Opare, Deputy Minister for Manpower, Youth Employment had given assurance that the Bill was high on the Ministry's agenda.

However, a great deal of momentum has been lost and much needs to be done now to revive the agenda and to sustain public interest and government's commitment to the enactment of a credible law and enforceable legislation to protect the disabled. He said such a legislation would help Ghana live up to expectation as a human rights compliant and caring society, and would conform to international conventions, standards and best practices. He appealed to the media to help advocate the revival and passing of the Bill, which would help remove all physical, education, employment and attitudinal barriers.

Mr Ofori Debrah, President of the Ghana Association of the Blind, said poverty, deprivation and dejection summed up the plight of a disabled person. He said the authorities seemed insensitive to their plight because since the Bill was drafted and sent to the Attorney-General's Department, it had not been easy tracing it.

Mr Debrah added that the disabled had on several occasions been told the Bill was before Cabinet and at other times that it was with the Ministry of Manpower Development, Youth Employment. He said the disabled also had their sense of humanity and dignity, adding that negative thoughts were so much enhanced with every issue concerning the disabled which education alone could not remove except a legislation.

Mr Debrah reiterated their appeal for training facilities including training institutions and Braille paper adding that the Ministry of Education and Sports should play it fair with the blind person and give them the needed educational environment to raise their standards.

Mr S. K. Asare, National President of the Association of the Deaf, said access to public information, education, sign language interpreter services in hospitals, law enforcement agencies and other service organizations were some of the major challenges facing the association. He noted that the sign language had been left out in the education on the National Health Insurance Scheme on radio and television.

Mr Asare said the association had therefore recommend to the Ministry of Education and Sports to set up an institution in consultation with the association to train sign language interpreters on television stations as a matter of policy.

Mr Christopher K. Kisseih, National President of the Ghana Society of the Physically Challenged, said some 1.9 million citizens were disabled with sight being the highest, which accounted for about 59 per cent, followed by hearing impaired.

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