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06.09.2005 General News

Disability Law to be passed in the next session of Parliament


Accra, Sept. 6, GNA - Mrs Akosua Frema Osei-Opare, Deputy Minister of Manpower, Youth and Employment, on Tuesday said the Disability Bill would be passed into Law during the next session of Parliament, which begins next month. She said some aspects of the needs of the physically challenged would be costly but the nation needed to find creative ways of dealing with such challenges. "What does it cost to lower a few phone booths in public places so that a person in a wheelchair can make a telephone call on his or her own. How many bags of cement and sand do you need to make a ramp to a building?" Mrs Osei-Opare asked. Mrs Osei-Opare was addressing the opening session of a day's stakeholders' Forum on "Facilitating the Passage of the Disability Bill: The Role of the Private Sector." in Accra. The Forum to collate inputs to revise the draft Bill, was attended by members of the Ghana Federation of the Physically Disabled (GFPD), Private Sector Operators, Human Rights Institutions and legal practitioners.

Mrs Osei-Opare said as a nation committed to human resource development, Ghana could not afford to leave most of its human resource not fully tapped, and called on the private sector to join forces with the Government to ensure that the physically challenged were given the opportunity to contribute their quota to national development. Referring to the Children's Act, Act 560, and the Labour Act, Act 651, enacted in 2003, Mrs Osei-Opare said were existing laws, which could have been implemented to make a headway towards mainstreaming the physically challenged in national development.

Professor Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, Executive Director of the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), said passage of the Bill was obligatory under the country's Constitution.

"The rights guaranteed under that constitutional provision are aimed at removing physical, educational, employment and attitudinal barriers against the 1.9 million Ghanaians with disability." He added.

Professor Gyimah-Boadi said CDD-Ghana, which organised the forum, said the Centre recognised the need to expand the circle of consultation and input mobilisation to cover other key stakeholders, especially the private sector.

This, he said, would help to minimise resistance to the legislation and enhance the prospects of compliance once it was enacted. Mr Yaw Ofori-Debrah, President of the Ghana Association of the Blind, said enactment of the law would safeguard the physically challenged against abuse of their rights.

Mr Ofori-Debrah appealed to employers to offer jobs to qualified but physically challenged.

Mr Nicholas Halm, Advocacy Officer of the GFPD, criticised traditional beliefs that made children with disabilities receive less care, and barred from taking traditional leadership roles. He identified lack of awareness, inadequate information, facilities, education and employment opportunities as banes of the physically challenged.

Mr Halm called for clarification of the manner in which employers would be compelled to employ or hire the physically challenged under the bill.

Mr Victor Amamoo, a Director at the Ministry of Roads and Transport, a physically challenged, called for intensification of education on the six childhood killer diseases and proper supervision to reduce the rate of poliomyelitis infection in rural communities.