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Feature Article of Thursday, 8 November 2012

Columnist: Badu, K.

‘We Are Disabled; So Are We Not Part Of the Nation Building?

The constitution of Ghana states emphatically: “The recognition that the most secure democracy is the one that assures the basic necessities of life for its people as a fundamental duty”. The constitution again stipulates: “Steps will be taken to ensure the protection and promotion of all other basic human rights and freedoms, including the rights of the disabled, the aged, children and other vulnerable groups in development processes”. Needless to say, the successive governments have woefully failed to include the disabled in the nation building.

Theoretically, disabled people in Ghana constitute impoverished and marginalised group, and, characterised by lack of access to public health, education, and other social services that would in hindsight support and protect them. Regrettably though, our politicians are not doing enough to include the disabled in the nation building. For instance, if we peruse the manifestoes of the parties vying for power in the forthcoming elections, we can see that there are no expedient or advantageous policies to include the disabled in the nation building. In short, our politicians do not see disabled people as valuable members of the society, hence refusing to intervene in the hardships being faced by the disabled in the society.

It is important to note that disabilities can be permanent, temporary, or episodic. That is, disabilities can affect people from birth, or could be acquired later in life through injury or illness. The World Health Organisation (WHO), for instance, estimates that approximately 650 million people, or 10% of the world’s population, have a disability. In the same vein, the disability welfare groups in Ghana estimate that there are between 7-10% PWDs, representing about 1.55-2.2 million people. Clearly, then, it is inexcusable for the society to sideline the disabled in the nation building, notwithstanding the fact that, one does not become disabled volitionally or chooses to have no eyesight for instance.

In spite of the fact that the 1992 constitution of Ghana, under Article 29(4) stipulates that "Disabled persons shall be protected against all exploitations, all regulations and all discriminations and abusive or degrading nature”, the framework has not helped to ameliorate the hardships being faced by disable people. Needless to say, the Parliament of Ghana enacted the Disability Discrimination Act in 2006, though its full implementation is yet to be seen.

Despite the promulgation of the Disability Discrimination Act to include disabled people in the nation building, disabled people still remain marginalised and not being accepted as integral and productive members of the society. Even when they are in the spotlight, the focus is primarily on their disabilities. In actual fact, the society astoundingly views disabled people as “potential problem”.

It is important to note that, “disability does not mean shiftlessness”. Of course, if disabled people are given the opportunity, most disabled can contribute meaningfully to the society. Someone may not have a leg to walk; an eye to see; a hand to lift objects etc. nonetheless, might still have something to contribute to the society. In this regard, does it make sense to exclude them from the nation building? Big No!
Sadly, the estimated 10% of people who are disabled in Ghana face total alienation. “No country can afford to turn its back on 10% of its population.” –UNESCO/UNICEF, 1997. Disappointingly though, disabled people in Ghana have been facing exclusions from the broad spectrum of the nation building unnecessarily.

Of course, most disabled people have subtle minds or individual consciousness, and can equally contribute to the nation building with meaningful help and support. However, they are not able to contribute meaningfully because, they lack the required help and support from all and sundry to do so.

It is worth pointing out that the solution to the disabled quagmire in Ghana is not a mere showering of coins and meagre notes, suffice it to say, the problem can be mollified through implementation of advantageous policies that can ensure disabled people get employable skills in the society. This can be achieved through ‘supported employment programmes’ in the form of disabled ultra modern workshops. I will therefore urge all the political parties to amend their manifestoes and include ‘free training for the disabled’.

K. Badu, UK.

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