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Opinions of Sunday, 2 December 2018

Columnist: Cephas Torkonoo

Disability is not inability - Just change your mindset

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Every year, December 3 is celebrated as International Day for Persons with Disability. This annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons was proclaimed in 1992, by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 47/3.

It aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life. But is this really the story? The theme for 2018 International Disability Day is “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”.

The theme seeks to focus on empowering persons with disabilities for an inclusive, equitable and sustainable development as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 2030 Agenda pledges to “leave no one behind”.

The Disability Act 2002 of Ghana seeks to provide for an enabling and friendly environment for persons with disability to live and operate within the society and to provide for the promotion of their security, through appropriate training, adequate technical aides and necessary support services. These aim to increase their capacity to deal with the task and challenges of life in a dignified manner.

The Act also provides for the establishment of a National Council on Persons with Disability (NCD) and to provide for matters related to these. The Act 2002 makes reasonable provisions for Accessibility, Education, Employment, Transportation, Health Care etc. In addition to that, however, there are other laws of the land that must also make provision for persons with disability. For instance, we find ourselves in a global village where technology is everything.

But does the Telecommunications Act of Ghana require the government to make accommodation for people with disabilities in all of its purchases of technology equipment and software? Do our laws also require any news that is produced through radio, television and print into a format that persons with disability, especially the blind and those with hearing impairment, are able to access this information?

Does the law require institutions and organizations such as the hospitals, churches and the police stations that provide social services to have sign language interpreters to assist persons with hearing impairment when they visit these facilities? Does our law require public and private buildings and places to have disabilityfriendly access such as voice alert and braille touch in elevators for the blind and ramps for the physically challenged? Does the law require reasonable provisions when roads and foot bridges are constructed to have disability-friendly access? Does the law require employers to eliminate barriers by providing quota during recruitment?

Does this mean that all persons with disability must be employed by a special organization as in the case of the National Youth Employment Authority? Does the law require reasonable provision for persons with disability to have right to education? Does the right to education mean that all persons with disability must go to their own special schools or provisions must be made to integrate them into mainstream schools? Does the law require writers and authors of publications to make reasonable provisions in the format which the blind can have opportunity to access to their publications? When will legislation in Ghana progressively reduce or eliminate barriers for people with disabilities?

Is the law a curse or blessing for persons with disability? If there are inadequacies in the law that seek to make reasonable provisions for people with disability and if we do not provide for them, then there is no fairness or equality and definitely we will leave behind such persons with disability and the need to empower them for an inclusive, equitable and sustainable development will elude us . The pledge of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – “leave no one behind “will just be a talk-shop!

All the questions above need answers and as we celebrate the International Day for Persons with Disability, I challenge our legislators and policy makers to take a step back to enact laws and regulations that will consider the empowerment, equality and inclusiveness of people with disability in Ghana.” Disability is not inability. It is just a change of mindset and determination. No wonder, many disabled people have made wonderful inroads in their various spheres of life, the author of this article, being a classic example!

By: Positive Ideas International Foundation [PIIF], an equal rights and diversity advocates

Contact: 0244645689

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