You are here: HomeNews2011 06 27Article 212170

General News of Monday, 27 June 2011

Source: --

Including The Concerns Of The Deaf In National Development

The Ghana National Association of the Deaf (GNAD) wish to draw the attention of public and private social service institutions about the need to include the concerns of the deaf and hard of hearing persons in national development programs. Issues of concern to the deaf community include but not limited to accessibility to education, employment, and integration of sign language into the healthcare system. The association is not also happy with the rate of stigmatization and prejudice against deaf persons in the country.

As in the case of other persons with disability, ignorance, superstition and negative cultural beliefs have led to the stigmatization and discrimination against deaf and hard of hearing persons. In many Ghanaian communities the deaf is often looked down upon and even called with derogatory names. At both the family and community levels, owing to communication barrier, deaf members are not included in decision making process, neither are they included in socio-political and economic activities thereby leading to their isolation. With regards to education, GNAD wish to emphasize that the inclusion of Deaf students in mainstream schools must be accompanied by a supportive environment including the provision of sign language interpreters or assistive technology devices that could enhance communication. This is because inclusion as a simple placement of students with disability in a regular school without meaningful interaction is tantamount to exclusion of the Deaf from education and society. In such environments, the Deaf student is physically present but may be mentally and socially absent. Provisions must therefore be made to ensure to make all levels of education accessible to deaf students. In the area unemployment, even though it is a general economic problem, the situation is significantly worse among the deaf and persons with disability as a whole. The 2007 Ghana Human Development Report (HDR 2007) for instance indicated that the unemployment rate for PWDs is 31 percent while that of non-disabled persons is 19.8 percent. While the National Disability Act (715) seeks to promote the employment of persons with disability (PWDs) it falls short of an affirmative action. It would be more appropriate to include a provision in the law that could guarantee a minim quota of about five (5) percent of all public sector employment opportunities for qualified persons with disability. With such a provision the government could take the lead and set a good example for the private sector to emulate.

In quest to reduce unemployment among the deaf, it would also be imperative to support vocational training and sustainable livelihood projects for the deaf. Since most of the deaf are in the informal sector financial institutions should not shun away from supporting those who need micro-credit to set up their own business. It is also equally difficult for deaf persons to access healthcare in Ghana partly due to communication barrier. In many instances deaf persons are misdiagnosed and prescribed inappropriate medication leading to undue complications and preventable deaths. This is because there is no provision for sign language interpreters within the health care delivery system. In response to this problem adequate sign language interpreters could be trained and placed at the regional and major district hospitals across the country. Another solution is a remote/video sign language interpretation services through which interpretation Services can be offered by interpreters anywhere without their physical presence. In order to protect the legal rights of deaf persons in the country it is incumbent on the law enforcement agencies, to make their services more accessible to the deaf, especially at the law courts. For instance, in January 2010 a 15 year old deaf girl was raped a Kaneshi. Even though the case was reported to the police, lack of accessibility to a sign language interpreter and assistive technology device to enhance communication with the deaf girl has delayed the investigation of the case. In accordance with the National Disability Act (715), the Judicial Service and the Police administration must take the necessary steps to make their services accessible to all PWDs.

The Deaf are often restricted from participation in socio-political activities as information transmitted through the electronic media is not accessible to them as a result of the communication barrier. The deaf community therefore call on all TV stations to make their programs more accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing persons in the country. This can be done through the infusion of captions or subtitles and integration of sign language interpretation in TV programs.

In the realm of sports and culture, existing legislations mandates the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the District Assemblies and the National Commission on Culture to ensure that through the provision of adequate facilities, programmes and incentives, persons with disability have access to sports and cultural events. In spite of this provision, deaf sports and recreation has never received any attention from any of the above mentioned agencies.

GNAD wish to emphasize that good intensions alone are not enough. The existing policies and laws must be implemented to ensure inclusive society for all. The deaf and all other Persons with disability have the same right as other members of society. Mainstreaming requires that disability aspects are included in all relevant policy formulation and implementation and not treated separately. Finally, GNAD entreat the general public to change the negative perception about the deaf and desist from discrimination and stigmatization because disability is a social construction reinforced through barriers created by society.


Emmanuel Sackey

(Executive Director)