07 Nov Disabling Ignorance of Disability in Ghana
In the words of Stella Young, “My disability exists not because I use a wheelchair, but because the broader environment isn’t accessible”.
As a disabled person myself, this quote resonates with my reality. I am visually impaired in a way that inhibits my ability to read and see objects from afar (myopia). Disability is considered an evolving concept.
Section 59 of the Persons with Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715) (the “Act”), defines a person with a disability as “an individual with a physical, mental, or sensory impairment including a visual, hearing, or speech functional disability that gives rise to physical, cultural or social barriers that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of that individual”.
The Constitution of Ghana specifically provides that disabled people must be protected against exploitation and discrimination. They are also entitled to certain incentives and benefits under the Act to ease their living conditions. However, in this article, I seek to highlight the disparity between the allocations and provisions available under the law and the current state of affairs in Ghana.
The Act explicitly makes provisions to alleviate the burden of these “vulnerable” classes of society but many a time, it appears that the objectives are not realized. In the education sector, it is an obligation for the government to provide free education for persons with disability. The government is also expected to establish special schools for disabled persons who cannot be enrolled in formal schools as a result of their disability.
The Act further mandates the Ministry of Education to designate public technical, vocational, and teacher training institutions in each region that should include in their curriculum, braille writing and reading as well as sign language.
In the transportation sector, it is the duty of the Ministry of Transport as well as the Ministry of Local Government to ensure that the needs of persons with disability are taken into account in the design, construction, and operation of transportation networks.
Similarly, within the healthcare sector, the Ministry of Health is mandated by the Act to provide free general and specialist medical care, rehabilitative operation treatment, and appropriate assistive devices for persons with total disability. People who provide access to public places and services also have the responsibility of ensuring that these places and services are available and accessible to persons with disabilities.
Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the National Council on Persons with Disability to propose and evolve policies and strategies to enable persons with disabilities to enter and participate in the mainstream of the national development process.
It is fair to say however that the clear legal framework is not reflected in our daily lives. Rather, there appears to be a rapid increase in buildings and infrastructure in the country without any consideration for persons with disability.
We see widespread exclusion in relation to education, healthcare, and transportation for persons with disabilities, putting them at a great disadvantage. The real problem lies not in the disability itself but in the lack of inclusion of such people in society primarily influenced by some cultural stereotypes and perceptions.
There is an urgent need for political will to promote the rights of persons with disability and the relevant state agencies must intensify their efforts to ensure that these vulnerable persons are protected and properly integrated into society despite their challenges. Persons with disability should be fully equipped to actively participate in societal development.
We can start by enforcing the existing laws we have in place. The issue of disability and the need for inclusion should be one of utmost importance, embedded in the national agenda.
Blunders may have been committed in the past, but there is still an opportunity to enforce these laws and do right by advancing the rights of persons with disabilities and the citizenry at large. Perhaps only then can we truly experience a positive change in societal attitudes, in accommodating and enabling persons with disability to achieve their potential.
ELSIE EYRAM AKUBIA
2023 SUMMER INTERN
 1992 Constitution of Ghana, Article 29(4)
 Persons with Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715), Section 18(1)
 Ibid, Section 18(2)
 Ibid, Section 21
 Ibid, Section 23
 Ibid, Section 31
 Ibid, Sections 6 and7
 Ibid, Section 42