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02 January 2017

DRF Coalition urges incoming government to address disability concerns

disabilityThe Disability Right Fund (DRF) coalition has called on the incoming government to review the Disability Act to conform to international standards and ensure the full realisation of rights of Persons with Disability (PWDs).

Members of the coalition-Ghana Federation of Disability Organisations (GFD), Media Caucus on Disability and MindFreedom – also urged the incoming administration led by Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to make disability a top priority in his government.

The Executive Secretary of MindFreedom, Mr Dan Taylor, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency, expressed concern over the inaccessible nature of state institutions providing public services.

He said Persons with Disability, particularly wheelchair users and blind persons, have invariably been cut off from patronising pubic goods and services and this has led to deprivation, widespread discrimination and social stigma.

“Even the Flagstaff House – seat of government – is not accessible to the disabled, yet past governments have espoused claims to fighting the discrimination against the disabled people in our society,” he said.

Mr Yaw Ofori-Debrah, the President of GFD, appealed to Nana Akufo Addo, President-elect, to place disability concerns at the centre of his government’s efforts and introduce the necessary legal and administrative frameworks to adequately protect them.

He said the government ought to device plans that would ensure speedy revision of Ghana’s Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715) to match that of the United Nations convention on rights of PWDs.

Currently, social intervention for PWDs in Ghana includes the three per cent of the Common Fund and various allowances for workers with Disability as well as legal frameworks like the Act 2006 (Act 715) and other interventions on the rights of PWDs.

Mr Ofori-Debrah said: “All these are good initiatives to support PWDs but the implementation are flawed with difficulties. “We want the new government to actually enforce it.”

He said a National Policy on Employment for PWDs was vital to ensure that PWDs with professional qualifications gain employment, particularly into the public sector, because most of them stay back home after school without any hope for job opportunities.

He appealed to the President-elect to appoint PWDs to head some Metropolitan Municipal and District Assemblies as part of deliberate government policies for their participation in the local decision making process and for disability concerns to bell amply on the floor of assemblies’ meeting.

“It is important PWDs are given opportunities to serve in higher positions including ministerial appointments, membership of Council of State and boards of corporations and chief executive positions,” he said.

The PWDs, who fall within another minority or vulnerable group and suffer discrimination, are women and children with disability, but Act 715 fails to deal with this type of discrimination.

The DRF Coalition in August this year led members of the GFD in a protest march through the streets of Accra to petition President John Dramani Mahama for a review of the Disability Act (Act 715) of 2006.

The GFD said it had conducted a gap analysis of the Disability Act 715 and discovered various lapses.

“We documented all these gaps and sent a proposal to the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection for a review of the Act but nothing has been done,” Mr Ofori-Debrah said.

“It pays almost no attention to women and children with disability,” Mrs Rita Kyeremaa Kusi, the Executive Director of GFD, said.

Also very important is inherent right to life, equal to that of others as contained in the UN Convention on Right of Persons with Disabilities but has not been factored in Ghana’s Act.

“Article 11 of the UNCRPD requires states parties to protect and ensure the safety of PWDs in times of situational risk and humanitarian emergencies,” she said: “in times of emergency where evacuation is required for instance, priority is often given to women and children, leaving out disabled people”.

Act 715 provides access of PWDs to judicial proceedings but only as participants and accused persons, but effective access to justice which guarantees protection of the law and fair treatment of vulnerability was not in the Act.

The New Patriotic Party in its 2016 manifesto outlined many interventions to mainstream disability issues in national development agenda.

The party pledged to implement equal employment opportunity policies for inclusive education and appoint PWDs into public offices.

It also said it would pass appropriate Legislative Instruments for the implementation of the Mental Health Act, 2012 (Act 846) and the Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715).

It guaranteed that the National Council on Persons with Disability would be decentralized to enforce the Disability Act.

“The NPP will ensure that children with special needs are not left behind, but are assisted by teachers with the requisite skills in differentiated teaching methods. Whenever possible, facilities will be provided to enable disabled children be integrated within regular schools. Amend the Disability Act to bring it into line with the UN Convention on Disability’’, it added.

 

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