The gorge between the promises, policy statements on one hand and the situation on the ground is perhaps the most explicit indicator of the state?s attitude to the interest of the disabled population.

This state of affairs goes beyond the declarations at official functions, political party rallies and in party manifestoes.

This is the story, crisp and vivid but mind boggling and heartbreaking.

On July 19, the Institute for Democratic Governance, a think tank, organised a National Summit at the Banquet Hall, State House, Accra on the theme: ?Justice, peace, and reforms will strengthen Ghana.?

It was indeed a very important event. All categories of persons in Ghana including persons with disability (PWDs) were invited.

Off course PWDs passed through their various gaits.  Some arrived, using wheelchairs and crutches and other aids only to be confronted with a looming challenge.

The problem was the superstructure, which is the Banquet Hall.

Mr Francis Asong, Director of Voice Ghana, a disability advocacy and capacity building organisation, headquartered in Ho, Volta Region arrived at the event grounds with his crutches.

He told the Ghana News Agency that he had to climb 38 steps, inching backwards, to the touted public facility for the state.

As he laboured up on the steps backwards, while others floated past, Mr Asong said: ?I felt as if I was reliving the experience of my ancestors under, the wicked despot Agorkorli of Notsie.?

The Ewes of present day Ghana were said to have broken out of the bondage of the headstrong chief, Agorkorli at Nortsie in present day Togo, walking backwards for a while to confuse pursuers.

Mr Asong?s experience again brings into focus the issue of how people with disabilities are faring in the light of a supposed new era enabled by the Disability Act.

Parliament enacted the Persons with Disability Act 2006, (Act 715), which stipulated that within the period of 10 years of passing of the law that is by 2016 those who provide services at public places must make it easy for PWDs by providing appropriate facilities that make the place accessible to and available for use by them.

Section 6 of the Act, stipulates that ?the owner or occupier of a place to which the public has access shall provide appropriate facilities that make the place accessible to and available for use by a Person with Disability.

Section 7 of the Act also stipulates that ?a person who provides service to the public shall put in place the necessary facilities that make the service available and accessible to a Person with Disability?.

Section 39 under the Miscellaneous Provisions of the Act indicates that ?a person or institution which organises a national, regional or district activity, shall as far as practicable ensure that facilities are made available for the participation in the activity by persons with disability?.

Mr Asong and Mr Kofi Tenasu Gbedemah, Executive Director of Institute for Information and Development, also a social protection NGO, also based in Ho, said in a joint statement that they find it very sad that seven years into the passage of the PWD Act, the state has not found it necessary to implement the  law.

?What would the state expect from other sections of society that should also provide those facilities to people with disability? Can the state hold them accountable for not making their facilities accessible to and available for use by persons with disability,? the two quizzed?

They added: ?We think our members of parliament who enacted this law must sit-up? and start the discussion for making public buildings in Ghana accessible to all including persons with disabilities by 2016.?

The implementation of the Disability Act is linked to the total development of the country and so the commitment must therefore go beyond platform statements on some special days such as that by Dr Henry Seidu Daanaa, Minister of Chieftaincy and Traditional Affairs, on the last Disability Day activities.

He appealed to stakeholders to continue exploring and working to find solutions to challenges that PWDs face.

Indeed government must show commitment by providing the budget to pursue programmes and projects to facilitate the process.

By Sepenyo Dzokoto
Source: GNA


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