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Fifth African Forum on blindness opens in Accra

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The 5th African Forum on Blindness, on the theme, “Access Africa”, began in Accra on Monday.

It will provide a platform for networking and facilitate communication and knowledge sharing among persons with visual disabilities.

The six-day forum being organised by the African Union of the Blind (AFUB), in collaboration with the Ghana Blind Union (GBU), would also discuss the impact of modern Information and Communication Technology (ICT) services available to the blind and partially sighted persons on the continent.

Participants are from Africa, as well as other international partners, including USA, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Denmark, Canada, Sweden, the Netherlands, India, Scotland, Portugal, Norway, Switzerland and Australia.

Mr Yaw Ofori Debra, President of GBU, addressing the opening session said, it had become critical for governments to enhance necessary provisions and legislations, to protect rights of the blind and partially sighted persons on the continent.

He argued that with the current fast growing technological world, the blind and partially sighted persons felt left behind because of the numerous challenges that confronted them.

Mr Debra mentioned some of the challenges as the lack of access to public infrastructure, quality education, ICT programmes and learning materials, as well as lack of access to public sector programmes.

He explained that these challenges often hampered their development, leading to a hike in the unemployment rate among the blind and partially sighted persons on the continent.

Mr Debra called on civil society to hold their governments responsible to develop positive policies to enhance the development of vulnerable people in the society.

Mr Enoch Teye Mensah, Minister of Employment and Social Welfare, acknowledged the importance of exploiting the full benefit of social inclusion, saying Ghana already had various legislations and declarations, which included the Disability Act that protected and respected the rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“These include access to education, employment, health services, family and community life,” he added.

The Sector Minister however stated that inspite of the comprehensive nature of the law and wide-ranging protection it had offered to the blind and partially sighted persons.

“They would only be effective when the challenges of skills in managing disability issues at all levels are surmounted.”

“Currently, we are confronted with weak institutions in implementing provisions of the Disability Act,” he added.

Mr Mensah pointed out that there was the need to have people, who understood the issues, manning the post at every level of the chain of service delivery, and pledged government’s commitment to pursue a national development agenda to prioritise the realisation of the citizen’s rights and entitlements to enhance the nation’s democratic development and constitutional rule.

Source: GNA

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