Dr. Louisa Hannah Bisiw, Deputy Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, has noted with regret that in-spite of the policies and numerous educational mechanisms initiated to advance the political and socio-economic well-being of the disabled, many Ghanaians still spite and neglect them.
“Some believe that disabled persons are unintelligent, incompetent, lazy, unproductive and unfit to be in society”, she stated and expressed concern about the fact that most of the disabled were denied their basic rights such as rights to education, employment, accommodation, sustenance and in some worst cases, their right to use the family name.
The Deputy Minister was speaking at a durbar to officially open the 31st national biennial congress and anniversary celebration of the Ghana Society of the Physically Disabled (GSPD) in Sunyani on Thursday.
The three-Day congress, which is being attended by more than 1,500 members of the association, is on the theme: “Promoting equal opportunities for enhanced empowerment and participation of people with disability in Ghana – the need for accessible physical environment”.
Dr. Bisiw gave the assurance that the Ministry and for that matter the government would enforce existing laws and design policies to promote equality, ensure inclusion and guarantee the fullest participation of all persons with disabilities in national development.
Mr. Antwi Bosiako Sekyere, Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Welfare (MESW), disclosed that the MESW in collaboration with rLG, a communications firm, is to launch a national programme to promote economic opportunities for Persons Living With Disability (PLWD) in the country.
Under the programme, which will take-off by the end of September 2011, more than 5000 persons living with various forms of physical disability will be trained in Information Communication Technology (ICT); mobile phones as well as computer repairing and assembling.
According to him, the programme would enhance the living standards of people with disabilities and also empower them to contribute meaningfully to national development.
Mr. Sekyere noted that currently, there were about 2.5 million Ghanaians live with various forms of disabilities and that the government was determined to integrate them into the mainstream of national life.
He explained that government had also directed all Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies to open separate bank accounts for the two per cent of the District Assemblies Common Fund set aside for persons with disabilities.
Mr. Sekyere said the move was to enable PLWD to have full access to the fund.
He stated that assemblies which would fail to comply with the directives “will be taken to task”.
The Deputy Minister explained that the issue of a “barrier-free environment” for PLWDs was well recognized as a key prerequisite for the early and full integration of people with disabilities into the community.
Mr. Sekyere said the Persons with Disability Act 2006, (Act 715) was aimed at promoting equal opportunities, enhance, empower and seek the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities irrespective of gender, age, or type of disability.
He noted with regret that despite the efforts of government to create a conducive environment for participation of persons with disabilities in all spheres of life, there were still difficulties in terms of accessing the physical infrastructure as most buildings did not have facilities such as ramps, elevators, among others.
Mr. Sekyere disclosed that the Ministry in collaboration with other organised bodies of PLWDs had taken steps to put in place a Legislative Instrument to facilitate the smooth implementation of the provisions of Act 715.
Cabinet has already accepted the Legislative Instrument and has placed it before Parliament for debate and approval at the next parliamentary sitting, he stated.
Mr. Joseph Adu-Boampong, National President of the GSPD, said the association was established in 1980 with three people and currently had a total membership of 10,000.
He stated that since its establishment 31 years ago, members had faced a lot of challenges in the areas of societal attitudes on discrimination, education, employment and health, among others.
Mr. Adu-Boampong said people with disabilities had particular health needs including physiotherapy services, corrective surgery, adaptation and care support services as well as assistive gadgets such as wheelchairs and calipers.
He noted with regret that the National Health Insurance Scheme did not cater for these health needs and appealed to the government to take a second look and also consider registering all persons with disability under the scheme free of charge.
The National President stated that there had been problems with the disbursement of their two per cent share of the District Assembly Common Fund despite the guidelines for its disbursement and appealed to the Assemblies to always ensure due process was ensured instead of some Assemblies using their own discretion.
Touching on next year’s general election, Mr. Adu-Boampong appealed to politicians to organise their campaigns devoid of insults and any activity that would bring rancour, tension and disturbances into the country.
“In such situations, persons with disabilities are the most vulnerable”, he stated, adding, “We cannot run away from our community to neighboring countries as that was the case of situation in Cote d’Ivoire”.