Where is the Disability Bill?
Members of the Ghana Federation of the Disabled (GFD) have cried out that they cannot trace the whereabouts of the disability bill ever since it was sent to parliament for consideration. They are therefore urging government as well as parliament to locate the bill and pass it into law without further delays.
The call came after the Federation had made several attempts to check the status of the bill at both the legislature and cabinet level, which turned out fruitless. GFD said he passing of the draft disability bill into law would give some protection to the disabled persons and enable them act as partners in development.
They are also appalled that ever since the draft bill was floated in 2002, not much effort has been made to see the bill become law. The GFD expressed these sentiments at a media sensitization seminar on the Disability Bill in Accra. The seminar was co-organized by the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) and the Center for the Development of People (CEDEP).
The GFD members, made up of the Ghana Association of the Blind (GAB), the Ghana National Association of the Deaf (GNAD), the Ghana Society of the Physically Disabled (GSPD) and parents of children with intellectual disability are also worried that there seems to be no national effort at eliminating discrimination against disabled persons.
The President of the Ghana Association of the Blind, Mr. Yaw Ofori-Debrah said in today’s society, the disabled have become bedfellows of poverty, deprivation, destitution, dejection, frustration and hopelessness. He blamed the situation on societal neglect, arguing, “To be disabled is not an equation to incapability.”
The Executive Secretary of CDD Ghana, Professor Gyimah-Boadi in welcoming the participants noted that the need for the Bill, which seeks to protect the interest of people with disability, is long overdue. He added that article 29 of the 1992 constitution provides the framework for such a bill. He noted that under the directive principles of state policy, the state is duty bound to protect all persons including the disabled.
The National President of the Ghana National Association of the Deaf, Mr. S. K Asare was not happy that disabled persons, including the deaf have had their opportunities blunted as a “result of society’s perception that disability is inability.” He observed as unfortunate the inability of the disabled, especially the deaf, to access public information and higher education as a result of the lack of sign language interpreters in public places including the hospitals, law enforcement agencies and in the universities.
He said the deaf are capable of anything aside hearing and speaking clearly and opined that these constraints could be overcome if society as a whole were sensitive to the needs of the deaf.
He held the Ghanaian Society as responsible for the gross ignorance on the part of the deaf, citing issues relating to the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) buttress his point. He said though information about the NHIS is being circulated daily on the televisions and radio stations for the good of all Ghanaians “sign language, which is the only medium of communication of the deaf, is conspicuously missing.”
Counting further the problems confronting the deaf particularly in the area of education. Mr. Asare noted that of all the numerous educational institutions in the country, only two secondary schools in the country have sign language facility where the deaf can access education.
He said the deaf are virtually denied access to tertiary education since no single university in the country today has facility for sign language interpretation and note taking. Mr. Asare said the situation is not any different in job openings. He noted that even where the deaf holds the relevant qualifications for a particular job opening, society turns around after failing to make provisions for sign language communication, to use it as constraint in denying them employment.
The above, he noted, applies not only to the deaf, but also to all persons who in one way or the other are disabled. He said the disability bill is a human rights issue and must be seen as such. It is hoped therefore that when the disability bill becomes law, it would compel policy makers to pay adequate attention to all persons who are disabled.
“Television stations, as a matter of policy, should include sign language in all informative and educational programs,” he said adding, “The Ministry of Education should also set up institutions to train sign language interpreters.”
Source: Public Agenda