PLIGHT OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES FOLLOWING COMMEMORATION OF 2019 INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES YESTERDAY.
The annual observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities was proclaimed in 1992 by United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3. It aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted in 2006, has further advanced the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other international development frameworks.
This year’s event is themed: Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda. This year, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities focuses on the empowerment of persons with disabilities for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development as anticipated in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which pledges to ‘leave no one behind’ and recognizes disability as a cross-cutting issues, to be considered in the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs. Disability is referenced in various parts of the SDGs and specifically in parts relating to education, growth and employment, inequality, accessibility of human settlements, as well as data collection and monitoring of the SDGs. According to the World Health Organisation, persons with disabilities, PWDs comprise some 15 per cent of the world’s population. With an estimated number of 3 million persons living with one form of disability or another, the Government of Ghana ratified the Disability Rights Convention on 21 st August 2012 to become the 119 the country to sign onto the protocol. Article 29 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana also guarantees the Rights of Disabled Persons. The Persons with Disability Act passed by the Parliament of Ghana in 2006 further reiterates the rights of PWDs. With all these laws available to promote the wellbeing of PWDs, people have wondered how committed Ghana is in ensuring the full implementation and adherence to its laws on disabilities? One may ask, how many persons with disabilities are either elected or appointed to political positions? How much support is given to Persons with Disabilities to function effectively at the workplace? And how many sign language interpreters are employed in major hospitals to assist persons with hearing impairment?
As we look forward to the future in Ghana, the most significant barrier that people with disabilities still face is not only getting easy access to public buildings but also, the refusal to accommodate them especially in terms of employment and education. Access to Legal Education especially access to professional legal training for PWDs is fraught with systemic challenges. For the second year running, all visually impaired persons who sat for the law entrance examinations to pursue the professional course have been unsuccessful. Last year, three persons sat for the exams and this year the same number took the exams, but none was admitted. It has become very frustrating and discouraging for other students with disability pursuing the law programme at the various faculties. With all the unresolved challenges confronting PWDs in the country, it is not clear whether the future is indeed accessible for PWDs.
In the spirit of this year’s International Day of Disabled Persons, we humbly appeal to the General Legal Counsel of Ghana to consider an affirmative action that will give a special admission concession to students with disabilities who have successfully obtained LLBs. Such a deliberate action will lend credence to Ghana’s action plan tailored at achieving Sustainable Development Goal Four that addresses inclusive education. It is often said that no person has a disability instead, disability is created by society and the systems in place. Ghana, therefore, needs to improve its systems to provide opportunities for PWDs and make life more comfortable for them. If this is done, the future will be accessible to them and they will be able to achieve anything they set their minds to. As the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, puts it quote “When we secure the rights of people with disabilities, we move closer to achieving the central promise of the 2030 Agenda-to leave no one behind.” Unquote. Tomorrow may never come so, if there is any other thing to do for persons with disabilities, then it must be done today and now.
BY CARRUTHERS TETTEH, A PARALEGAL AT GRACE CHAMBERS, WINNEBA.