NEWS COMMENTARY ON INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITY
The annual observance of International Day of Persons with Disability (PWDs)started in 1992 after a proclamation of the UN General Assembly’s resolution 47/3. The day was instituted to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disability in all spheres of society and development and to increase awareness on the situation of persons with disability in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life. The UN puts the number of PWDs to about one billion worldwide This year’s global pandemic has undoubtedly reset the world’s compass on Virtually everything and re-engineered attention on ensuring vulnerable Groups are put at the center of all decision making processes. No wonder The UN is using today’s celebration to building a better: disability-inclusive,
accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 World. Disability inclusion is not about ticking the boxes but inclusion is at the heart of human rights, sustainable development, peace and security. The 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development seeks not to leave anyone behind but ensuring that the rights of persons with disability goes beyond justice; an investment in a common future.
In Ghana, successive governments have built their predecessor’s efforts in ensuring the lives of PWDs are made more bearable. Sadly, though, the quest has been at a rather snail’s pace. The visually, speech and hearing impaired intellectually disabled like the autistic and those suffering from cerebral palsy have to contend with basic things such as easy access to public buildings. Ghana’s Persons with Disability Act, 2006, ACT 715 encapsulates their rights to include: Right to family life and social activities, differential treatment in respect of residence,non-exploitation of and discrimination against a person with disability, access to public places, services and Public employment centers.
These are but a few of the more than 60 rights and provisions captured in ACT 715. The question however remains that how many of such provisions has the state and society ensured their implementation to the letter. Come Monday, Ghanaians of adult suffrage will go to the polls to elect a president and parliamentarians. According to a 2017 Postgraduate research carried out by a student of the University of Ghana, the “Disability Act has no significant influence on the political inclusion of PWDs. There exist a gap between policy and implementation because the Act sets no guidelines for political engagement.” It particularly notes the work of CSOs and specific state institutions in improving electoral participation of PWDs from 2008.
The study also found that “the growing influence of partisan activities in local government elections informs the withdrawal of PWDs from the electoral participation at the grassroots level. Financial support for a party’s preferred candidates makes local electoral participation competitive and burdensome for PWDs due to their low financial status.” On the eve of the voter registration exercise this year, the Electoral Commission engaged the Federation of Disability organizations to ensure no one was excluded from the civic exercise. With the special voting forming the water test for the national exercise next week, the believe is that the EC, NCCE, Ministry for Gender and Social Protection and all allied agencies will leave no stone unturned in getting all registered PWDs to cast their ballot next week. In the spirit of compassion and the proverbial hospitality of the Ghanaian, it would be most welcoming if PWDs are given prompt attention when they get to their polling station. This is even more necessary as COVID 19 still stares us in the face. The time to build a better society that is disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable, post-COVID 19, starts now.
BY AUGUSTUS ACQUAYE, A JOURNALIST