The ‘10-year moratorium’ to make all public facilities and infrastructure accessible to Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), ended four years ago. Yet, public toilets in the Wa Municipality continue to be unfriendly for PWDs.
The Department of Engineering at the Wa Technical University says the failure by authorities to ensure the moratorium is unacceptable.
The Department is, therefore, calling for officials in charge of Water and Sanitation Hygiene WASH activities at the Wa Municipal Assembly to be surcharged for their inability to implement moratorium under the Disability Act, Act 715.
There are 44 public toilets in the Wa Municipality. Most of these facilities are under the direct supervision of the Wa Municipal Assembly. Only 1 facility out of the 44 toilets has ramps and handrails to allow for Physically Challenged Persons (PCPs).
Despite the presence of the rumps and handrails, the facility faces poor sanitation problems. The only other toilet facility that is disability-friendly is the new institutional toilet facility which is being built with funds from the Special Development Initiative. The facility, however, is incomplete and not open for use.
According to the Upper West Regional President of the Ghana Federation of Persons with Disability, Mr. Ibrahim Saani, the continued inability of the Wa Municipal Assembly to address the challenges of PWDs poses a significant health risk to them. Mr. Saani said the lack of a Legislative Instrument makes it difficult to prosecute officials in charge of ensuring the re-engineering of public buildings.
“When the Disability Act, [Act 715] provides that within 10 years, all public buildings must be accessible. [Buildings] being accessible does not mean that the buildings should be pulled down. We should rather modify them so that PWDs can have access to it.”
“With the Disability Act [Act 715], we also needed a Legislative Instrument [L.I] to back the Act. The L.I as at now is not ready,” he lamented.
Mr. Saani mentioned that non-compliance does not only pertain to public toilets, but rather most other public buildings within the Municipality.
“The Assembly knows about the conditions of PWDs in the Municipality and the issues we have been raising every day. When we take a look at the new stores that are springing up in the Municipality, we drew their [the Wa Municipal Assembly] attention that the facilities they are building should be accessible to PWDs but nothing has happened yet,” he said.
The Department of Engineering at the Wa Technical University carried out a study on public toilets; its designs, its accessibility, and how sludge is dislodged and treated.
A lecturer at the Engineering Department, Christian Ahuma-Smith said the purpose of public toilets has shifted from serving the transient public to becoming an integral part of the community structure.
“The public toilets were initially meant for the transient populace; people who are outside of their homes but now in Ghana, it has become an integral part of our urban system. The 2010 Population and Housing Census indicated that well over 30 percent of households use public toilets. Another study by the now Simon Dombo University for Business Development Studies indicated that about 45 percent of households in Wa rely on public toilets,” he disclosed.
Mr. Ahumah-Smith told GBC News that there is a need to redesign them to cater for all persons.
According to the study, “Access to Public Toilet Facilities Amongst Physically Challenged People”, 27.5 percent of the respondents indicated that they had never used toilet facilities before, while 52.5 percent mentioned that they rarely used public toilets. While the remaining 20 percent often used public toilets. Well over 70 percent of the respondents to the study however affirmed that the facilities in the Municipality are not disability friendly and cause a high level of discomfort when they use them.
The study also found that “there had been no new designs and constructions to accommodate the sanitary needs of PCPs adequately. The absence of ramps and handrails, unavailability of grab bars within cubicles, inability to safely and independently maneuver and squatting holes without elevated seats were identified as impediments to accessing toilet facilities”.
According to the study, most of the PCPs who could not access the public toilets because of the several challenges resorted to Open Defecation (OD) thus creating other sanitation problems.
To address the challenges, Mr. Ahuma-Smith called for sanctions to compel authorities to comply with the Act.
“From the top, the Municipal/District Chief Executive, the engineers and all other persons involved in the construction and supervision of such facilities should be surcharged. This is because, after the end of the Moratorium, there are still even newer facilities that are not disability complaints.”
He continued to say that “their certificates should be withdrawn. We are dealing with issues of global importance. These people [PWDs] have rights, we are talking about their health and their dignity”.
Meanwhile, the Wa Municipal Assembly is still yet to comment on the issue after several attempts to reach them.
Story filed by Mark Smith.