Justice Emile Ato Kwamena Short, former Commissioner, Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), has said that it was a shame for people in authority to neglect the concerns and rights of People with Disabilities (PWDs).
“Those in authorities should bow down their heads in shame for their indifference and lack of concern about the rights and challenges of PWDs.”
He said this during a panel discussion on accessing Ghana’s human rights record, jointly organised by the African Centre for International Law and Accountability (ACILA) and the Faculty of Law, University of Professional Studies-Accra (UPSA).
It was dubbed “Ghana’s Human Rights Record: An assessment of the treatment of vulnerable groups in Ghana”.
The discussion brought together the physically challenged, visually impaired, albinos, those with Down syndrome, representatives from the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) and Legal Aid, among other stakeholders.
He called on government to make available facilities that would make life comfortable for such people.
The Civil Society Organisations (CSO), media, NCCE and others should create awareness on the challenges faced by PWDs such as the lack of the right facilities for them.
“The stakeholders should also make an impact and encourage those above to bring a change of attitude by ensuring their rights were protected and respected by Ghanaians, he stated.
Justice Short said CSOs should hold those in in authority accountable to ensure that facilities are provided to enhance the living conditions of PDWs, adding that, disability must be the concern of all.
Dr Augustina Naami, Lecturer, Department of Social Work, University of Ghana, Legon, in a presentation, said the 2010 census revealed that, PWDs’ population was 737,743, while the Human Rights Watch Report-2012 also put the figure at five million, which is a number that cannot be ignored by government.
By their large number, they can contribute greatly to national development and so must be included in the development process of the country, she emphasised.
Dr Naami urged government to commit to the “Agenda 2030-, that mandates “countries to mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one was left behind,” which countries, including Ghana had committed to, under the Sustainable Development Goals.
She said there were gaps in the local laws on disability that was not aligned with international laws and it was about time they were addressed.
The Lecturer expressed displeasure about the disparities among men and women with disabilities, saying that, by virtue of their sex, female PWDs had no or less education, least employed, receive meagre salaries, suffered high poverty and were mostly abused.
She enumerated major barriers PWDs encountered such as being seen as incompetent, looked down upon and their rights not recognised.
“They usually had challenges with the transportation system, difficulties in accessing and using roads, and entrances to buildings, as well as pathways”, she said.
She said their movements were impeded by stairs without handrails, the existence of electric poles, open gutters, split drainage covers, trees, hawkers, heaps of garbage, rocky and waterlogged areas, as they move in wheel chairs, so in some cases they had to be carried.
These impediments, she said, damaged their wheel chairs, braces, artificial limps, tricycles, which she said, were sold between GH¢1,500.00 and GH¢7,000.00, and urged society to support them with such aids.
The PWDs must move about freely like any other human being and not to be carried about like objects, sick or dead people, Dr Naami noted.
Mr William Nyarko, Executive Director, ACILA, said the State owed it a duty to provide for all, especially, those who fell within the minority and were vulnerable.
Professor Kwame Frimpong, Dean, Faculty of Law, UPSA called for the implementation of the existing laws and advised the PWDs to send government and institutions to court to demand for their rights.