Thursday, August 13, 2015

Engaging Services Of PWDs Best Way Of Promoting Inclusiveness

The Executive Secretary of Ghana’s National Council for Persons With Disabilities (NCPD) Kwamina Dadzie-Dennis, has called on Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) in the country to employ persons with disabilities (PWDs) who are knowledgeable and skilful.
According to Mr. Dadzie-Dennis, it defies logic when MMDAs refuse to engage the services of PWDs after spending the tax-payer’s money to train them to acquire skills in vocations such as carpentry, sewing/dressmaking, shoe-making, catering, ICT, electrical and electronic work among others.
“We (NCPD) are saying that, after using the PWDs’ share of the district assembly’s common fund to train them in such vocations, engage them to manufacture furniture for schools in your area....engage those who have skills in catering under the school feeding programme. This is not too much to ask for.
“PWDs with skills in ICT can also be engaged to maintain computers and other electronic equipment of all decentralised departments. Engaging the services of PWDs is a prudent and best way to promote inclusiveness in our local governance system”, Mr. Dadzie-Dennis made this call at a two-day meeting and training of leadership of various PWD groups and state agencies in Tamale.
He observed that, when MMDAs seriously begin to consider the knowledge and skill sets of PWDs and engage them fairly as they would do in the case of persons without disabilities, many PWDs would be lifted out of misery and poverty.
The meeting and training programme in Tamale which was organised by the Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC) in collaboration with the NCPD, Ghana Federation of Disability Organisations (GFDOs) and NORSAAC, was sponsored by the US State Department in Accra.
The programme was part of the implementation of a project dubbed: “Improving Conditions For PWDs”. The objectives of the programme were among other things, to discuss the implementation of the PWDs Act (Act 715, 2006) and the Mental Health Act (MHA), Act 846, 2012; gaps between the laws and actual practices; and challenges inhibiting implementation.    
Passed by the Parliament of Ghana into law in 2006, the PWDs Act seeks, among other things, to guarantee PWDs access to public places, free general and specialist medical care, education, employment and transportation. It also seeks to ensure that PWDs play an active and central role in all aspects of life, regulate the commitments and responsibilities of state and private duty-bearers.

The MHA on the other hand was passed in 2012, and seeks to bring an improvement towards the care of poor, vulnerable people with mental illness or epilepsy, protection of their human rights and promotion of their participation in restoration and recovery. The law, which has been hailed by the WHO as one of the best legislations worldwide, also seeks to ensure that adequate provision of resources has nine parts consisting of a Mental Health Board, a Service, a Review Tribunal, Visiting Committee, Voluntary Treatment and Involuntary Treatment.
Sadly, many PWDs and persons with mental illness and epilepsy (PWMIE) are accommodated in prayer camps and healing centres, owing to prevailing beliefs that disabilities arise from evil spirits. Some victims are chained to trees outside in the heat/cold weather with often inadequate care. This is largely due to the fact that, the government is yet to begin with the implementation of the PWDs law after nearly a decade of its enactment.
The Northern Regional Coordinator of GFDOs Abraham Boah, also noted that many PWDs were increasingly being denied employment in both the public and private sectors. “The situation is causing a lot of frustration among our members and some have resorted to begging on the streets in spite of good academic qualifications.....their children can’t have education because there is no money at home”, he disclosed.
Mr. Boah further lamented over the inaccessible nature of many public buildings and urged a speedy implementation of the disability law, which he believes, could address the situation. “This is one of the reasons why PWDs are denied employment....they can’t have access to their offices even when they’re employed”, he observed.  
About 10 percent of Ghana’s total population (approximately 2.2 million) have different forms of disabilities. They consist of the visually impaired, hearing impaired, crippled, amputated, epileptic/ mentally retarded, albino, autistic, dyslexic among others.
There are inadequate special schools for these groups of people and even where they exist, they are poorly resourced. From the highest to the lowest echelons of the entire Ghanaian society, persons with disabilities are discriminated against.
Take for instance, disability sports; they are treated differently as compared to the other national teams made up of able-bodied young men and women. No training facilities for them, no training kits and always, no funds for them to participate in local and international competitions. Even where the funds are there, it is insufficient to cater for their needs. It is a pathetic situation.
Wendy Abbey, Technical Advisor, HRAC
Technical Advisor at HRAC Wendy Abbey urged government to begin with the implementation of the PWDs law since that held the key to the door through which PWDs could demand access to many things as spelt out in the law.
There was also the need to carry out advocacy and outreach programmes, she noted, adding that “These should target PWDs, PWMIE, service providers, families of PWDs/PWMIE and government to ensure the realisation of the rights of PWDs/PWMIE as stipulated by the two Acts and all other international regulations”, she stressed.
While encouraging private institutions to employ PWDs since they stood to benefit tax rebates from the state, Ms. Abbey also entreated civil society organisations that promote the interest of PWDs to begin to take legal actions against public and private institutions that infringe upon the rights of PWDs and PWMIE.
Meanwhile, participants appealed to government to provide special schools such as the school for the deaf and blind with teaching and learning tools and equip health facilities with special diagnostic equipment so as to ensure early detection of disabilities among children.
They also asked government to consider awarding scholarship to people studying sign language at the tertiary level as well as ensure the teaching and learning of basic sign language and interpretation in all basic schools in the country in order to promote peaceful coexistence among the hearing and hearing impaired.
They further recommended government establish special schools for different disability groups in each of the ten administrative regions of Ghana so as to ensure close monitoring and involvement by families and relations of such children.

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