In the year 2006, the Parliament of Ghana passed a law that brought smiles to the faces of Persons with Disability, Civil Society Organisations and the General Public. It was known as the “Persons with Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715).” One of the key provisions in this Act is Act 6 which states clearly that, “The owner or occupier of a place to which the public has access shall provide appropriate facilities that make the place accessible to and available for use by a person with disability.” Then Act 7 added: “A person who provides service to the public shall put in place the necessary facilities that make the service available and accessible to a person with disability.” Apart from the Act making provisions on facilities and its accessibility, it also captures the requirement for persons with disability to have access to education; thereby tasking the Ministry of Education to provide the necessary facilities and equipment in learning institutions.
Then the Act directed that, henceforth, (ie. from 2006) any other public or private building, to which the public will have access to, should be built to be accessible to and available for use by a person with disability. Now, what that simply means is that, there should be a ramp purposely to facilitate access to the building by wheelchair users. Again, if the building is a storey-building, it is required that there should also be an elevator to convey a person with disability to whichever floor. In terms of services, sign-language interpreter and Braille are also required.
The 10-year moratorium given by the Act for old buildings to be renovated to disability-friendly status is due this year. Not long ago, Ghana joined the rest of the world to celebrate the UN-established “Persons with Disability Day.” On the day, The Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC) embarked on a fact-finding mission to ascertain the disability-friendly nature of some old and new public and private institutions, in terms of infrastructure and services. Our findings revealed that, many are those who are yet to follow the directives of the Persons with Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715)
Today, apart from the sad fact that many private and public institutions in the country are grossly disregarding some provisions in the Act, it is sadder to realise that, the Government, which many would expect should know better, would also decide to disregard the interest of persons with disability, while putting up the promised 200 Community Senior High Schools. Checks by the Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC) with the four already-commissioned Community Day Senior High Schools revealed that, the 3-storey-building with 24 classrooms do not meet the needs of persons with disability—both accessibility-wise and service-wise, thereby contravening the Persons with Disability Act. These communities with the schools include the Ekumfi Otuam in the Ekumfi District of the Central Region and Bamianko in the Nzema East District in the Western Region. The rest are Nkwanta in the Nkwanta South District of the Volta Region and Kwaobaah Nyanoa in the Upper West Akyem District in the Eastern Region.
So this makes a concerned person wonder:
What will be the fate of the persons with disability in these communities; the communities these schools are built to serve?
How would these schools be able admit students with disability?
How would these schools be able to employ teachers and workers with disability?
Did the Government make this promise without concern for Persons with Disability and the Act?
How did the duty bearers and architects ignore this at the planning stage?
How did the Ministry Of Education neglect this in awarding the contract?
How did Parliament or the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education overlook this?
Inasmuch as Ghanaians and members of the communities mentioned are with joy to have all these schools, it is unfortunate to see this joy elude the persons with disability, Civil Society Organisations and the people who have interest and concerns of Persons with Disability at heart.
So will you agree with me if I say this is tantamount to denying Persons with Disability their right to education?
But going by the saying that it is better late than never, the Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC) would want to call on the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service to quickly alter the building plan of the rest of the schools that are yet to be built or be completed, to fit and meet the provisions of the Persons with Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715).
Not just that—we are calling on the appropriate authorities and the Law Enforcement Agencies to ensure that, the Persons with Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715) is enforced. As the witty saying goes, “A law without enforcement is just an advice.”
By: Sylvanus Bedzrah
The Writer of this article is a National Service Personnel with the Human Rights Advocacy Centre, (HRAC) Accra.