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STRANEK Africa calls on political parties to prioritize issues affecting Persons With Disability

By Mutala Yakubu

Policy think tank, Strategic Thinkers Network-Africa (STRANEK-Africa) have called on all political parties in Ghana to prioritize issues affecting Persons with Disability (PWD).

They urged the parties to devote a chapter in their 2020 manifestos to addressing the challenges facing PWDs in Ghana.

In a statement, STRANEK said they believe this will help Ghanaians identify themselves with PWD policy directions of the various political parties in Ghana, particularly the NDC and NPP as we approach the 2020 elections.

READ ALSO: My gov’t shall offer free healthcare to Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) - Greenstreet

Below is the full statement

PERSONS WITH DISABILITY DESERVE THE BEST

STRANEK-Africa request of all participating political parties in Ghana to prioritize issues of PWDs by devoting a chapter in their 2020 manifestos to addressing the challenges facing PWDs in Ghana. This will help Ghanaians identify themselves with PWD policy directions of the various political parties in Ghana, particularly the NDC and NPP as we approach the 2020 elections……STRANEK-Africa will be monitoring the 2020 manifestos of all political parties in Ghana, particularly the National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party to measure the extent to which they prioritize the PWD Community in Ghana. Following this, STRANEK-Africa will conduct a mid-year assessment on the extent to which political parties prioritize PWD issues and find the best possible platforms to inform the PWD Community in Ghana to help them make informed decisions when voting since we believe they deserve the best.

As a sign of Ghana’s commitment and readiness to empowering and protecting the socio-economic rights of Persons with Disability (PWD), the Parliament of Ghana passed into law the Persons with Disability Act (Act 715) in 2006. This Act guarantees PWDs the right to unrestricted access to public places and buildings, free health care, employment, education and transportation among others. The law allowed for a 10-year moratorium, within which all public buildings were supposed to be made accessible to disabled people. The Government of Ghana at the time also signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2007 and 2012 respectively. It is interesting to note that even though Article 6 of the CRPD calls on state parties to ensure the development and empowerment of women and girls with disability as well as provide measures for enjoyment of fundamental rights, Act 715 does not make any provisions for women and girls with disability.

STRANEK-Africa is very much concerned about the current state of institutional reforms and the extent to which they are being enforced to ensure PWDs are not unduly left out of the day to day socio-economic activities in the country. PWDs in Ghana are often excluded from access to the physical environment, information and social networks. They also face barriers to equal cum appropriate education and opportunities to fair employment in their day-to-day life. PWDs have regional representation across the country. They are supposed to have district offices in order to deal with issues at the district level but in practice, they are non-existent. Metropolitan, Municipalities and District Assemblies have so far made minimal provisions to accommodate PWD offices. However, we are not oblivious of the effort by the Government of Ghana in releasing a total of GH¢ 28 million allocation arrears covering 2016 fourth quarter, 2017 first, second and third quarters for Persons with Disability (PWD) to MMDAs across the country for disbursement of their collective wellbeing.

We therefore, ask the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP), what has been the deliberate practical institutional reforms aimed at integrating PWDs into the Ghanaian Society? This is because the National Council for Persons with Disability (NCPD) is one of the five departments under the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and until a budget is allocated to them, they cannot function in any capacity to advocate PWDs rights.

The Place of PWDs in Ghana’s Free Education Drive.

It is undeniable Ghana’s Free SHS Policy was inspired by Article 25 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana. Article 25 (1) of the 1992 Constitution states that (1) “All persons shall have the right to equal educational opportunities and facilities and with a view to achieving the full realization of that right” (a) “basic education shall be free, compulsory and available to all” (b) “Secondary education in its different forms including technical and vocational education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular, by the progressive introduction of free education”. At this point, it is very impressive and patriotic to remind ourselves of what the Forebearers and Framers of the 1992 Constitution envisioned for Ghana i.e. Free Education which is generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means. That notwithstanding, it is very disappointing how the very stakeholders (The Media, Clergy, Political Parties, Civil Society Organisations among others) in Ghana have over the years turned deaf ears and blind eyes to the place of PWDs in the “Concept of Access” in Ghana’s Free Education Policy. This is because we have a moral obligation and the legal imperative to ensure that our schools are designed for all students.

It is the position of STRANEK-Africa that the deployment of PWD Assistive Technology and Adaptive Tools at all levels of education remains very critical to the “Concept of Access” and “Inclusiveness” as well as harnessing the potentials of PWDs in Ghana. According to the 2013 “Inclusive Education Policy” by the Ministry of Education,

“Education delivery in Ghana is a right for all citizens of school age… This policy recognizes the varied learning needs of various categories of children of school age… The Inclusive Education Policy (IE policy) provides an opportunity for all stakeholders in the education sector to address the diverse learning needs of various categories of citizens in the Ghanaian education system under the universal design for learning and within a learner friendly environment for all… Inclusive Education is based on the value system which holds that all persons who attend an educational institution are entitled to equitable access to quality teaching and learning, and which transcends the idea of physical location but incorporate the basic values that promote participation, friendship and interaction...The IE policy at the national level, confirms government pronouncements in the constitution to ensure that every Ghanaian is afforded equitable opportunity in terms of access to quality education

However, it appears the meaning of access to education in Ghana is limited to just the physical infrastructure and school enrolment without recourse to the content the physical infrastructure harbours and how it impacts on student access particularly the PWDs. A stock taking by STRANEK-Africa across Ghana points to more than 96.99% of all Basic, Junior and Senior High School Educational Infrastructure in Ghana as disability unfriendly. The old adage “Madness begins from home” has never been very important than on the issue of PWDs in Ghana. If the Government of Ghana’s effort at ensuring a fair and equal opportunities for PWDs in both the public and private sector is to yield the needed fruit, then the Government of Ghana must deliberately invest and take the needed action-driven steps (not lip services) to get all Basic, Junior and Senior High School Educational Infrastructure, MMDA’s, public infrastructure among others to become disability friendly. By so doing, the Government of Ghana will be fulfilling its mandate under Article 29 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.

Employment Discrimination Against PWDs in Ghana

It has been found in real life that people with disabilities in Ghana are two and a half times less likely to secure employment in both the public and private sector than non-disabled persons. The few of them who are in employment also faces problems such as infrastructural deficiencies like the absence of adaptive aides to help them move around easily, for instance, the absence of elevators in storey buildings.

It is the position of STRANEK-Africa that even though Section 10 (1) of the Persons With Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715) clearly states that “The Government shall grant a person who
employs a person with disability an annual tax rebate of the taxable income in respect of each person with disability employed as shall be prescribed in Regulations made under this Act”, this provision has not yielded the intended impact when it comes to improving the chances of employment of PWDs in Ghana. The Governments of Ghana must therefore, initiate deliberate practical institutional reforms to level the playing field for trained and skilled PWDs in Ghana whiles doubling its effort in training unskilled PWDs.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Following the failure of Section 10 (1) of Act 715 in achieving its intended purpose, STRANEK-Africa recommends the introduction of a government imposed hiring quotas on both public and private organisations in Ghana.
This recommendation is informed by best practices globally. For example, to clarify Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act (likened to Section 10 (1) of Act 715) which requires all Federal Agencies to have affirmative action plans for hiring people with disabilities, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) passed a new regulation which required all Federal Agencies to have 12% of each of its entity’s workforce as People With Disabilities and with 2% of those with “targeted” conditions including intellectual and developmental disabilities. This regulation came into effect from 1st January 2018. The goal of this new regulation was to increase the rate of employment for PWDs whiles establishing a concrete step and accountability mechanism for the employability of PWDS in the USA.
In the case of Europe, all public and private sector employers in Austria are required to have 4% of their work force being PWDs. The quota law further clarifies and requires every organisation with more than 24 employees to employ one registered PWD per 25 employees. Similarly, in the
case of Germany, all employers with a workforce of 20 or more are required by law to have 5% of their employees in the category of severely disabled persons. To ensure compliance, organisations that fail to comply with the quota scheme are handed down a fine. For example, organizations having more than 20 workforce and with a PWD staff rate of between 3% but not up to 5% are required to pay a monthly penalty of 105 Euros per a PWD slot at their disposal whereas organisations with a PWD staff rate of between 2% and 3% and less than 2% are required to pay 180 Euros and 260 Euros per a PWD slot respectively.

On the basis of the aforementioned, STRANEK-Africa recommends that the Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP) proposes and submit a bill to parliament seeking quota restriction on both public and private organizations in Ghana to improve PWD’s employment. This will also serve as a concrete and verifiable yardstick for monitoring and measuring compliance to show progress of government’s effort at PWDs inclusiveness in the Ghanaian Economy.

The Ministry must address the resource challenges that confront the National Council for Persons with Disability (NCPD). In addition, the Council should legally be made independent of the Social
Welfare Department to enhance the effectiveness of its functions as stated in section 41 of the Persons with Disability Act,2006.

STRANEK-Africa additionally recommends the Government of Ghana take decisive steps to get private educational institutions and other businesses modify their working environment to make it PWD convenient over a 5-year period. There is no doubt that the implementation of this new policy direction will place additional capital expenditure on the Ghanaian Private Sector. To reduce this burden on the private sector as well as facilitating the creation of a Disability Friendly Ghanaian Society, we recommend the Government device a means to absorb part of this capital expenditure over an agreed period of time.

Construction professionals must be made to comply with Act 715 and advise their client on the need to have a disability friendly facility just as it is done in Nigeria, Malawi, Botswana among
other African Countries. Non-compliance of Act 715 on the part of the construction professionals must lead to drastic sanctions.

Political Parties Must Prioritize PWDs In Their 2020 Manifestos:

STRANEK-Africa also request of all participating political parties in Ghana to prioritize issues of PWDs by devoting a chapter in their 2020 manifestos to addressing the challenges facing PWDs in Ghana. This will help Ghanaians identify themselves with PWD policy directions of the various political parties in Ghana, particularly the NDC and NPP as we approach the 2020 elections. This will also, become a yardstick for assessing government’s commitment on issues of PWDs as well as holding government accountable by Civil Society Organisations and Ghanaians. It is the hope of STRANEK-Africa that these policies would not be one of window dressing but actionable policies that will inure to the wellbeing of PWDs in Ghana.

As a call to duty, STRANEK-Africa will be monitoring the 2020 manifestos of all political parties in Ghana,particularly the National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party to measure the extent to which they prioritize the PWD Community in Ghana.

Following this,STRANEK-AFRICA will conduct a mid-year assessment on the extent to which political parties prioritize PWD
issues and find the best possible platforms to inform the PWD Community in Ghana to help them make informed decisions when voting since we believe they deserve the best.

Indeed, we are all involved in building mother Ghana!!!


Signed.
Adjoa Tima Boafo
Director for Gender and Social Policy

Nii Tettey Tetteh
Executive Director
stranek.gh@gmail.com