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Thursday, 23 June 2016

KPALAN KUN KU TOOI ZANI (AN EMPTY SACK CANNOT STAND)

Tempus fugit; it’s funny how time flies when you are having fun or in our case, hard at work.

I sometimes find it hard to believe that its already eleven weeks into our placement, I can still remember the very first day I walked into Gillbt for our in-country training, and meeting my teammates for the first time, it all seems like yesterday now.

Well like everything with a beginning we are steadily drawing down the curtains to the end of our placement on the ICS programme. I am not sure about how I really feel about it. On one hand I am glad that our placement is coming to an end and I will finally be going home to see friends and family again. On the other hand I am sad I will be missing the new family and friends I have made while on this programme, but what I am really certain of is that the memories we have made together will remain with me for eternity.

Team Resource Centre at St Paul's School
The eleventh week for the volunteers of the RCPWDs was a very busy one unlike that of colleagues from other projects. The long break by the schools really affected our team plan, compelling us to continue with field work which ideally should have ended last week. We carried out our last batch of school sensitisations in two schools and also paid a visit to the Savelugu School for the deaf to have a discussion with the schools officials on inclusive education for pwds. Our visit to the school for the deaf was really intriguing, watching the students playing and laughing and communicating using the sign language was very inspiring.

The 2006 Disability Act of Ghana (act 715) was passed to help fight for the rights of pwds and offer them recognition and equal opportunity. While conducting research on the perception manager/owners of public spaces hold with regards to accessibility, one of the respondents interviewed drew our attention to the fact that the act did not have legislative instrument to back its implementation. Upon further research I found out that the LI should clarify issues and detail the specifics of the law, for example in the case of employment of pwds the LI would state categorically the annual tax rebate for companies that employ pwds, alone is enough motivation for employers to consider hiring pwds. How can pwds enjoy the rights spelled out in the law when there is no will to enforces it? This reminds me of an inscription on the wall of the Savelugu school for the deaf which stated that “if you cannot stand for the rights of all people then who is crippled”?.

Major stakeholders have bemoaned the level of inconsistency between the act and the UN-Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which Ghana ratified in 2012. Certain provisions in the UNCRPD were missing in the act and those that were mentioned were not detailed enough. This prompted the Ghana Federation of the Disabled’s call on the government to review the act to include the rights of women and children with disability, the right to protection and safety in situation of risk and humanitarian emergencies, freedom from torture, and the right to life to mention but a few weaknesses.

Accessibility is one of the key elements in our disability policy. A ten year transitional period was given for every public building to be made accessible. But sadly accessibility standards haven’t been established for the general public to conform to. A draft accessibility standard was developed by the Ghana Standards Authority and the Ministry of Water Resources Works and Housing to improve access and inclusion for persons with disabilities. Though this a positive step, a lot more can be done since the ten years given for all building to accessible expires this year. The target of getting all places accessible cannot be achieved if there are no benchmarks to be followed.

The issues raised above reminds me of a proverb in Dagbani: “Kpalan Kun Ku Tooi Zani” translated literally as “An Empty Sack Cannot Stand”. The passing of the current disability act is beautiful but measures need to be put in place to properly enforce it. Making sure there is a legislative instrument to fully implement the law, setting up a national accessibility standard, advocacy on disability rights, and raising awareness on the act itself are but a few things we can do to ensure the act stands upright, anything else and its just another empty sack.

We all have a role to play not just the government in making sure pwds are able to enjoy their rights and privileges, as well as perform their responsibilities without any constraints.

Abdul-Muhsin Jackson (ICV)

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