A two-day international conference to identify effective ways to mainstream disability issues into the nation’s development agenda has opened in Kumasi.
Hosted by the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), it is discussing a wide range of issues – barriers to employment, healthcare, access to criminal justice, and educational opportunities for persons with disability (PWDs).
Practicing inclusive early childhood development, disability and leadership, access to assistive technology for PWDs and inclusion of disability studies as a course in educational institutions are also on the table.
The meeting is being held under the theme “Disability and inclusion in Africa – the role of assistive technology”, and supported jointly by the African Network for Evidence-to-Action in Disability (AfriNEAD) and Stellenbosch University, South Africa.
Ghana, the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, Belgium, Nigeria, South Africa, Malawi, Kenya, Zambia, Namibia, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Cameroon and Botswana are participating.
Professor Gubela Mji, President of AfriNEAD, expressed concern about what she said was the seeming reluctance of most of the countries to recognize and implement the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD).
“Our governments are not so much enthused about advancing the cause of PWDs, and this is a worry given the fact that, substantial number of the African population had one form of disability or the other”, she added.
She spoke of the determination of her organization to create the needed platform and work together with government agencies, universities, rights-based and civil society organizations to uphold policies and programmes calibrated to positively impact the lives PWDs.
Prof Mji said everything should be done to eliminate all forms of discrimination, stereotypes and prejudices that inhibited the development of those with disability.
It is estimated that about 10 per cent of Africa’s population is disabled, and the factors contributing to this include accidents, violence, birth defects, diseases and ageing.
Ms. Otiko Afisa Djaba, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, said the government had begun the process to implement the Ghana Standards Accessibility Designs policy.
This, she said, would compel owners of all public buildings to work towards making their facilities disability-friendly.
Plans were also far advanced to amend the Disability Act to bring it in tune with the UN-CRPD to efficiently promote the welfare and development of people with disability.
Prof Kwasi Obiri Danso, Vice-Chancellor of KNUST, in a speech read for him, said a recent study by the College of Health Science showed that many PWDs had little knowledge of their rights.
This, he noted, was making it difficult for them to demand equal opportunities in education, employment and healthcare, among other things.
It was against this background that the conference was important and a right step, he added.