By Ohemeng Tawiah, Nhyira Fm/Kumasi/Ghana – Persons with vision impairment want government of Ghana to do more to improve their welfare. The Ghana Blind Association is worried four years after the Disability law was passed; its members are still denied rights and opportunities guaranteed by the Act.
The leadership of the association says government is for paying lip-service to the plight of the Ghanaian blind. President of the association’s Youth Wing, Jacob Adongo Atule, says persons with vision impairment have been forced to live without any appropriate state interventions to make them self-reliant.
The Ghana Association of the Blind, in partnership with its Dannish counterpart, has been advocating equal access and attention for persons with vision impairment. The Dannish Association of the Blind which is celebrating its 100th years of existence recently hosted the Ghanaian partner to understudy government- assisted programmes and initiatives in Denmark.
The marriage between the two associations is to ensure members of the association in Ghana are well positioned to engage duty bearers to push for relevant state interventions in areas of employment and education.
The partnership is already producing some results, given birth to the creation of the Disability Directorate under the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP).
Some members of the association have been employed to ease the problem of unemployment among members of the Ghana Association of the Blind.
In Ghana, physically challenged persons constitute ten per cent of the population.
However, unlike their counterparts in Denmark who receive substantial state assistance, the Ghanaian blind man and woman still face many challenges from lack of education to social recognition.
Mr. Adongo Atule says the Disability Act has made little impact on members who according to him, are still kept in the dark without access to education. He wants the Ghanaian government to learn from the Dannish experience.
‘‘We still have blind people that do not have access to education, we still have blind people that are kept in the houses without access to basic services; we still have blind people who go to school and do not have access to text books and we still have graduate blind people that do not have a job’’ he explained.
Mr. Adongo revealed even in the presence of the Disability Act, the Ghanaian blind man and woman still faces discrimination in society.
‘‘There are competent blind teachers and do not still have classrooms to teach..You would be employed and you go to work and you will not have assisting devices to work’’.
But he says the story is different in Denmark.
‘‘In Denmark, the state has deliberately calved policies or interventions to bring on board persons with disabilities and for that matter blind and partial sighted persons. The laws are working, the person with disability is equally a citizen of that country and so there are social interventions that brings them on board’’ said Mr. Adongo.
According to him, Ghana risks loosing contribution of ten per cent of the population, made up of physically challenged.
‘‘We’ve gotten our priorities wrong as a country, and when we continue that way, a time will come contribution of ten per cent of this population would be missing’’. Mr. Adongo explained.
An official of the Danish Association of the Blind, Nanna Louise Borum Gjedde, is unhappy especially about cultural believes against physically challenged in Ghana.
She wants the government of Ghana to do more to improve standard of living of persons with vision impairment.
Nanna Gjedde believes with continued advocacy, Ghana can formulate and implement policies like the Disability Act that will positively impact on the lives of the physically challenged.
Project Secretary of the Danish Association of the Blind, Susanne Koch Andersen said the association has since the past hundred years been fighting for the rights of its members.
According to her, the position of the association from experience gained so far puts it in a very unique way to help strengthen their Ghanaian counterpart on how to contact decision makers, the press and also raise awareness.
She believes with such continued assistance to their Ghanaian counterparts, conditions for the physically challenge can improve for the better.