Disability is a condition in which someone is not able to use a part of his or her body or brain properly mostly because of injury.
It is a state of health that poses some challenge to the individual but does not in any way prevent them from doing anything that an able-person can do.
In article 19 of the African Charter on Human Rights it is stated that ï¿½all peoples shall be equal; they shall enjoy the same respect and shall have the same rights.
Nothing shall justify the domination of a people by anotherï¿½.
In the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, it is made clear in article 17 (1) that ï¿½all persons shall be equal before the law " (2) ï¿½ a person shall not be discriminated against on the grounds of gender, race, colour , ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic statusï¿½.
These articles quoted above buttress the fact that every human being regardless of his physical condition shall be recognized and treated as required by law.
A careful study of these articles and many others reveal that the word ï¿½every personï¿½ ï¿½all persons run through, which means that there can be no justification whatsoever to marginalize any person or category of persons.
The Constitution provides in article 12(2) that ï¿½every person in Ghana , whatever his race ,place of origin, political opinion, colour, religion, creed , or gender shall be entitled to the fundamental human rights and freedom of the individual contained in this Chapter (5) but subjected to the respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interestï¿½.
People with Disabilities (PWDs) are not excluded from this provision.
Apart from this provision, which is all embracing, the Constitution goes further to devote the whole of article 29 with all its sub-sections (1-8) to the right of disability persons.
It states among other things that: Persons with Disability (PWDs) have the right to live with their families or with foster parents and to participate in social, creative or recreational activities.
A disable person shall not be subjected to differential treatment in respect of his residence other than that required by his condition or by the improvement which he may derive from the treatment.
If the stay of a disable person in a specialized establishment is indispensable, the environment and living conditions there shall be as close as possible to those of the normal life of a person of his age.
Disabled persons shall be protected against all exploitations, all regulations and all treatment of a discriminatory, abuse or degrading nature.
In any judicial proceedings in which a disabled person is a party, the legal procedure applied shall take his physical and mental conditions into account.
As far as practicable every place to which the general public have access shall have appropriate facility for the disable person.
Special incentive shall be given to disable persons engaged in business and also to business organizations to employ disabled persons in significant number.
Parliament shall enact such laws as are necessary to ensure the enforcement of the provisions of this article Furthermore based on the 8th clause of article 29 and also article 37(2) (b) which provides that, the protection and promotion of all other basic human rights and freedom, including the rights of the disabled, the aged, children and other vulnerable groups in the development processes.
Nevertheless the Disability Law (Act 715) was passed by the Parliament of Ghana on the 23rd of June, 2006 and it is aimed at ensuring that PWDs enjoyed the rights enshrined in Article 29 with a vision to improving their quality of life and mainstreaming the activities of PWDs.
The Law guarantees PWDs access to public places, free general and specialist medical care, education, employment and transportation among other things.
Also it regulates the commitment and other responsibilities of public and private service providers.
It would ensure the creation of PWDs desk at the various employment centres nationwide, and also provides for the formation of a national Council on PWDs.
The transitional period of the Act makes provision for a 10-year moratorium for compliance with the provision on access and mobility because of the sustainability investment needed to make all existing public infrastructure disability friendly.
Some provisions of Act 715 (2006) Employment Section 9-15 states that establishment of employment centres by the Ministry of Manpower Youth and Employment to offer jobs for PWDs, annual rebate for those who employ a person with disability; provision of relevant working tools; posting; transfers; and redeployment should be appropriate and appropriate training for the unemployed PWDs and community based rehabilitation to offer guidance, counselling and appropriate training.
Education Section 16-23 indicates that a parent or guardian of a child with disability must send the child to school.
The Ministry of Education has the duty to provide the necessary facilities and equipment in learning institutions.
This action is to ensure that the Education Ministry takes cognisance of the following: - Free education for PWDs and the establishment of special schools as well as inclusion of special education in technical, vocational and teacher training institutions.
PWDs should not be refused admission into any of these institutions.
Appropriate library facility should be provided for PWDs in these special institutions.
Transportation Section 24-30 states that free importation of appropriate means of transport, reservation of seats on vehicle for PWDs at least two seats or fill the space not earlier than 10 minutes before departure Medical Section 32-36 of the provision notes that a person with disability is to have access to free general and special medical care and the training of health professionals on disability related issues.
It includes that derogatory names are prohibited and the Law provides for 50 penalty units on bcontravention.
Indeed, even though this provision is explicit, members of the public including some media practitioners are let off the hook after severally contravening this provision of the Act.
Moreover the involvement and implementation of policies and strategies to enable PWDs enter and participate in the mainstream of the national development process has been going on for sometime now with some organizations dedicating budgets to organize sensitization programmes to create awareness about problems confronting PWDs.
For example, Action Aid Ghana, a non governmental organization working to empower PWDs in the Upper East Region, has been collaborating with Action for Disability and Development (ADD) since 2004 and this collaboration has resulted into the construction of a resource centre valued at 7,000 Ghana Cedis.
As part of Action Aids' support for Women's Rights, it has put up good strategies to mobilize and support vulnerable groups such as women with disability, widows and women living with HIV/AIDS to provide them with a platform to amplify their voices as well as enable them to lead their own developmental agenda.
The programme officer for Womenï¿½s Rights and HIV/AIDS at Action Aid, Mr Gregory Dery at an engagement meeting with PWDs in the Region commended the Government for the passage of the Disability Law, but expressed disappointment at the slow pace at which the structures were being put in place to make it functional.
He, therefore, called on the Government and the relevant Ministries and Departments responsible for making these structures function to expedite action so that the Disability Law could become operational.
Having considered some of the relevant provisions in the Disability Law, it is important to note that the passage of the Law is the beginning of the fight to improve the lot of PWDs.
It is one thing knowing the Law and another thing making use of it.
It is, therefore, important that all well meaning Ghanaians join the call to get the necessary modalities put in place for Disability Law to function otherwise it would remain a mere paper guarantee and it should be borne in mind that anybody irrespective of one's status could one day become impaired in any part of the body.
By Jerry Azanduna .