“Disability can be anybody’s lot at any time” This is not just a saying but a fact evidenced by the many people with disability who acquired their disability in the course of their lives either through accident, disease, as a result of aging or some unexplained circumstance. Persons with disability in Ghana make up about 10% or more of our population and yet our society is yet to embrace disability as part and parcel of the human diversity.
Our society is yet to create the structures that would allow persons with disability to fully and effectively participate in all spheres of life. Persons with disability in Ghana, face many barriers every day from inaccessible physically environments to discriminatory employment practices, negative attitudes, etc.
Societal perceptions and attitudes towards persons with disability are largely negative. These negative perceptions and attitudes which stem from, ignorance, fear, superstition, neglect etc. place emphasis on a person’s disability rather than his/her ability and every so oftenimpede the person’s level of expression and interaction with the society, consequentially limiting his/her opportunities within the society. These perceptions keep our society from experiencing and appreciating the full potentials of persons with disability.
Our cultural beliefs and values as a people have not made matters easier. The remnant of past traditions still influence to some extent present day practices and attitudes towards persons with disability. In most Ghanaian traditional beliefs and customs, persons with disability are perceived to be undesirable and unfit members of the society. Not many years ago, Infanticide was common in certain communities, whiles in other communities persons with disability were treated as outcasts. These traditions and beliefs about disability are often handed down either consciously or unconsciously to the next generation who continue to perpetuate the cycle of discrimination and stigmatization against persons with disability.
Admittedly, Ghana has come a long way from the days when it was common practice to discard persons with disability in the forests or on river banks. In 2006, with the passage of the disability act, Ghana took a major step in dealing with the marginalization of persons with disability. In 2012, Ghana ratified the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disability. All these have been done to promote, protect, and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disability.
Inspite of all these laws that have been put inplace, widespread ignorance about the rights and freedoms of persons with disability still persists. Most public buildings are inaccessible to persons with disability. They still face many barriers in accessing information, quality healthcare, transportation, etc. Hence persons with disability are still not receiving their due recognition and treatment in our society.
The Here For Perfection (H4P) Organization, a non-governmental organization based in Ghana, has since its establishment been advocating for the equalization of opportunities for all persons with disability. Through the Helping Hand TV Show, which airs on Net 2 TV, every Sunday and Wednesday at 5pm and 2pm respectively, the H4P Organization highlights the contributions of persons with disability to the development of our dear nation in order to help create a shift in how persons with disability are viewed in our society.
At H4P, we believe that until we expunge the negative stereotypes and misconceptions about persons with disability from our thinking as a people, and begin to practically include the needs of persons with disability in the national development agenda, our dream of an inclusive society would remain a dream.As a nation, we must not forget that creating the right structures for persons with disability is not a favour we are doing for this large section of our society we often ignore, but it is an insurance policy for our own future and that of generations to come, because disability can be anybody’s lot at anytime.