CSC Alumni in Ghana

This article is to revisit a panel discussion on access and empowerment held to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which takes place annually on 3 December. The discussion was held on 5 December 2019 at the British Council in Accra.

The event was aimed at strengthening awareness about the challenges faced by Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) as well as assessing some of the governmental policies that affect PWDs. Participants included members from disability organisations in Ghana, including the Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations, Ghana Association of Persons with Albinism, Ghana Society of the Physically Disabled, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, the Office of Students with Special Needs of the University of Ghana, and the Centre for Employment of Persons with Disability. Commonwealth Alumni were also in attendance.

The welcome address was delivered by the Director of Programmes and Partnerships, British Council Accra, Chikodi Onyemerela. Chikodi welcomed those present and addressed the issue of disability worldwide. He noted there was a need to create an inclusive society, where the estimated 1 billion persons living with disabilities can exercise their rights and independence and control over their own lives. He further highlighted the British Council’s stance on disability using the social model of disability, stating that people with disabilities are restricted by societal structures rather than by their impairments. He commended the organisations represented at the event for their advocacy for PWDs over the years and reiterated the British Council’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, and highlighted areas in which the organisation had made positive strides.

Rita Kusi Kyerewaa stands at the lecturn to deliver the keynote address, alongside a sign language interpreter

Rita Kusi Kyerewaa delivers the keynote address alongside an interpreter

Following the opening address, Rita Kusi Kyeremaa, Executive Director, Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations, delivered the keynote in which she highlighted various methods of strengthening public awareness of PWDs in society. She touched on some of the governmental policies that affected PWDs. Despite commending the government of Ghana for its efforts in trying to improve the lives of PWDs, she stressed the need for the government to re-examine policies affecting PWDs.

The end of the keynote signalled the start of the panel discussion. The panel was comprised of the following members, all of whom had a passion for or worked in areas related to individuals living with disability.

  • Dorcas Tiwaa Addai, moderator, 2016 Shared Scholar, MA Human Rights, Globalisation and Justice, Keele University
  • Alexander Tetteh, Chief Executive, Centre for Employment for Persons with Disability, 2007 Professional Fellow, RADAR
  • Jerry Fiave, 2013 Distance Learning Scholar, MSc Public Health Promotion, Leeds Beckett University
  • Maame Yaa Barnes, Lecturer (Disability Law), Lancaster University Ghana

The panel discussion focused on three key areas: strengthening public awareness of PWDs in our societies, how to draw attention to the challenges faced by PWDs, and an assessment of the policies addressing disability issues.

Maame Yaa Barnes posed a question to the audience. She asked, ‘Do you ever see a child with disabilities on television eating jollof?’ She stressed that the lack of representation for PWDs on television and in advertisements did not promote their inclusion as members of society. She mentioned the importance for media adverts to include PWDs and drew on her own experience of not seeing her family represented in the television she watched. She advocated the need for PWDs to demonstrate a united front in order to effectively harness the different arms of disability organisations. She also highlighted the lack of sensitivity on the part of Ghanaian laws in relation to how they refer to PWDs and how those laws need to be changed.

The four panel members sit in a row on the main stage as part of the discussions

Panel speakers from L-R: Dorcas Tiwaa Addai, Jerry Fiave, Maame Yaa Barnes, Alexander Tetteh

Alexander Tetteh emphasised the need to take disability violations to court to create awareness and ensure PWD rights are enforced. He also pointed out that stammering has been identified as a disability because of the limitations it places on people who suffer from it as they are unable to access certain roles in the workplace. He highlighted the need to restrain from mocking persons with disabilities, such as stammerers, in television and film.

In identifying some of the challenges faced by PWDs, Jerry Fiave pointed out that stigmatisation was a major challenge faced. The inability for some PWDs to access public areas must be addressed to create an inclusive society. He also talked about the role religion and religious institutions can play in sensitising society.

The panel discussion ended with a question and answer session which led to an open forum for the stakeholders and attendees. Outputs from the forum highlighted the need to intensify education on disability for parents of PWDs, as well as health workers across all areas. Other participants also suggested there is a need to promote disability without funding aid in Ghana, meaning stakeholders should take initiative and not wait for donations in order to promote activities.

Closing remarks were delivered by George Ofori, Project Coordinator, British Council in Accra. He thanked all participants and organisation representatives and summarised the key points discussed during the event.