By Sefakor Komabu Pomeyie, Advancing Leader Fellow 2013, SIT Graduate Institute 2013
The United Nations and the World Health Organization estimate that there are more than 600 million persons with disabilities (PWDs) in the world, 80 percent of whom live in developing countries. In these developing countries, including Ghana, most people with disabilities are part of an impoverished marginalized group characterized by lack of access to public health, education, and other social services that would ideally help them advance and realize their full potentials.
In Ghana, 2 million people—approximately 10 percent of the population—are PWDs. Ghana has Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education, but almost 300,000 PWDs have never attended any school, and only 2,319 have reached the post-graduate level. While the laws, policies, and international obligations of Ghana should provide every child with the right to education, there has not been adequate implementation to make schools accessible to physically disabled children. That is why we still find countless PWDs on the streets of Ghana begging for their livelihood.
Importance of accessible schools
By making education accessible to all children, we will reduce government expense of PWDs. An accessible infrastructure ensures an improved literacy rate among of PWDs and the necessary skills to contribute and participate in nation-building. Education can also enable PWDs to be more independent and thus less dependent on paid caregivers.
What do we want?
With the support of the World Learning Advancing Leaders Fellowship, Enlightening and Empowering People with Disabilities in Africa has launched the Accessible Schools Campaign in Ghana to change the building plan of every school to make education accessible for people with disabilities. Too many schools are only accessible by stairs, preventing disabled children from receiving an education. We are also using the media to advocate for the implementation of the existing disability law. When the law was passed in 2006, a 10-year transition period was allowed because of the substantial investment needed to make all existing public infrastructures handicap accessible. But seven years later, nothing significant has been done to improve existing buildings, let alone the new ones.
Your role in the campaign
As part of the global dialogue on development, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs has emphasized the rights of the disabled. It held its sixth session of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in New York in mid-July, and focused on disability-inclusive development in national, regional, and international processes.
I encourage you to be part of this global conversation. You can add your voice on the international, national, or community levels, and you can start right here, right now by commenting on this blog. I strongly believe that you have the potential and ability to speak up for and change the lives of PWDs. Let me know what you think the challenges are to realizing the right to education as a universal human right and how the Accessible Schools Campaign in Ghana can address those challenges.
Join the Advancing Leaders Fellows in making a difference by donating to the Fellowship program. Your support changes the lives of our alumni and the communities they serve. And be sure to follow Sefakor on Twitter and on this blog as she develops her project in the coming months.