“I choose not to place ‘DIS’ in my ability.”
Robert M. Peel
“There is a remarkable amount of strength residing in those who move forward without being able to physically move. Ones that carry the weight of illness or a disability, they battle wars most know nothing about. They are the true warriors of the world, the ones who have every reason to quit but never do.”
ONE MOST HEART-WARMING piece of news relayed to Ghanaians at the beginning of this month was the one that was concerned with the manning of toll booths by people with disabilities (PWDs). The Minister of Roads and Highways in launching the Persons with Disability initiative confirmed the pledge he made at his vetting that he would reserve 50% quota in all contracts on manning toll booths for PWDs. He has been true to his word; he has kept his word!
The “people with disability” were previously labelled “disabled persons”, now, they are euphemistically called “People with Disabilities”, a “euphemism” appropriately employed. According to the 2010 Housing Population Census, such persons constitute 3% of Ghana’s population, and there is the need for opportunities to be created for them to contribute their quota to the economy.
During a working visit the Minister paid to the offices of the Ghana Federation of the Disabled Organizations in Accra, Mr. Kwasi Amoako Atta gave the assurance that persons with disability would be engaged to man the tollbooths. Hence, an elaborate training programme to build the capacities of these persons had been rolled out.
It was reassuring when the Minister quoted the Gospel according to John. Chapter 9: “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him: ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned’, said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Earlier, the Minister had recalled his campaigning for physically challenged people when he was the presiding member for the Atiwa Assembly. He was “always calling for a greater recognition and advocated that the tollbooth should be ceded to that Federation”.
The Minister stressed “the fact that disability is not inability, my ministry is open to harnessing the skills of PWDs regardless of their physical conditions in executing our agenda. This project, therefore, offers a lead in the implementation of that manifesto commitment to PWDs by first setting the example”.
Mr. Yaw Ofori Debrah, President of the Ghana Federation for Disability Organizations had a good word for the government for the initiative. It was historic for the PWDs. He noted; “Today marks a very historic event for PWDs. Our long-cherished dream has been fulfilled through the efforts of the Road and Highways Minister. On behalf of the Federation, we express our utmost appreciation to the government of Nana Akufo Addo and his cabinet for ensuring that PWDs are given a pride of place in Ghana… We are impressed”. Of course, there was a firm promise of working hard for more opportunities to come their way.
The Vice – President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, also confirmed the government’s initiative to assist the PWDs. He noted that the Akufo-Addo –led government would implement the Disability Act, Act 715, to assist persons with disability, and that buildings across the country would be made accessible to PWDs. He said: “Government is committed to creating the economic opportunities and ensuring a safe and inclusive society as well as facilitating access to public places by persons with disability…” Dr Bawumia continued, “This intervention is aimed at reducing the unemployment rate among persons with disability in order to provide them with a source of livelihood which will in turn deal with the cycle of poverty facing most people with disability.” He added, on a bright note: “While this is an important initiative as far as employment of PWDs is concerned, it is not sufficient. What we need is more mainstream of persons with disability across both the private and public sectors –in the banks or wherever, at all ministries. We need to have a strategy of making sure that persons with disability attain that employment status.”
I have read accounts in the social media deriding and dismissing this gesture by the government. Who said in a democracy, people are not entitled to their opinions? They are, yes. However, I think all those making the negative comments and rubbishing the government’s initiative are “whole” – they do not suffer any disability, they are ‘able – bodied’ – else they would appreciate the “small mercies”.
I happened to have chanced upon some of these people in the Ministries recently, and it was a sight to behold! Handsome men and beautiful ladies who had been rendered ‘disabled’ as a result of some congenital diseases or infections, including conjunctivitis, jaundice, and retinitis. Some had emaciated limbs especially resulting from poliomyelitis. Others had amputated limbs as a result of accidents – motor, machine or physical injury (like a fall). These people with mobility and movement impairments are those who do not just deserve our sympathy but our encouragement to live a full life of their own, and encouragement to contribute to their fullest level of their abilities. The least we, as individuals, can do is to see beyond their inabilities and show compassion and sensitivity to their plight. Dalai Lama says: “Our prime purpose, in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them”. If there is way for government to help, it must, and the action by the Roads and Highways Ministry is one of such laudable moves.
Africanus Owusu –Ansah
P.S. The act of magnanimity extended by Hon. Queenstar Pokuah Sawyerr, MP for Agona East Constituency to the legendary actor, Asonaba Kwaku Darko, popularly known as ‘OD’ cannot pass uncommented upon. Some of us, born before independence, can recall OD’s contributions that helped to uplift the image of drama in ‘those days’! The whole Ghanaian populace would be waiting with bated breath for the ‘discussion’ to end, and OD would plunge the nation into hilarity and jocundity when he was on Osofo Dadzie’s ‘Obra’. Now, at 82, OD has weak limbs—suffering from a disability! Let us show that we love him, we care. Please, editor, can I have OD’s number; so that I send him “something small”? Anybody joining me?