Madam Josephine Nkrumah, the Chairman of the National commission for Civic Education (NCCE), has urged Ghanaians to ensure that PWDs had equal rights to justice as any other citizen of Ghana.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of a weeklong course on Access to Justice for PWDs at the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, Legon, Madam Nkrumah said the last Census Report indicated that one in five Ghanaians was ability challenged.
“So if one in five Ghanaians is disability or ability challenged then as a country it means we have one in five persons who is potentially denied access to justice,” Madam Nkrumah said.
“If we say we are a democratic country, then this for me is unacceptable. In our current democratic dispensation and democratic governance after 25 years of a Constitution that has held us together as a people, it is our duty to ensure that justice is available to every citizen of Ghana whether or not the person is ability challenged,” she added.
Madam Nkrumah said the journey to ensuring that persons with disabilities were treated as equal citizens must be free of obstacles whether by laws, practices or infrastructure “so that we, together, can realise the objective of access to justice without any form of hindrance, especially in relation to today's programme”.
She said before Act 715 was promulgated, the country had taken very important steps in the fundamental law, stipulated in the Constitution per Article 29 Clauses 4 and 5.
The Article ensures that disabled persons shall be protected against all exploitations, all regulations and all treatment of discriminatory abuses or degrading nature.
Clause 5 goes on to say that the judicial proceeding in which a disabled person is a party, the legal procedures applied shall take his physical and mental condition into account.
She said if the justice systems failed to accommodate disabilities related needs then there was a denial of full access to the justice system.
“If for instance a hearing impaired citizen visits the court but there is no sign language interpreter to explain the processes to him, then he has been denied access to justice since there is a clear absence of effective communication of information,” she said.
Madam Nkrumah said one of the yardsticks to consolidating Ghana’s democratic dispensation is to ensure the rights of disabled persons.
The course, which was opened by Madam Otiko Afiah Djaba, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, is being organised by the Faculty of Law, UG, in collaboration with Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).
The course aims at adopting a right-based approach to improving the inclusivity and provides comprehensive access to justice for PWDs, either as direct or indirect participants and whether as victims of crime, suspects, witnesses, plaintiffs, defendants, appellants, remand prisoners and/or prison inmates.