Opinions Mon, 3 Aug 2020

A shameless person?

Slowly, the Voters Registration process by the Electoral Commission is drawing to a close. However, I cannot seem to forget the ordeal and shame I experienced when registering for my Voters ID card.

Normally, I am quick to let encounters like what happened on July 2, 2020 fade away but as of now, I am emotionally exhausted from fighting for Disability rights and having to deal with the typical Ghanaian attitude of complacency to keep mute about this incident. I actually wonder how many people in this country still have compassion and care about humanity.

Article 42 of the 1992 constitution states that "Every citizen of Ghana of eighteen years of age or above and of sound mind has the right to vote and is entitled to be registered as a voter for the purposes of public elections and referenda” for which I clearly qualify. As per the Disability Act, Act

715, clause 1 states a person with disability shall not be deprived of the right to live with that person’s family or the right to participate in social, political, economic, creative or recreational activities.

It also states in its clause 4. (1) A person shall not discriminate against, exploit or subject a person with disability to abusive or degrading treatment. Clause 7 resounds that a person who provides service to the public shall put in place the necessary facilities that make the service available and accessible to a person with disability. Further with clause 8, it specifies that a person who contravenes Section 1, 2, 4, 6, or 7 commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty penalty units or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding three months or to both.

On July 2, I dropped my daughter off at a friend's place to go register for my Voters ID card at the Adentan District, Electoral Commission Office and then, later continue to my place of work, which is the Commission on Human rights and Administrative Justice Office. When I got to EC office, there was a queue which I joined. A few minutes later, some elderly people started making complaints that there were under aged persons trying to register and drew the attention of the security and the polling station officers to their observations.

Before I could fall victim to this erroneous claim, I stepped forward and made it known to the officials that I am a person living with a disability and

needed assistance. I was asked to go back and join the queue as they doubted my declaration and might have felt I was putting up a "show" to quickly get registered. I could not stand the physical pain of standing in the queue after a few minutes had passed, so I approached a security official and

requested he allow me enter the premises to find a chair to sit on whilst I wait for my turn of which he obliged.

Upon entering, I asked a polling officer seated inside for a chair to which she nonchalantly replied that there was no chair for me. Fortunately, I found an empty space by the banister, which I leaned on to help with my discomfort. The polling station monitor approached and asked what I was doing leaning on the banister. I repeated what I had told the Security official at the

gate and all he said was "ok" and went about his business. It was not long before I began to have mild spasms due to my condition.

I gave up leaning on the banister to sit on the cemented floor as I began to feel numb all over. I was diagnosed with Cerebral palsy at a very young age which is not very easy to hide. Cerebral palsy also known as CP is a congenital disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture. Symptoms include exaggerated reflexes, floppy or rigid limbs and involuntary motions which appear by early childhood.

Even though I am on medication to control the symptoms, I started having anxiety attacks right in front of everyone but no one cared about what they were seeing. I then reached out to my WhatsApp support group, Special Moms Project by Hannah Awadzi who then advised me to gather my strength and let an officer know about my disability. I then openly laid out my concerns to a different polling officer about how inhumane i was being treated despite the visible symptoms I was exhibiting. She then went into the office to apparently report me to a senior officer of what I had done. Lo and behold, this Senior officer recognised me from Law school and started praising me in front of her other colleagues.

Apparently, they were not even expecting persons living with disabilities to come and register at the District Office. She then asked me to "beg" the elderly to skip the queue to register and leave. A sweet older lady who knew me personally helped plead with the people to allow me skip the queue and register. Some older women were empathetic but the men grumbled and showed their displeasure. Unfortunately, after I finished my registration process, the worst happened.

I have never felt so dismayed and disappointed about the adults who claim to be above 50 years old and are matured. I cannot vividly express how it felt standing there with tears in my eyes. An elderly man who seemed educated and enlightened, called me to the middle of the registration centre and verbally abused me for skipping the queue and how shameless I was for having the audacity to come to the District office to register and more so, before they did. I was stunned, I stood rooted there for about a minute or two, holding back my tears. I turned to leave the centre, when out of nowhere, another group of women started raining words of abuse on me. It was a security officer who approached and pleaded with me to let it slide.

I could not hold back my tears anymore. As I walked home with tears streaming down my cheeks, I began to wonder, what fault of mine led to me being

treated like that? Was it necessary to openly disclose my medical condition before I exercise my right? Why do I need to beg to have access to my basic rights as person living with a disability? Is it my choice to have a disability? Is it wrong for me to exercise my constitutional rights? If the elderly and some government officials like the polling station officers show such an intense form of insensitivity to anyone regardless of their vulnerability, then where is the soul, heart and compassion of this country?

In a country with such insensitivity, I am not surprised that a 90-year-old woman was lynched to death whilst people stood by, taking videos of the scene and never made an attempt to rescue her.

The whole country was raging about the manner in which Major Mahama was killed but did we learn our lesson? The protection of Vulnerable groups like the persons living with disabilities, women and children etc. is still far fetched and Ghana should bow her head in shame as for over 60 years now, we are still living in an era where babies born with congenital diseases are abandoned in hospitals, children living with disabilities are still being denied education, qualified graduates with disabilities are being turned away for jobs applied for, rape victims are being mocked and stigmatised, recovered Covid-19 patients are being stigmatised and I, who provides my quota to the national

development, a taxpayer, an advocate, and despite my challenges is mocked and abused by my own countrymen.

Oh What a country!!!! Some might even argue that the Ministry of Gender and Social Protection are doing their best and I ask, what is the Ghana Federation of Disabilities doing in this regard. My response is for another day.

July 2 is yet another scar on my body, mind and soul. Most of the time, people tend to throw pity parties when they read stories like mine and then say “it is well”. However, the great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote that “Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed ” Breaking news; that ship sailed away a long time

ago and would never dock on our shores again. I want Justice for what I go through everyday as a person living with a disability in this country and as well as for others like myself.

Enough is enough!!! I deserve to be treated like a human being! We deserve to be treated as human beings and not as a freak of Nature. God help us all.
Columnist: Elsie Amponsah-Dapaah
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