“Ableism or ablism is a form of discrimination or social prejudice against people with disabilities. It may also be referred to as disability discrimination, ablecentrism, physicalism, handicapism, and disability oppression. It includes apotemnophobia and dysmorphophobia. It is also sometimes known as disablism, although there is some dispute as to whether ableism and disablism are synonymous, and some people within disability rights circles find the latter term’s use inaccurate. Discrimination faced by those who have or are perceived to have a mental disorder is sometimes called mentalism rather than ableism.”
The Member of Parliament (MP) for Nadowli Kaleo and NDC presidential aspirant, Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin is reported to have incoherently singled out the appointment of the visually impaired, Dr Henry Siedu Daanaa as Minister for Chieftaincy and Traditional Affairs as one of the factors that cost the party in the 2016 election (See: Making a blind man Chieftaincy Minister cost NDC – Bagbin; mynewsgh.com/ghanaweb.com, 22/08/2018).
Bagbin is quoted to have quizzed party communicators during his tour of the Volta Region to solicit the support of delegates: “there were some of these mistakes that cost us dearly. Let me cite another example, in our tradition if you are not whole can you be a chief or grandmother? So if you form a government and make the minister of Chieftaincy a blind person and the chiefs are objecting and you don’t change him what are you telling the chiefs.”
The seemingly impolitic Bagbin proceeded somewhat carelessly: “these are facts I am stating I have not added anything. You all know it but you may not have appreciated the impact on what happened. When some of us who are close and we can foresee it and say it, then you are somewhere and you calling to insult us. Then we all are now in an accident. We were in power and we lost with almost one million.”
As if the preceding preposterous statement was not enough, the NDC presidential aspirant exhibited his ablecentrism by questioning the wisdom in appointing Omane Boamah, a supposed stammerer as the information minister.
“When Prof [Atta Mills] was in power, Haruna Iddrisu was our linguist in charge of communication, when my brother John [Mahama] came to power, he substituted him for Dr Omane Boamah who is a natural stammerer.”
Whilst the international community is making concerted efforts to forge inclusiveness, the NDC presidential aspirant called Bagbin who is desperate to lead Ghana is dragging us backwards by exhibiting his ‘neanderthaloid’ characteristics.
Regrettably, in Ghana, if one becomes disabled during his/her later life, the usual belief among society is either the individual might have been cursed for committing a sin, or the refusal of the family to observe taboos.
In the past, and even in many communities in Ghana today, if a child is born with a deformity, it is deemed to be as a result of evil spirits, a failure of the family to keep taboos, or some type of witchcraft. In some instances, infanticide is performed or the child is ostracised in perpetuity.
The child may also be abandoned at an orphanage or sent to beg on the streets (the usual abode for Ghana's disabled population).
The World Health Organization's report estimates that over a billion people live with some form of disability globally, and, between 110 million (2.2%) and 190 million (3.8%) people of 15 years and older have significant difficulties in functioning.
The report notes that in the years ahead, disability will be an even greater concern because its prevalence is on the rise, and, this is due to ageing populations and the higher risk of disability in older people as well as the global increase in chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental health disorders (WHO, 2011).
According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), disability is increasingly understood as a human rights issue. Besides, disability is an important development issue with an increasing body of evidence showing that persons with disabilities experience worse socioeconomic outcomes and poverty than persons without disabilities (World Report on Disability, 2011).
Given the circumstances, it is manifestly indefensible for someone who wants to lead Ghana to knowingly discriminate against disabled people, notwithstanding the fact that one does not become disabled volitionally.
Apparently, the ableism is not reducible to the likes of Bagbin, it is a national issue. Take, for instance, even though Article 29 (4) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana stresses that disabled persons shall be protected against all exploitations, all regulations, all discriminations, abusive or degrading nature, the framework has been ineffective.
Besides, Kufuor’s government pragmatically enacted the Disability Discrimination Act in 2006, albeit its full implementation is yet to be seen.
Indeed, despite the ostensible desperate attempts by policy makers to include disabled people in the nation building, disabled people have crudely remained marginalised to date, and not being somehow accepted as integral and productive members of society.
Unfortunately, when disabled people are shown, the focus is mainly on their impairments. In actual fact, society obtusely views disabled people as “potential problem”, or to put it euphemistically, outcasts.
Suffice it to stress that the estimated 10% of Ghana’s population (disabled population) ironically face total alienation. “No country can afford to turn its back on 10% of its population” (UNESCO/UNICEF, 1997).
It is absolutely true that disabled people in Ghana have been facing exclusions from the nation building. Suffice it to state that Ghana’s Constitution states: “The recognition that the most secure democracy is the one that assures the basic necessities of life for its people as a fundamental duty”.
The Constitution states: “Steps will be taken to ensure the protection and promotion of all other basic human rights and freedoms, including the rights of the disabled, the aged, children and other vulnerable groups in development processes”.
Given all the assurances, the successive governments have failed woefully to provide meaningful help and support to disabled people in Ghana.
It is absolutely true that most disabled people have subtle mind or individual consciousness and can equally contribute to the nation building with meaningful help and support.
So, why must the likes of Bagbin think disabled people are not fit to hold a responsible position?
‘We are the world, we are the people, so let us all join hands and heal the world together!’