We owe a duty to people with disability

Sun, 12 Aug 2007 Source: Obeng, Mensah Richard

Before I proceed with this article I render an unqualified apology to my noble readers at Ghanaweb. In my article, “Thief! Thief!! Thief!!! Who is first to Cast His Stone?” which appeared on the Ghanaweb on Saturday, 28Th July 2007. The memory verse I quoted should be John 8:1-11 (not Luke 8:1-11) and in the statement ‘Rome was not built in a day’ (the word “ not” was wrongly omitted). My honorable readers should accept my humble apology.


It is a matter of regret that the entire Ghanaian society has turned a blind eye to Persons with Disability (PWDs) who happen to be in our midst. We turn to have no or little regard for these people. Our attitude towards them makes it to appear that they are second-class human beings. Sadly enough, the position of a number of our customs and values towards PWDs is also very awful.

Ironically, we fail to appreciate that disability is no person’s slot. Anyone of us could be a victim at any point in time. The situation that PWDs find themselves is not their making. It may be an act of God or the mistake of you and me.

Disability is not inability. There have been some evidential proofs (situations) where PWDs have performed better than their fellow colleagues in some activities. PWDs are also capable of doing what we wrongly believe to be our preserve. As for instance, the leading mathematician in the world today is without hands. Such is the work of God; He takes the hopeless situations in this world to confound the supposedly wise.

The drafters of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana in their divine wisdom devoted Article 29 of the said constitution for the rights of the disabled persons. Article 29(8) mandates our august parliament to enact such laws as are necessary to ensure the enforcement of the provisions in Article 8. In the light of this, the Parliament of Ghana in June 2006 passed the Disability Bill into law. The purpose of the Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715) is to fight and protect the rights of people who are living with disability. Therefore, Act 715 intends to make sure that people with disability really enjoy their rights, which are in our constitution.

Article 12(1) of our constitution requires that the fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in the chapter five (of the 1992 Constitution) shall be respected and upheld by the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary and all other organs of government and its agencies and, where applicable to them, by all natural and legal persons in Ghana, and shall be enforceable by the courts as provided for in the constitution. Article 41(d) of the 1992 Constitution also obliges every citizen of Ghana to respect the rights and freedoms and legitimate interests of others, and generally to refrain from doing acts detrimental to the welfare of other persons (herein, disabled persons).

It is not in dispute that the mere passage of the Disability Law is not a total answer to the problem of discrimination towards disabled persons. Societal attitude towards PWDs must change for the better. To enable us to fulfill the need to respect the rights of PWDs, the following general provisions have been included in Act 715.

Section 4 of the Disability Law makes it an offence to use a person with disability unfairly for your advantage. For example, it is wrong to use a disabled child to beg for money instead of taking such a person to school to learn a trade or work. Employers are not to pay disabled workers less than those who do not have disability, unless the disability has to do with, or is affected by, a particular work. We should show the same level of respect to all persons, whether disabled or not. Hence, we must not abuse or disgrace persons with disability.

According to the Section 37 of the law, it is an offence to insult a person with disability by mentioning that particular disability of that person. This means that, we must avoid using derogatory remarks against PWDs.

Finally, PWDs have the right to participate in national activities. This means that, where there is going to be a national, regional or district activity or event, those who plan it shall make sure that persons with disability can easily get to and enter the place and also use the facilities there.

It should not be forgotten that, one of the greatest things in life is to persistently creating joy in others. The Golden Rule obliges us to do unto others, as we would have them do unto us. Fellow Ghanaians, let us therefore exercise mutual trust, respect and fellow feeling towards Persons with Disability (PWDs).

To conclude, it is humbly suggested that all the religious bodies in the country should act as vehicles for the implementation of Act 715. In addition, the National House of Chiefs should abolish certain customs and norms that are inhumane and discriminate against PWDs. Besides, the mass media should be interested in projecting the image of PWDs positively to the general public. Lastly, all and sundry must understand that, in this day and age, it is a sign of immaturity to behave uncouthly towards a disabled person due the plight of that person.


The Disability law (Popular Version), by C.C.D-Ghana.

Obeng Mensah Richard, Faculty of Law, KNUST borncapy@yahoo.com; Center for Human Rights and Advanced Legal Research (CHRALER), Kumasi and a member of Values Advocates

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Obeng, Mensah Richard