A visually impaired Palestinian girl reads a Braille version of the Koran during a lesson on memorizing the Koran in Gaza City, July 12, 2012. (Suhaib Salem / Courtesy Reuters)
Sefakor Komabu-Pomeyie remembers having to crawl on the ground to enter her school in Ghana because there were no ramps for disabled students. At times, she even had to urinate on the floor; it was just too difficult to make it to the bathroom. Sefakor’s parents understood that their polio-stricken daughter would be out on the streets begging if she didn’t get an education, though, so they pushed her to stay in school. And she did. Today she is a graduate student and Ford Fellow at the School for International Training (SIT) Graduate Institute in Vermont. She also advocates for disability rights, particularly for those held back from education by lack of physical access.
Disability is a national and global issue, and it is time for a comprehensive approach that includes education and development. The numbers are staggering: About 19 percent of the U.S. population -- 56 million Americans -- has a physical or cognitive disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That makes it one of the country’s largest minority groups. Worldwide, the figure is 15 percent -- over a billion people -- according to the World Health Organization and the World Bank’s latest statistics.
December 3 is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and this year, the UN chose the theme—Break Barriers, Open Doors: for an inclusive society and development for all.
UN findings show that over one billion people, or approximately 15 percent of the world’s population, live with some form of disability! Around the world, persons with disabilities face physical, social, and economic barriers that exclude them from participating fully and effectively as equal members of society. They are disproportionately represented among the world’s poorest, and lack equal access to basic resources, such as education, employment, healthcare, and social and legal support systems. Persons with disabilities also have a higher rate of mortality. Still, disability has remained largely invisible in the mainstream development agenda and its processes.
Students at Manpong School for the Deaf.
In our own small way, Empowering and Enlightening People with Disabilities—Africa (EEPD AFRICA) is tackling this global challenge at the grass roots level as well as by engaging stakeholders in Ghana through the media. Most recently, EEPD AFRICA exposed the realities on the ground at Manpong—a school for deaf children, who are seriously marginalized and do not have equal access to education.
The Municipal Chief Executive of the Akuapem South Municipal Assembly (ASMA), Mr. Mark Dompreh, has indicated that the plight of persons with disabilities is not being well addressed in the country, especially in the areas of education, employment, and transportation among others.
According to him, although the country has the necessary legislations like the Disability Act 2006, which sought to create an enabling environment for the disabled, it had not achieved the total purpose of its draft.
Mark Dompreh made the observation at the launch of Enlightening and Empowering People with Disability (EEPD), non-governmental organisations (NGO), in Africa, under the theme “Creating Accessible School Environment for Disable Child,” on Tuesday, October 8, 2013, at Nsawam in the Eastern Region.
Mr. Mike Dompreh, who was parented by a physical challenged father, therefore, called on the government, companies, and other bodies to consider people with disabilities, since they were also part and parcel of society.
He pledged the assembly’s support to the non-governmental organisation (NGO) in ensuring an enabling education atmosphere for children with disabilities in the municipality.
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL 2013
by Sefakor Grateful-Miranda Komabu-Pomeyie