As part of efforts to promote the inclusion and participation of young persons with disabilities in the planning and decision making process in Ghana, the Youth Bridge Foundation (YBF) organized an educational visit to the Parliament of Ghana for Students from the Cape Coast School of the Deaf.
This initiative under the sponsorship of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) forms part of the implementation of the project “Access to justice for youth and persons with disabilities in Ghana”. Taking cognizance of the fact that the national budget hearing is the highest level of the budget preparation cycle, the initiative sought to provide opportunity for young Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) to be present in national parliament for the first time for exposure and interact with law makers whilst advocating for the inclusion of issues concerning PWD’s in budgetary deliberations.
Present to interact with the 20 hearing impaired students including teachers, were media personnel from Ghana Broadcasting Cooperation, Ghana News Agency, Home Based TV station, selected national radio stations among others. Members of Parliament, Hon Ebenezer Terlabi Okletey, MP for lower Manya Krobo and Hon. Gyamfi Emmanuel Akwasi MP Odotobri also took time of their busy schedules to engage the youth.
According to the students critical matters concerning PLWDs had been ignored by the state for years. Consequently their inputs were not sought in the preparation of annual national budgets. The students made an appeal for government to increase the number of hearing impaired Senior High Schools in Ghana since only one exist. They also urged parliament to pass a law so that the Sign Language could be taught at the basic level to enable them to communicate with their counterparts. They complained that most of the text books for the visually impaired students were in print and, therefore, appealed to the Government to convert them into brail.
Among other issues raised was the need for government offices, MMDA’s and public places such as the banks and hospitals to have interpreters to facilitate transactions with hearing impaired persons.
Responding to concerns raised by the beneficiaries, Hon. Seth Acheampong MP for Mpraeso who also doubles as the immediate past chairperson for select committee on Gender and Children assured the PWD’s of the all-inclusive agenda of the government. He stated the Inclusive Education (IE) policy as one of the major strategy of ensuring that all children (including those with disability) get access to formal education.
Teachers and students of the speech and hearing impaired institution expressed their appreciation to YBF and OSIWA for the exposure and education. In their view this gesture truly indicates a call for inclusion which is in line the all-inclusive agenda of the government Ghana. Beneficiaries also proposed the exercise be replicated to other special schools in the country.