Access to public places is a major concern for Persons with Disabilities, pregnant women, children and the aged in Ghana. The situation is very disheartening when it comes to access to places of convenience for such people in the country. The status quo is same in Nzema East and Jomoro Municipals. PWDs and vulnerable groups face an uphill task of using toilet facilities within the two municipalities because the facilities are not friendly to them at all. That is, the facilities do not have ramps to support smooth and easy entry, lack hand rails to support squatting and standing, unsuitable toilet seats among others. The situation is worse off when it comes to PWDs who use wheel chairs. The toilet and urinal facilities are not spacious enough to allow for the use of wheel chairs.
In an attempt to advocate for inclusiveness and equality regarding the designs and construction of toilet and urinal facilities in NEMA and JMA, UCSOND initiated an advocacy campaign towards retrofitting of Sanitation and Hygiene facilities in the two municipalities since 2017.
As part of activities towards the advocacy, UCSOND facilitated engagement meetings with the leadership of the two municipal assemblies; created awareness and sensitized PWDs and the general public on the Disability Act 2006 (Act 715), facilitated the reintroduction of the PWDs (Nzema East Branch) quarterly meetings and urged the assemblies to quicken the disbursement of PWDs’ Common Fund.
The campaign has been on since that time and in 2018, UCSOND had an opportunity to make a presentation at an MPCU meeting on “The state of PWDs, the aged and vulnerable groups in accessing Toilet Facilities within Nzema East and Jomoro in accessing public places of convenience”. The MPCU members were awestruck and overwhelmed by the statistics quoted by UCSOND in the presentation.
UCSOND argued that: Disability is an inescapable human condition and at one point or another, almost every person is exposed to, and may experience temporary or permanent disability (WHO & World Bank, 2011).
To further trumpet its stance, UCSOND maintained that WHO, confirms that 80% of persons with disabilities live in developing countries. The Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) Population and Housing Census (PHC) 2010, posits that about 10% to 15% of the Total Population are Persons with Disability. The 2010 Census further states that about 2.5% of the total population in Nzema East are disabled. In Jomoro, the situation is even worse as 3.0% of the total population suffer one form of disability or the other. The disabilities are in varied forms such as sight, hearing, speech, and physical to mention a few. This makes provision of PWDs’ user-friendly facilities a critical matter for consideration.
Furthermore, UCSOND quoted the section 6 of the Persons with Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715) which stipulates: “The owner or occupier to which the public has access shall provide appropriate facilities that make the place accessible to and available for use by a person with disability.” The section 7 of the same act further 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” to make a case for the relevance of providing PWDs’ user- friendly facilities throughout the entire municipalities.
The MPCU members were touched by the presentations and assured that the issue would be tabled at General Assembly meeting for deliberation and action. At the General Assembly meeting, the Assembly members consented to the construction and retrofitting of old facilities to support the plight and well-being of PWDs.
After several follow ups and engagement meetings with the MMDA officials for over 2 years, the Nzema East Municipal Assembly finally responded positively to UCSOND’s advocacy issue in 2019. The Assembly has renovated 2 toilet facilities with funding support from the Axim Premix committee. The 2 toilet facilities are in use ever since they were refurbished to ease the burden on PWDs, pregnant women, children and the aged in accessing toilet facilities. These facilities are found in Bankyim and Amanfulkumamu.
The newly renovated facilities have ramps at the entry points, the interiors are well spaced out for passage of wheel chairs and friendly toilet seats have been installed. UCSOND has since praised the leadership of NEMA for this initiative and bold step in creating a meaningful life for all citizens irrespective of their physical condition and status. The renovation is an attempt to ensuring inclusiveness and equality. However, the installation hand rails in all the toilet facilities have not seen the light of day and begs for urgent attention to ensuring full accessibility and inclusiveness.
UCSOND continues to engage the leadership of the NEMA to see to the renovation of the remaining toilet facilities as well as follow modern building standards and designs in constructing new sanitation and hygiene facilities. UCSOND is equally engaging with the Jomoro Assembly to commit resources to renovating their toilet facilities to meet the status of PWDs and the aged.