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Issues affecting Deaf People in Ghana

Ghana National Association of the Deaf (GNAD) is a registered, membership-based, not-for-profit organization established for and managed by Deaf people in Ghana.

Established in 1968, GNAD’s activities involve mobilizing Deaf people, advocating for the removal of language and communication barriers, creating awareness on Deaf issues, and ensuring that Deaf people have equal access to opportunities in education, politics, health, and employment. The main objective of GNAD is therefore to engage in activities that will increase the participation of Deaf people in all spheres of life. The main beneficiaries of GNAD’s projects include Deaf people and their families, government agencies, and service providers. Over the years, GNAD has increased its influence and expanded its membership and geographical coverage to 102 districts in the country.

In a society where the helpless, voiceless and vulnerable are not assisted, supported and informed to demand their rights to end exclusion and marginalization, there is a dire sense of abuse of fundamental human rights and these are some of the key challenges Deaf people face.

Lack of quality inclusive/segregated education, poor access to information, healthcare and employment are some of the core development issues facing the many Deaf People in Ghana (approximately 110,625). Consequently, intervention to improve access to quality information on healthcare, employment, and other issues are therefore critical in GNAD’s planning, implementation and in accordance with its mission and vision. The past years have seen significant advocacy work for access to quality and barrier free and inclusive society for the Deaf.

Like many other people, the many Deaf People in Ghana particularly students in special and mainstreamed schools, deserve as their fundamental human rights, the opportunity to get quality education and the opportunity to work to contribute to the development of Ghana. Quality education aimed at harnessing the innate talents and potentials for national development. As a membership based non-governmental organization, GNAD is concerned about the quality of education for the Deaf as well as the extremely high levels of unemployment among Deaf people in Ghana.

GNAD has over the years worked tirelessly through political and societal advocacy to influence policies that would enhance the educational delivery for children. Through the support from the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC), all the 14 Schools for the Deaf in Ghana have been equipped with Computers and Projectors as well as other equipment and materials to improve teaching and learning. On behalf of the GNAD Board and Staff, and the entire Deaf community in Ghana, express our sincere gratitude to GIFEC and hope that this relationship will deepen to include the provision of internet connectivity to the Computer Laboratories in the Schools (both public and private) for the Deaf.

As visual language users, qualified human resources including teachers with the required capacity to effectively convey course contents to deaf learners through the Ghanaian Sign Language (GHSL) and qualified Sign Language Interpreters is fundamental to an effective educational outcome for the Deaf at all levels. Lack of qualified GHSLIs in higher education institutions is however a major challenge that undermine quality education delivery in Ghana. GNAD has initiated series of programs seeking to bridge the communication gap. We are currently working to initiate partnership with the University of Cape Coast to start a Sign Language Interpreting Course to train and supplement the Sign Language Interpreters’ manpower needs to the various institutions and organizations. A key aim of the project is to empower qualified SLIs with further skills through formal training and certification for onward engagement in the various institutions to provide quality interpretation services for the Deaf.

Concerning employment, apart from few companies that have employed Deaf people, the Ghana Education Service remains the single largest employer of qualified Deaf graduates. This is much appreciated, although woefully inadequate. Ban on public sector employment has further contributed to raise the unemployment problems among Deaf graduates. As part of its advocacy for access to employment, the GNAD through the Youth Employment Agency (YEA) is currently supporting the vocational training of some Deaf People and the recruitment of qualified Deaf people under the Community Teaching Assistant Module in the Greater Accra & Upper West Regions.  We urge YEA to extend this initiative to all the other regions in Ghana so that many more Deaf people, including graduates from the various universities and polytechnics can get some employment.

Research across the world have shown that Deaf people are hardworking, more diligent and less likely to leave the job compared to other individuals. The benefits of hiring a Deaf person are therefore enormous; hard working staff and low job dropout rate. It is as well, and more relevant, to say that the traditional notions that Deaf people cannot carry out most assignments no longer holds sway.

Let me on behalf of the association; express my sincere appreciation to the various organizations including those within the hospitality industry for the employment opportunities they offered to Deaf people. We also urge other Employers to endeavor to consider Deaf people who seek employment in their organizations.

Another major challenge facing Deaf people is communication barriers. Because of this challenge, access to information, education, justice, employment as well as healthcare are relatively and routinely inaccessible. The 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, recognizes the need to create equal opportunities for all and has made provisions in Article 29 of the Constitution as well as the Disability Act 715 of Parliament to address these issues.

Government alone cannot address this challenge. The shortage of public institutions to address the communication needs of deaf people to access public good and services has been a major challenge facing the association. GNAD has over the past years initiated series of communication access improvement projects aimed at promoting improved access to quality information vis- a- vis collaborative engagement with relevant actors, Government Agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations, Civil Society Organizations, Corporate Ghana, Religious Bodies and Traditional Authorities to address this communication gap. It is our hope that, with support from various bodies, GNAD will adopt three approaches;

  1. Raising awareness among Deaf people, duty bearers and public officials and professionals on the rights of Deaf people and the challenges they face in accessing public goods and Services.
  2. Carry out comprehensive advocacy for Government and Non-Governmental Institutions as well Service Providers to provide sign language services in order for Deaf people to access their services.
  3. To build the capacity of Public Institutions such as the Police, Judiciary, Ghana Health Service, Banks, GPRTU etc by training their members in basic sign language skills through regular teaching and practical engagements.

With these three strategies in mind, GNAD will organize comprehensive sensitization programs for its members throughout the 10 regions, print and distribute fact sheets on the rights of the Deaf, as enshrined in the major human rights documents. GNAD will also interact with various Media Houses and networks to amplify the challenges the Deaf encounter in accessing healthcare and other services and how these Institutions are helping to deal with this challenge.

On behalf of the board members, staff and entire deaf community we acknowledge the role played by our donors; notably Danish Deaf Association (DDL) through the Danida Project, STAR-Ghana, Disability Rights Fund (DRF), National Malaria Control Program (NMCP), individuals and others for bringing GNAD this far. We equally acknowledge the immense roles played by our implementation partners and other DPOs including our dedicated staff over the past years.

Courtesy: James . M.  Sambian
Executive Director of GNAD

December 2017
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