Head of the Disability Support and Services Unit at the Takoradi Technical University, Joseph Oti-Asirifi Mensah, wants government, to as a matter of urgency, provide education and all Coronavirus related information, in sign language.

In a statement released today, Oti-Asirifi registered his ” displeasure at the conduct of Ghana Health Services and the Ministries of Health and Information and the government of Ghana over the continued differential and discriminatory treatment against the deaf community in Ghana, for purposes public information, education, updates, etc., relative to the deadly Coronavirus disease (COVID 19). I also wish to remind the Government of Ghana through the same media that the rights of deaf persons in Ghana are protected under the Persons With Disability Act, 2006 Act 715, and that there are consequences for the abuse of such rights”.

Currently, in Ghana, public information and education on Coronavirus is mainly in audio, played on national and private radio stations, and texts or infographics shared on social media. Even those that are in videos are not accompanied by Sign Language interpreters.

This Oti-Asirifi finds, discriminatory and an infringement on the rights of disabled persons.

”Deaf persons cannot practically and directly assess the national emergency COVID 19 call numbers; no SMS lines have been provided yet as alternatives. The Ministry of Information has undertaken at least three public update sessions on the situation of the Coronavirus pandemic in Ghana, with speeches from the Information Minister himself, Minister for Local Government, medical doctors from the G.H.S., top security and government officials, etc., yet all these were without a Sign Language interpreter to communicate such vital information to the deaf community in Ghana. The president addresses the nation, and it is the same story. It cannot be an oversight: it is one of the many forms of neglect and rejection that deaf persons have been subjected to over the years.

Section 7 of the Disability Act, 2006 Act 715, states “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 a disability”.

He further revealed that members of the deaf community are becoming increasingly apprehensive, and like any other Ghanaian group, would want to participate in the precautionary and preventive measures by taking responsibility for their health based on quality public information. That aside, they are potential carriers or contact persons of the virus and cannot be excluded from the national education and information channels.

Given this, Oti-Asirifi wants the Ministry of Information and the Ghana Health Service to remedy the situation, as a matter of urgency.

”The Ministry of Information and the Ghana Health Services should as a matter of urgency provide COVID 19 education and information in Sign Language, and as well, put out SMS or Video Call Contacts with Sign Language attendants to enable the deaf community make enquires and report their complains and observations. All subsequent public engagements (announcements, education, information, etc.) should be accompanied by a Sign Language version or a Sign Language interpreter as the case may be” he concluded.

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