In aid of the bid to make Ghana an enabling environment for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) to lead dignified and meaningful lives, we organise a conference on disability every year. This year’s Multidisciplinary Conference on Disability and Development took place on Friday 15th of March, 2019 at our A & C campus.
The conference, provides a platform for vigorous and intellectually stimulating discourse from advocates, policymakers, and academics from various disciplines including healthcare practice, law, psychology, business and ICT. The central focus is to consider ways to make Ghana an enabling environment for Persons with Disability, their families and their caregivers. This year, the Chairperson was Hon Ignatius Baffour Awuah, Minister for Employment and Labour Relations, with a Special Address by Hon Matthew Opoku-Prempeh, the Minister of Education. The Keynote speech was given by Mr Yaw Debrah, Chairman of the National Council on Persons with Disability.
The theme for the 2019 edition of the conference was Disability and Development: Education, Employment and Economic Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities. This theme explores another important element of inclusion- socio-economic rights and conditions of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) and their families/caregivers, as an essential ingredient of Ghana’s development. It provided an opportunity to expose unique challenges that Persons with Disabilities and their families face with regards to inclusive and special education, employability, access to appropriate work environments, amongst others. With rigorous multidisciplinary research, the conference was progressive and useful not only in shedding light on the economic hardships of PWDS and their families, but also proposing concrete ways of promoting and safeguarding their socio-economic rights, in order to encourage a holistic approach to Ghana’s development.
In previous years, a number of special guests have attended and/chaired this event including Ms. Bruce-Lyle, a member of the Ghana Federation on Disability, Prof Henrietta J.A.N Mensa-Bonsu, former Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the UN Mission in Liberia and Mr Ivor Greenstreet, 2016 Presidential candidate for the Convention People’s Party. Other notable personalities who have chaired or spoken at the Conference are Father Campbell of the Christ the King Parish, Prof Angela Ofori-Atta, former deputy Minister, Ministry of Manpower Development and Employment, and Hon. Nana Oye Lithur, former Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, as well as several distinguished members of the Judiciary, legal practitioners, academics, and representatives of non-governmental organisations.
This conference is led by one of Lancaster University Ghana’s law lecturers, Maame Yaa A. Barnes. When asked for her motivations and thoughts ahead of the conference Maame Yaa said,
‘This year we are delving into socio-economic rights and conditions of Persons with Disability. PWDs can be significant contributors to the economic development of the country, if they are given the appropriate opportunities and structures that support their development. Economic empowerment to me, should be viewed broadly as any means by which the Person with Disability is made financially independent. A lot of the debate surrounds inclusive education as opposed to special needs education. How do we expand the idea of education to provide the proper support for all? How do we ensure that teachers in inclusive schools are adequately trained? How can these be provided, and at reduced cost to the families of the person with disabilities? All these and more will be explored at the Conference. Having launched the Journal on Disability last year, Lancaster University Ghana is determined to push disability rights to the fore of discussions on development. This year, we plan to engage more with the different arms of government, to promote reforms in legislation, and the creation of policies that will further contribute to making Ghana an inclusive space for Persons with Disability.’
Several papers were presented at this conference, each touching on a key thematic area including: pedagogy and educational resources, inclusive education, different forms access barriers for PWDs, challenges faced by parents, teachers and other facilitators of education, law and policy in respect of education, labour and employment and financial independence of PWDs as a question of fundamental human rights.
A number of generous sponsors supported this conference including Transnational Academic Group Ghana Ltd, the French Embassy, Multimedia Group Ltd, and Primetime Limited.