Report of the CIB Expert Seminar on
Building Non-Handicapping Environments,
Opportunities and constraints for access legislation in Ghana -
a case study of utilizing existing institutional framework to promote access
E. Ben Hagan and H. N. A. Wellington, Building & Road Research Institute;
Dept. of Architecture, University of Science & Technology, Kumasi, Ghana
The promotion of legislation of accessibility for
communities (macro-accessibility) in developing countries such as Ghana,
is seriously constrained by a number of negative socio-cultural and institutional
factors, identified with both private and public organizations as well as
with disabled persons. This situation may tend to block any meaningful public
awareness campaign which can be harnessed and transferred eventually into
actual access legislation. Notwithstanding this scenario, owing to the increasing
awareness of governments of the need to have regulations to guard the development
of the built environment, it has been identified that there exist in Ghana
a number of institutional arrangements which can be effectively utilized
to pursue accessibility legislation.
This paper analyses existing socio-cultural and institutional arrangements
to provide a basis to propose a strategy to achieve access legislation within
the prevailing development context. The paper ends by advocating for a four-pronged
strategy on three levels, namely: i) the national politico-administrative
structure; ii) organizational structures of associations of disabled persons
and other relevant non-governmental bodies; and iii) professional bodies
associated with the development of the built environment, effects a) politico-legal
actions; b) bureau-technocratic actions; c) socio-political actions and
d) socio-cultural actions for access legislation.
For several years now, dating as far back as to the
colonial period in some cases, there have existed in Ghana, a number of
schools for the blind, deaf, and mentally retarded, as well as vocational
training centers for the physically disabled. Coupled with the existence
of these facilities, the implementation of a number of special programs
and projects for the promotion of the welfare and interests of disabled
persons has been carried out by both governmental and non-governmental organizations
in different parts of the country. Furthermore, in recent times the activities
of some organizations of disabled people, such as the Ghana Society of the
Physically Disabled, have contributed immensely to address the needs of
those with disabilities in the Ghanaian society. All these activities collectively
underscore the existing positive contextual framework for addressing, with
an increasing intensity, the issues related to the improvement of the quality
of life of disabled persons in Ghana.
In spite of this positive scenario, it is observable that promotional work
geared to the legislation of accessibility for the disabled persons in the
country can be constrained and seriously hampered by a number of institutional
bottlenecks. These are compounded by negative attitudinal tendencies identifiable
with both private and public bodies which operate in and relate to the sector
which deals with the development planning of physical facilities and the
built environment at large. This situation is considered to be inimical
to any meaningful public awareness campaign which can be harnessed and transferred
eventually into actual accessibility legislation.
Bearing in mind the history of the community effort to improve the living
circumstances of persons with disabilities in the society, together with
the socio-economic and cultural context within which such public initiatives
have been carried out to date, this paper addresses the constraints and
opportunities which exist in Ghana in the development of pragmatic strategy
to promote access legislation.
The key socio-cultural factors that pose constraints
to the promotion of access legislation result from the current concept of
rehabilitation of disabled persons, as practised in most developing countries
such as Ghana. This concept of rehabilitation is characterized by the education
and training of disabled people in special segregated institutions followed
in succession by the institutionalized employment of people with disabilities
in special sheltered workshops. Invariably, the current training widely
available to the majority of disabled people is geared towards preparing
them as candidates to join disabled colleagues in the sheltered workshops,
or at best to become self-employed in trades such as basket making and shoe
repairs. This concept of rehabilitation presupposes that the disabled person
need not join his or her non-disabled counterparts in education and employment
as well as in recreation and other social activities. This line of thinking
tends to make irrelevant any concern directed towards ensuring that public
buildings, housing and street environments are made accessible to disabled
The main actors involved in rehabilitation of disabled people are identified
- the community in which disabled people live;
- the government and governmental agencies;
- non-governmental organizations;
- disabled persons.
In most developing countries, the demonstrated concern of these key actors
towards disabled people is still rooted in the common notion that the disabled
person is and should remain a passive recipient of services and charity
from the rest of the community in segregated institutions.
In several situations, the attitudes of the disabled persons tend to suggest
that they accept and support this negative notion. Access campaigns to sensitize
public awareness of the impact of the built environment on disabled persons,
as well as other activities leading to accessibility legislation should
necessarily involve the enthusiastic participation of each of the identified
key actors. However, this enthusiastic participation cannot be assured whilst
these actors keep to their current concept of rehabilitation of disabled
people. The promotion of accessibility legislation can only take off if
these key actors are progressively re-orientated to accept to modify their
rehabilitation strategy to embrace the reality that the achievement of equal
opportunities for people with disabilities can only be sustainable if positive
actions are taken to enhance the early integration of the disabled person
in all sectors of main-stream, community activities. Such re-orientation
could then make it apparent that a major prerequisite of this early integration
is a barrier-free environment for disabled people to facilitate his or her
unhindered movement and use of physical and social facilities in meaningful
participation of community life. The new strategy of community-based rehabilitation
to some extent shares this modified concept, but programs on this strategy
are yet to be initiated in most developing countries.
Access legislation, as understood, is a means by which
standards and regulations to improve access for persons with disabilities
are brought up, enacted and enforced to ensure that buildings both private
and public, streets and roads, sea and air transport are made barrier-free
architecturally, and in all other ways for the comfort, convenience and
safety of the disabled user-group, as well as any other members of the community
(macro-accessibility). The enactment and enforcement of access legislation
is without doubt, to be achieved in the context of the development circumstances
of a country and its corresponding institutional framework.
In Ghana, the welfare and interest of the disabled population are administratively
considered within the schedule of responsibilities of the Ministry of Social
Welfare and Mobilization. Within this institutional framework, the vocational,
educational, and health needs as well as the rights of persons with disabilities
are addressed with the assistance of the related sector ministries and the
various non-governmental organizations such as churches and associations
of and for disabled persons. The performance of the Ministry of Social Welfare
and Mobilization, together with the other bodies regarding the general welfare
of disabled people, has been creditable as the evidence shows in the increasing
provisions being made to improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities
both in the rural and urban communities.
Notwithstanding the above observation, the quality of the physical facilities
which disabled persons have to use to fulfil their existential needs have
not been the direct concern of, and have neither formed part of the key
issues addressed by the Ministry of Social Welfare and Mobilization. The
planning for, and development of, public and residential physical facilities
have fallen generally within the ambit of the Town and Country Planning
Department (Ministry of Local Government), the Ministry of Works and Housing
and the various Metropolitan & District Assemblies. These bodies, which,
by virtue of their administrative responsibilities, are directly charged
with ensuring standards in the quality of the Ghanaian public built environment,
have not in the past confronted the issue of accessibility, due to lack
of governmental policy objectives. The usual references, invariably made
to the development of facilities such as training centers for persons with
disabilities in the various budget statements of governments or assemblies,
have been devoid of any extensive or programmed qualitative considerations.
Consequently, in general the pursuit of standards in the development of
facilities has not been of any prime consideration. The attitude has been
that "provided there is a roof over peoples' heads, anything goes".
As a result of this scenario, existing legislative provisions which should
guide in the planning and development of physical environmental facilities
have not, until recently, been seriously adhered to and applied in the work
of both public and private developers. Furthermore, since many of these
legislative provisions were brought up and enacted when the early and full
integration of the disabled persons into the Ghanaian society was not considered
yet as necessary, the standards and regulations thereby are of no consequence
to the accessibility factor in the development of physical facilities. Further,
it has been noticed that even though the recently drafted and approved (not
yet promulgated) Human Settlement (Planning and Development) Law makes extensive
provisions for improved environmental development, it does not adequately
address the accessibility factor in the built environment at the local level.
(Ref. Sections 3 Part 1 and 19 (i) of Part iv of the Human Settlement Law).
The political/administrative weakness in the institutional arrangements
for the planning and development of the physical environment with respect
to accessibility are compounded by the dearth of technical expertise in
the agencies concerned. The situation is further worsened by the absence
of any current policy guidelines for the training of accessibility-oriented
professionals in the area of architecture and urban design, as well as urban
traffic and highway engineering.
In the face of these constraints, promotional work for accessibility legislation
can be rendered uneventful, owing to difficulties which can be created by
technical/administrative factors as well as lack of commitment on the sides
of technocrats and bureaucrats who have to enforce and monitor the legislation.
Utilization of institutional arrangements to pursue access legislation
In spite of the institutional constraints and possible
difficulties which can frustrate the process of accessibility legislation,
there exist in Ghana a number of institutional arrangements which can be
positively harnessed for an active pursuit of access legislation.
The current political climate in Ghana, which has brought into sharp focus
the need for any target group affected by the development process to be
actively involved in the related decision making and implementation processes,
will facilitate any attempt to legislate any provisions brought up to promote
and serve the interest of a vulnerable group, such as persons with disabilities
in the Ghanaian Society. The achievement of access legislation, if taken
up strategically, is a goal which falls within the Government's conception
of meeting the needs of marginalized groupings.
Within this favorable socio-political atmosphere, a number of legislative
instruments can be identified which can help promote access legislation.
The bedrock of these instruments is the PNDC Law 207 enacted to decentralize
Local Government, thus creating the District Assemblies, which at the local
level, whether in the rural or urban environment, grant communities the
right to deliberate, legislate, implement and fund development projects
which directly affect them. By this instrument, access legislation when
enacted can be effectively enforced and monitored as the affected disabled
population will thereby have closer association with their local councillors.
Consequent to the promulgation of the PNDC Law 207 is the establishment
of the National Development Planning Commission which is based on the Human
Settlements (General Planning and Development) Law. The provisions made
by this law although limited in scope, offer access legislation a framework
to evolve and proceed into an effective instrument to guarantee a meaningful
development of barrier-free environment in all areas of the Ghanaian rural
and urban communities. (Ref. Section 37(i) a, b, of the Human Settlement
To buttress these possibilities that the Human Settlement Law provides for
the promotion of access legislation, there exist additional arrangements
which directly affect the development of barrier-free environment as contained
in the revised Ghana Building Regulations.
The various provisions made, amongst others in Sections 1.11, 2, 2.7, 2.77,
2.78, 18 and 19 cover a number of essential aspects affecting the use of
public buildings and residential units by disabled persons. However, although
the provisions cover issues such as site accessibility, special requirements
for building approaches, hallways, staircases, sanitary facilities and emergency
provisions they are devoid of considerations for accessibility for disabled
persons. Campaigns for revisions in these provisions can be utilized to
promote legislation by means of laid down procedures under the auspices
of governmental and non-governmental organizations who are oriented towards
the needs and interests of persons with disabilities. Such interventions
can build up public awareness for the creation of barrier-free environment
and thus promote and accelerate the process of access legislation.
Strategies for access legislation
Access Legislation in Ghana will no doubt contribute
to the improvement of the quality of life of disabled persons as well as
children and senior citizens, who will benefit from the safety, convenience
and comfort which barrier-free design measures can introduce into the built
environment (macro-accessibility). The fact that access legislation is not
necessarily sectional but affects more or less the whole society, broadens
the political basis for pursuing the institutionalization of quality environment
regarding accessibility. From this perspective, this paper considers a four-pronged
strategy which will facilitate the process of legislating for accessibility
The Four-pronged strategy operates on three levels:
Level 1: embraces actions
pursued within the national political/ administrative structure;
Level 2: embraces actions
pursued within the organizational set-up of the relevant associations of
persons with disabilities and other related bodies;
Level 3: embraces actions
pursued within the professional institutions concerned with the planning
and development of the built-environment.
Actions within the political/administrative structure
At Level 1, the two major actions which will be effected
are: 1) Politico-legal actions, and 2) Bureau-technocratic actions.
1. Politico-legal actions
Politico-Legal Actions should be set in motion by the Ghana Federation of
the Disabled with the assistance of Disabled Peoples' International, Rehabilitation
International, United Nations Development Program, and the International
Council for Building Research Studies and Documentation (CIB) through a
series of consultations culminating in a government-sponsored National Seminar
and Workshop which should result in a recommendation for the setting up
of a National Commission on Disabled Persons. With the establishment of
the National Commission on Disabled Persons should come the enactment of
the Disabled Welfare Law to include legislative instrument on accessibility.
In order to promote the development of affordable barrier-free residential
environments amongst real estate developers, the proposed Commission on
Disabled Persons should assign a task force with the responsibility to draft
special tax rebate provisions for enactment to encourage real-estate developers
to meet a target of 4 per cent affordable barrier-free housing environments
in their estate development programs.
2. Bureau-technocratic actions
Pursuant to the enactment of the Disabled Welfare Law the Human Settlement
(Planning and General Development) Law and the Building Regulations should
be detailed to address specific provisions for accessibility under the auspices
of the National Commission for Disabled Persons.
Coupled with the detailing of the legal provisions undertaken by a Technical
Committee set up by the Commission, ministerial Conferences should be organized
by the Commission both at the national and district levels to define and
establish clear functions of governmental agencies to play the regulatory
roles in enforcing accessibility legislative instruments.
As part of the assignment of the proposed Technical Committee, preparation
and production of Accessibility Legislative Manuals (ALM) should be completed
for the public and other non-governmental organizations for comments and
approval. With the adoption of the Accessibility Legislative Manuals for
use, a training program should be organized by the Commission for national
and district officers who will enforce the access legislation.
Actions within related organizations
At level 2, a package of socio-political actions will
be effected within the circles of the associations concerned with the welfare
of the disabled persons.
These socio-political actions should be spearheaded by a Technical Committee
equipped with special training to conscientize and mobilize both disabled
persons and public-spirited individuals. By a systematic program of actions,
people will be organized into pressure groups to actively participate in
community/political activities related to the District and Metropolitan
Assemblies, thereby causing the concerns of the Commission to be fully put
across the political agenda of both the assemblies and the geopolitical
groupings. Through the auspices of the Commission, this Technical Committee
should seek the cooperation of related interest groups such as the Help-Age
Ghana, Ghana National Commission on Children, 31st December Women's Movement,
National Council on Women and Development, Ghana Journalists Association
with the Ghana Federation of the Disabled to lobby political bodies to promote
access and other related legislations in the interest of persons with disabilities.
The Committee should further ensure continuous public education in the mass-media
on accessibility issues.
Actions within related professional institutions
At Level 3 a series of socio-cultural actions should
be jointly effected by the Commission and the Technical Committee with the
collaboration of Ghanaian professional bodies such as the Ghana Institute
of Architects (GIA), Ghana Institute of Planners (GIP) Ghana Institution
of Engineers (GIE) and the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA).
The University of Science and Technology should also be involved in such
Under the auspices of these bodies, the Commission with the assistance of
donor agencies should sponsor regular design competitions amongst students
and professional practitioners to promote quality barrier-free designs in
architectural, urban design and traffic/highway engineering schemes.
Furthermore, citations should be instituted for issue on biennial basis
to developers and architects who have been associated with buildings and
artefacts which have shown a great deal of consciousness of barrier-free
environment. In the same vein, prizes should be given to individual citizens
who promote quality accessibility in the Ghanaian urban and rural communities
by their active political community actions and pronouncements.
In Ghana and in many other African countries, where
harsh realities of impoverished economies, negative impacts of the current
international recession and the results of the injustices in the world economic
order collectively seem to relegate the need for achieving access legislation
on the agenda of national development planning, the pursuit of access legislation
should not be regarded as a search for an utopia. Indeed, if the right of
persons with disabilities for equality of opportunities in the community
is to be enhanced, and if disabled persons are to be mobilized for effective
participation in socio-economic development programs, there is the crucial
need to make the African built environment more convenient, safe, comfortable
and pleasant for use by persons with disabilities, through conscious and
imaginative efforts by architects, planners, and developers to make buildings
and other environmental physical facilities barrier-free. This should be
the goal of access legislation and this paper concludes by advocating the
proposed Four-Pronged Strategy to achieve the goal.
In this regard, it cannot be overemphasized that a statutory body should
be established to coordinate the proposed actions. For effectiveness, this
body should operate independently from the civil service bureaucracy as
well as from undue political influences.
Amaoko, J. B., Architectural, Recreational and Transportation Barriers to
Integration of the Handicapped into the Community, presented at a Symposium
on the Decade of Rehabilitation (Undated).
Hammond, J. 0., Sheltered Employment Centre, Jachie Pramso. Ashanti, University
of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Faculty of Architecture, unpublished
Postgraduate Thesis, 1984.
Hagan E. B., Enhancing Sustainable Integration of the Disabled in the Community:
Issues and Challenges, Paper presented at the Department of Social Welfare
Seminar on Community-Based Rehabilitation in Ghana, 1991.
Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Canada, Housing the Handicapped,
First Edition, 1974.
Ministry of Works and Housing, Ghana Building Regulations, 1988.
Republic of Ghana, Human Settlements (General Planning and Development)
Law, Draft Proposals, 1985.
Questions and comments
Q: Can you tell us a little about the experiences you have had with decentralization
in your country. What are the benefits, what are the disadvantages and what
do we have to watch out for?
A: Definitely, the system has its advantages and its disadvantages. The
immediate or most obvious advantages are that we have these political bodies
directly responsible for identifying problems by district level to find
out what resources are available and to work out strategies using these
resources to achieve specific socio-economic development programs. They
have been in existence for about three years and as far as mobilizing resources
on a regional/district basis to solve specific problems, I think a lot of
us are satisfied with what we have been able to do. Let us face it, if such
small groups do not have the mobilizing of finances, it is a bit more difficult
than doing it in the framework of an overall, national program.
The advantage I just mentioned is with direct regard to the people within
the district themselves but the disadvantage is having these small activities
sometimes with different developmental groups, all having to be put together
in a national development program. I must say we have been able to get away
with it because currently our system of government is, we do not have a
central parliament as such, we have a central government, a national defense
council. We are presently going through a process towards parliamentary
democracy again and it is a possibility there might be some modifications
in the decentralized program we have. All in all most people have endorsed
the advantages of the decentralized system of district assemblies. The main
problem is how to fuse the sub-systems together to make a national program.
Q: Another question regards the diagrams you presented. In the transparencies
you have an elaborate system of positive reinforcement like awards and citations
to reward the various parties for good accessible planning. Is it only carrots
you're using, are there no sticks involved? For example, I miss references
to the role of the courts.
A: Well, we did indirectly mention the courts under socio-political actions,
we mentioned a whole lot of non-governmental organizations which are involved.
In an earlier transparency, the Ghana Association of Lawyers was mentioned
and we thought that as a non-governmental organization, they could have
a less interfering role in the promotion and drafting as well as a pressure
group for the promulgation of these laws. So the Ghana Association of Lawyers
was identified as having a very crucial role to play in these activities.
Q: If somebody violates legislation, where do you take your action to?
Can you take your grievances to court and sue for damages for example?
A: Yes, we expect violations to be raised in courts. The courts as they
exist right now are weaknesses of the government. Activities towards the
promotion, towards drafting laws, the promulgation becomes, after the lobbying
has been done, a governmental activity. Then non-governmental organizations
come again to look at their enforcement. Enforcement and evaluation as well
as the monitoring. We recognize the fact that the courts exist as a weakness
of the government to address violation of the law. We did not bring it up
in this context, we did not bring them out as an agency of the government
which would be directly involved in the most important activities such as
promotion, enforcement and evaluation.
Q: When you talk about residential construction, you say, "a reasonable
percentage" should be made accessible. Would 100 per cent be reasonable?
A: 100 per cent is best, but we have to be very realistic. Several points
have been raised where, because of concerns of developers and architects
who decide not to incorporate barrier-free design. Interestingly, in our
paper we wrote four percent but after listening to my colleagues I was ashamed
to read 4 per cent. So 100 per cent would be the best but I think it would
be idealistic to mention that so it stands as 4 per cent on my paper.
Q: If we could just dwell on the percentage. What are the obstacles of
having 100 per cent? Is it financial, is it awareness or what is it?
A: Some of the constraint is financial. It takes a lot more effort for
architects, in some developing countries, to convince themselves that it
is possible to incorporate barrier-free designs without incurring excessive
costs. So some of them with the initial attempt are incorporating barrier-free
designs. When it is found out it is more expensive than the conventional
way they might have done it then they just make the decision that if we
cannot afford or if the client cannot afford these added features at an
extra cost then, if I can get away with it, I would rather do without putting
in these extra design features for accessibility. But I need the help of
other people in the field to explain what the real problems are and why
this is not yet 100 per cent.
Q: What percentage of housing is designed by architects and erected by
constructors, or which percentage is self-help built? What are we discussing
when we are talking about regulation and controls in your country?
A: The context on which we prepared our paper was on public buildings;
for education, employment, entertainment, recreation, etc. These fall within the
formal construction sector where an architect does the design, and then during
construction the architect forms part of the supervisory group to make sure the
design considerations are done. The context in which most of these actions have
been talked about is the formal sector of public buildings.
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