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The Plight Of The Visually And Hearing Impaired And The Physically Disabled   
 
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22-Sep-2018  
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Road users are basically seen to be drivers and the riders on our roads, all others are called “pedestrians” and that word seem to distance such people from road use. Drivers and Riders less regard pedestrians and treat them with great disrespect; little do they remember that as soon as they get out of their cars or get off their motorbikes or bicycles they also fall into the category of pedestrians.

Anybody who uses the road, major or minor is a road user, some road users are privileged to use the roads all by themselves, but some use it with support. Such people who are known to be vulnerable in road use are always ignored by drivers and riders, and by some able people.

The question (Who are persons with disability?)

Persons with disability include those with long-term physical, mental, visual, intellectual or sensory impairments, which in, interaction with various barriers, may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

Many factors contribute to this impairment and accident can never be excluded from these factors. Some were born naturally with such impairment whilst others are caused by environmental factors. As to what must be done to help these people to ensure their safety on our roads is for the society to answer.

I must argue that, in Ghana when pedestrians come to mind, persons with disability are always forgotten as being a part of them hence, the reason for their exemption in many things when it comes to road safety.

Records

Visit to two divisional MTTD revealed that, records in terms of accident involving the disabled are not put into records but only that of road accident are put into records. I see this as one main problem because if this is not done, how then can the public determine how many disabled are knocked down on our streets to make informed decisions on how best to help them in terms of road safety and infrastructure.

This indicates that in terms of road safety, the physically challenged are always disregarded. I must argue that Ghana as a country does not pay much attention to the safety of its citizens especially, those physically challenged.

Road Crossing

Such vulnerable people or Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) are at most risk when crossing the roads due to absolute disregard to the “White Cane” by motorists and cyclists or total ignorance of its meaning and use as well as the gesture shown by the visually impaired due to less education and attention given to it.

In an interview with Dr. Obeng Asamaoah, the Executive Director for the Blind Union of the Ghana Federation of Disability Organization, he said “drivers don’t stop anytime the white cane is stretched by us and even if they stop, they have no signal to show that it’s time to cross and this, they tend to blow their horn as a signal, causing disturbance and distraction as we have no idea behind the horn blown and this is as a result of ignorance and absence of road infrastructure”.

In times past, much education was done about the white cane and this contributed a good impact on the society as a whole but the question still remains, “what can be done and is done to raise the level at which this education has gone down”? we have new generations in the system who are qualified to drive in accordance with the laws of our country but have we ever thought about what can be done to raise awareness about the white cane amongst them so they can also acknowledge the vulnerable in the society?

The white cane is their second source of sight and since their first source (eyes) is inactive, I must say that much education is needed on their second source of sight to help them access the road easily and freely just as the able persons do.

Also in an interview with Mr. Benjamin Brenya and Mr. George Abelse, both members of the blind union, I quote “we have no signal to indicate when a vehicle has been stopped for us to cross because previously, there had been in existence the “Pedestrian Crossing Light” which serves as an alarm and signal when pressed for drivers to stop and giving a beeping sound also signaling that we can cross”.

“We have no eyes to see when the vehicles stop for us and this pedestrian crossing light is no more in existence making our mobility very difficult and restricted”.

The physically disabled are also disregarded even at Zebra Crossing by drivers and riders. An interview conducted with Mr. Anthony Ablakwa, the Greater Accra Regional Chair for the Ghana Federation of Disability Organization also a physically disabled person reveals that, drivers, cyclists and other able pedestrians don’t even pay attention to them when they want to cross the road.

Drivers and cyclists don’t stop for them at the Zebra Crossing and abled people don’t also help them cross because their perception is that they are in for nothing but to beg for money. As to what happens to the visually and hearing impaired who have nothing to show of their impairment is for the public to judge. The hearing impaired also go through the same struggle as the rest of them as they have been provided with nothing to signal drivers of their impairment to take acknowledge of them when using the road. How do we make road usage excited and less risky means for the PWDs? It is for us to answer.

Pedestrian Walkway

This used to be the best area for the mobility of the PWDs, unfortunately, Hawkers and Petty traders has taken the walkways making it so difficult for PWDs to move freely, forcing PWDs to dangerously use the driveways, apart from the traders on the walkways, riders also use the walkways and compete with both able and disable pedestrians. Also is the poor nature of the pedestrian walkway which exposes vulnerable people most especially, those visually impaired to danger. This is the creation of holes on the walkway and sometimes covered with cards or metallic objects which are so weak that the risks posed by it on both the vulnerable and able people is high. According to Mr. Benjamin Brenya, “pavements are not reliable to use because contractors dig it for other purposes and without notice, I used to fall into such holes created”. “There should be a guideline on how this pavements, gutters and small holes are there for a purpose”. Again, the walkways are too narrow that a physically disabled person cannot use a wheel chair as this will be inconvenient to both able persons and the vulnerable in as much as it is meant for everyone.

Road Infrastructure

PWDs are less not considered during road design and construction, that makes road use so difficult for PWDs, uneven surfaces, no climb ramps to access the walkways, no zebra crossing on some roads, difficulty in accessing overhead walkways, no disability crossing alarms at traffic lights, no disability road crossing aid for hearing impaired, and these and many more are militating against road use by PWDs.

Infrastructure is their only road crossing aid and in Ghana, I must argue that in terms of road infrastructure, the vulnerable are always forgotten because only the abled persons are considered in the society. Have we ever thought about “the plight of the Ghanaian child”? Because of lack of or no infrastructure, parents with a particular disability challenge are forced to use their children as their source of aid when using the road, most especially the visually impaired and the physically disabled persons. By doing this, children indirectly become “disabled” as their right to school and movement is restricted by such a parent. Most parents with such challenges are with the perception that, so far as they are vulnerable, their children are their only source to mobility hence, rendering them disabled in the context and shutting their plans for the future.

What then can be done to curb this menace?

With the above mentioned challenges faced by our less vulnerable people, what can be done as a concerned country to help them?

As part of what I want to bring on board is the provision of a REFLECTIVE CLOTHING and the reintroduction of the PEDESTRIAN CROSSING LIGHT. I believe in STEP BY STEP, and this is what I will use to undergo my pending initiative. With the provision of a reflective clothing, I see it as a short term initiative and this is why I would embark on that project first as compared to that of the pedestrian crossing light which is a long-term initiative which needs a lot of hard work and technology to achieve hence, the reason for it being my second project to embark on.

Pending initiative 1(reflective clothing)

This is going to be a well-designed clothing to fit the purpose (help persons with disability). My initiative will be having a well-drawn type of challenge suffered on its back and illustrated with the first alphabet of the type of challenge written on the front part of it.

It’s going to be designed with a well catchy colour to aid in high visibility for those accessing the road with them. I believe my initiative will really help those with disabilities especially, those visually and hearing impaired.

This will be an initiative I will campaign about as soon as its implementation is completed to create awareness among the public about its use and purpose of its invention as well as what should be done when spotted. This will be made special only for those with disability and any abled person cannot wear it as its significance will fade away if this happens.

Pending initiative 2(pedestrian crossing light)

My second initiative I believe is not something new to be seen by the public as it has been in existence before but as to the reason behind its collapse, we have no idea. This, I will reintroduce but it will be something unique as compared to the previous one. With this, the alarm will be an automatic one i.e. it will give a sound as soon as it’s time for the vehicles to stop without the need to press it.

This alarm will give an automatic notification to drivers as soon as both the vulnerable and the abled persons gets to the pedestrian crossing traffic light and the beeping sound signalizing pedestrians to also cross will follow as soon as the motorists and cyclists stops upon the alert. Why do I want to change the pressing nature of the alarm to it’s been automatic?

The answer is simple. Upon reasonable thought, I realized that although this initiative is centered on those with disability, why don’t I bring something which will give an automatic alarm without it been pressed to help both the vulnerable and abled persons. Children, I will refer to as partially disabled when it comes to the street. How can a child trying to access the street with others be able to press a so called alarm before crossing to their various places?

Kids will start playing with the press-point and will soon destroy it making it a big disadvantage to both themselves and that of the vulnerable. Also with the vulnerable especially the visually impaired, how can he or she locate the press point of the alarm if their source of sight is inactive? This will be another challenge if such initiative is implemented once again. My initiative will be designed in such a way to suit everyone in the society but most especially, children and persons with disability.

Other solutions

To determine how many physically challenged people are knocked down on our streets, the government of Ghana should urge all MTTU to put into records how many of them were engaged in accidents and it is with this that much attention will be given them and possible informed solutions will be put forward to curb the menace. I believe the records will tell as t how serious or not accidents involving the disabled in our country are.

I also believe that if effective campaign of the white cane is reintroduced to the public, awareness will soon be created again to suit the visually impaired mobility needs.

All gutters along the pavements and holes created by contractors or any other persons on the pedestrian walkway should be carefully sealed to avoid those visually impaired and children from falling into such pits.

All hawkers and petty traders should be moved from the pavements in other to create more space for their movement and to prevent them from dangerously using the driveways. Riders who also use the walkways and end up competing with both the able and disabled pedestrians should be prohibited and a breach of such prohibition should demand sever punishments and hefty fines.

Abled persons should sensitize to the less vulnerable they meet on the street that needs help with crossing or use of pavements and not regard all as begging for alms.

Extra vigilance on the part of motorists and motorcyclists is required at intersections and areas where pedestrians are most likely to be.

LETS WORK TOGETHER TO HELP THE VULNERABLE IN THE SOCIETY FOR ROAD SAFETY IS A SHARED RESPONSIBILITY!!!
 
 
Source: Rashida Braimah/ghanaweb.com
 
 

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