Monday, November 05, 2018

Accessibility of Public Places and Death Trap Ramps

Accessibility of Public Places and Death Trap Ramps

‘’Some of these ramps  are simply death traps”, Patience Atuah , a  physically  challenged journalist with  the EIB Network echoes responses of many People living with Disabilities (PWDs) on wheelchair access to public places with ramps.

Making public places accessible to every individual, irrespective of one’s physical appearance or special needs, ensuring wheelchair user integration and granting PWDs opportunity of participating in daily activities goes a long way to ensuring equality and inclusiveness.

In many countries, wheelchair ramps and other features that facilitate universal access are required for building permits when constructing new facilities which are open to the public.

Internationally, the United Nations Convention on Persons with Disability mandates nations to take action to enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) eleven seeks to ensure that cities and human settlements are inclusive, safe and sustainable. Among  others requirement, Member  States are mandated to provide  universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible , green and public spaces, particularly for PWDs.
A tour of the two-storey Volta Regional Coordinating Council (VRCC) to ascertain its accessibility showed that the Council has still not worked on the structure into a disability friendly one, two years after the expiration of the moratorium captured in section 60 of the Persons with Disability Act 715 of 2006,which was passed in 2006, with the aim of ending discrimination against Persons with Disability (PWD).

The moratorium gave a 10-year period for all existing public places to be made accessible to PWDs.
At the entrance to the main building housing various offices and departments under the Council, one will find a ramp which is supposedly meant to be used by PWDs.

The Council’s conference room and other auxiliary offices are housed on the first  floor  while  the Regional Coordinating Director, Deputy Minister and Regional Minister  are on the second floor. Both floors have narrow stairways making it difficult for PWDs to access upper floors for any business.

An incident happened on the 28th of  June , 2017 when the then Minster of Gender , Children and Social Protection, Madam Otiko Afisa Djaba paid a working  visit to the Region and had to meet with PWDs and some NGOs at the VRCC Conference  Hall which was on  the first floor.

At the end of the meeting, the PWD groups that came around could neither participate nor meet their sector minister because the wheel chair and white cane users  could not access the hall. There are no lifts, ramps or handrails to carry them up the stairs! Some people offered to carry them at their backs to the hall which they rightly declined!

The United Nations charter 1945 states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and in rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood’’. Therefore they found it demeaning and undignified to be carried by their fellow ‘men' to meet with the Minister.

In an interview with Mr. Felix Chaahah, Regional Director, VRCC, he alluded to the fact that the building as an old structure did not factor in PWDs and the aged. He said though the building was inaccessible with ramps for PWDs and some vulnerable in society, the Council had put up a Client Service Office on the ground floor to deal with the shortfall.

Mr. Chaahah was hopeful ‘with funding in the near future’, the Council would commission engineers to relook at the building. He also made mention of the Ramp, which obviously does not meet the standards of the Ghana Standard Authority.

Ironically, at the Judicial Service Court Complex in Ho, which houses High and Circuit courts, only one short narrow ramp is found at the many entrances to the building.

The single storey complex has narrow stairway making it very disability unfriendly. It leaves one to wonder  how PWDs who have  to make it to  the courts get there and whether or not  they commit  contempt should  they fail to  make  it to  the court rooms. Same can be said for the Municipal and Regional Police Headquarters.

A few new and old buildings in the regional capital ramps, but are done haphazardly, which Patience described as death trap ramps.

According to the GSA Building and Construction Materials –Accessibility Standard for the Built Environment guiding document, the goal of the Standard was to contribute to universal accessibility in the built environment.

The  document says  the built  environment in Ghana is not  barrier-free to allow for easy and safe movement, function and access  for all, regardless of age, sex or condition but fact is, today, 'Accessibility for All’ is recognized as a basic  necessity with attempts all over  the world  to achieve such objective.

It must be said that making public places accessible to PWDs and the vulnerable in society goes beyond ramps. It covers everything from exterior to interior areas. But for the sake of this article, I will touch on the exterior areas (ramps, guards and handrails). This is because once the building is inaccessible; its offices will also not meet the criteria.

In an interaction  with Mr. Francis Asong, Executive  Director , Voice Ghana a disability NGO, he observed  that  most public places with ramps are “terribly dangerous” and short of standards.
The ramps are steep, narrow with smooth surfaces which make them very unfriendly to people with disabilities and the vulnerable. Surprisingly many of them are without handrails or guards.
Handrails and guards are used interchangeably as they both provide a handhold on platform, walkway, stairway or step ladder to help with stability so people do not slip or misplace their footing and fall down the stairs.

They must be strong enough to resist breaking if a person falls or leans on it. It should be provided on either side of a ramp or stairway wherever three or more steps are provided and must be no more than  50mm in diameter and mounted between 865mm and 965mm above stair nosing.
The rails should also terminate either by turning down or by going into a wall as an aid to persons with visual limitations.

The GSA says ramp or wheelchair ramp is an inclined plane that  can be used instead of stairs  by wheelchair  and it’s advisable  that wherever  the gradient was more  than 1:20, ramps should  be provided  with the  following criteria:

Ramps must be no steeper than 1:12, with individual ramp sections no longer than 9m.(meaning if the height of the ramp  is one foot or one meter , the length of the ramp must be twelve feet or twelve meter ). This allows for the gradient or slope to be gentler).

Ramps widths should be a maximum of 1100mm and a recommended minimum of 1015mm between handrails to allow persons using mobility aids to move easily and to grasp handrails if required.
Where ramps are required for use by persons with visual limitations only, ramp up to 1525mm are preferred in order to allow space for a companion or guide dog.

These among others are listed as the standards for developing disability friendly facilities.
Some PWDs commended the management of the Ho Technical University, GCB Bank Limited and the Sonrise Senior School for standardizing a major part of their institutions for PWDs and special beneficiaries. SG-SSB, the NIB and a good number of hotels in town are least accessible.

So what is preventing physical planners from incorporating these into building plans? One would ask.
Some officials at the local Assemblies say inadequate funds are the topmost reason for the lack of incorporation. But it is worth stating that many, including Planning Officers have little or no idea on standards and requirement regarding construction of ramps.

This calls for the orientation of Planning Officers on the importance of making public places accessible to all by designing facilities with ramps and other disability friendly fittings that meet international standard and requirement.

Non-governmental organization with focus on inclusiveness must ensure that local assemblies and government institutions make their facilities accessible.

They must also ensure that the Assemblies decline or revoke building permits for public facilities without accessibility features.

Lawyer Andrews Adugu of the Attorney General’s Department in Ho in an interview said , “ the law is not automatic, someone will need to test it ‘’ if these public places refuse to conform.

A  GNA feature article by Sumaiya Saeed (A Penplusbytes' Training Alumna)

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

African Digital Media Awards 2018 – Call for entries

African Digital Media Awards 2018 – Call for entries

Registration for the prestigious 2018 African Digital Media Awards has opened and WAN-IFRA is calling for entries from Africa media ahead of the award ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa, later this year.

Winners of the African Digital Media Awards are automatically entered into the World Digital Media Awards competition.

The entry deadline is October 26, 2018. The media awards will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 23 November 2018, at a glittering event.

The annual awards hosted by WAN-IFRA recognises publishers who have adopted digital media and mobile strategies as part of their total product offering to meet the major changes in how people consume news and information today.

The competition is open to all publishers in Africa operational between 25 August 2017 to 15 September 2018. All entries must be published by 15 September 2018.

“This is our third digital awards in Africa and the winning projects have already proved themselves against international competition. For example, Media 24 went on to win a World Digital Media Award in 2017 for News24 Edge - beating competition from the U.S., Asia and Europe,” said WAN-IFRA, Chief Executive Officer, Vincent Peyr├Ęgne. “We’re really looking forward to seeing the submissions from 2018 - especially in our new categories such as Digital Revenue.”

Entries for the awards will be considered in the following categories:

Best News Website or Mobile Service
Best in Lifestyle, Sports, Entertainment Website or Mobile Services
Best Use of Online Video (including VR)
Best Data Visualisation
Best Reader Revenue Initiative
Best Branded Content Project
Best Digital News Start-up
Best in Social Media Engagement
Best Digital Marketing Campaign
Best Innovation to Engage Youth Audiences

To apply for the awards, please click here:

The official hashtag for the awards is #AFDMA18

Nhlanhla Kubeka, Digital Media Africa Awards Lead, Randburg, South Africa -  Tel  (+27) 11 888 0140/0460  -  Email