US Embassy denies blind Ghanaians visas for conference

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All but three of 30 blind persons who applied for visas to attend the World Blind Union Conference in the United States have been denied, Concerned Persons with Disabilities, said on Tuesday.

“We express our utter shock, surprise and disappointment at the manner the US Embassy in Ghana has dealt with the Visual Impaired Applicants who intend to travel to the US to the World Blind Union organized Conference,” spokesperson of the group, Adongo Atule Jacob said.

He told Adom News that the conference sought to improve the quality of life of blind persons and those with low vision people by providing a common platform for advocates, policy makers, consumers and service providers discuss pertinent issues.

The forum, expected to take off on August 18 in the US, would serve as a major platform for the stakeholders to expand both inter-regional and international networks, share information and learn about new techniques and service models.

But, Mr Jacob said, out of 30 visually impaired persons who have applied for the non-immigrant visa to attend the conference, only three have been granted visas, without granting same to their guides and wondered how they could be aided at the conference.

He said the Embassy’s action contravened Article 9 (2) e and Article (19) b of the UN Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities and its optional protocol.

“Our investigation showed that all Visually Impaired Persons were assigned to one specific cage and [an African American] interviewer whilst for non-persons with disabilities, their names where mentioned out and assigned to different cages,” he said.

He called on the US embassy officials to investigate and grant the people deemed qualified the visas since the US prides itself as a defender of rights of the minority.

“The Visually Impaired Persons are not against the Embassy not granting a visa to applicants who do not qualify but rather against the discriminatory nature of which People with visual impairment have been denied visas,” Mr Jacob said.

He noted that blind persons have attended several conferences in Denmark, Switzerland and other developed countries including the UK and have returned, so disqualifying them on the basis of not having strong ties to their country of origin is untenable.

They have threatened legal action against the Embassy.

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