At a washing bay in the environs of Lapaz in Accra, more than half a dozen boys work assiduously and in uncharacteristic silence.
The loudest noise is the fizzling sound of the water hose splashing the cars, stripping it of dirt and dust. Beyond this, the other observable activity is gesticulations.
And it is because the car wash attendants here do not speak and cannot hear.
Kojo, a student at the Akropong School for the Deaf, washes cars at the Pesarco washing bay located at Race Course near Lapaz.
“I came to work at this washing bay to gather some money to support myself through school,” 20-year-old speech and hearing impaired Kojo told theghanareport.com through his sign language interpreter.
There are nine others with speech and hearing impairment of his kind who work there at this unique washing bay.
A drive into this washing bay and the only sound one hears is from the waterhose.
The manager at the facility, Albertha Manu, is the only one who speaks and hears at the washing bay.
With time, Albertha has learnt sign language to enable her to communicate with the disabled properly.
“They’ve taught me how to communicate in sign language, and it’s easy. So I’m able to interact with them,” she said, smiling.
She explained that her boss enjoyed the peace and quiet the young men brought. According to Alberta, her boss engaged the services of those who could speak and hear, but they were always involved in brawls over who gets to wash which customer’s car. But for now, the situation is different.
“My manager was impressed with how hard they (disabled) worked and so decided to employ them. Customers also give them extra money. Our customers are always happy to support the attendants. Some of them are still in school, and the guys are calm.”
One would expect that communication between the attendants and customers could be challenging.
But for Albertha, that is not the case.
“The boys sometimes write on pieces of paper if they realize the sign language to the customers is not working. They are all educated, and so, they can read and write.”
In a world where securing a job is difficult for persons without disabilities, one could only imagine the struggles of those living with disabilities, like Kojo and his friends.
It was for this reason that when one of their kind had the first opportunity at the washing bay, he did not rest until he ensured people in his situation were also employed at Pesarco washing bay to make ends meet.
“I am an orphan, but I have seven siblings who are all struggling to survive,” he said through our interpreter.
For Kojo, this is his only hope of ensuring his dream of becoming a teacher is realized.
The young orphan said, “I want to save enough money and go to the university. It has always been my dream to teach people who also have the same disabilities as I do. I don’t want to work at the washing bay forever ”.
He said customers who come around to wash their vehicles are always amazed at how they execute their work.
“When they come, they always gift us money. That is what I save so I can continue my education to become a teacher in future,” he explained with his fingers while letting out a broad smile on his face signifying hope.
A visibly impressed customer who was at the scene hoped many business owners would emulate the washing bay owner by giving PWDs an opportunity to prove their worth.
“This washing bay is unique. I haven’t seen any place like this here in Ghana. They do a good job too. I don’t think they have to be discriminated against. Everybody deserves a chance. Business owners can hire these people so they can all feed their families as you and I do.”
The 10 disabled young men at the Pesarco washing bay have hopes of furthering their education after completing Senior High School.
They want to secure decent jobs in the formal sector one day.
But in Ghana, the hopes of these young men are part of the biggest barriers persons living with disabilities face.
Even for those who are fortunate to surmount these barriers, they meet another – climbing up to occupy managerial roles.
A situation a member of the employment committee of the Federation for the Disabled, Alexander Bankole William is worried about.
He told theghanareport.com in an interview that persons with disabilities when employed are not only fit for lower ranks or positions.
He wants physically challenged persons to be given the chance to also serve in managerial positions.
“What we see is that some people are ready to offer them (disabled) employment, but at lower levels. So when it comes to managerial positions or high positions, then we say no they cannot get there. Let us begin to open up the employment arena from the lowest level to the highest level where we employ them to serve on boards, appointment committees, and in various managerial levels in our establishments.
“Then indeed, they will prove that they can function effectively like you and I when they are given the right support. The support comes in diverse ways. It is for employers to know that the laws of Ghana, Section 46 (1) of the labor Act 651, mentions some provisions for employers of persons with disability, particularly in the private sector.
“They (employers) get some economic benefits by virtue of they employing persons with disabilities. So there’s an opportunity to also benefit from employing the disabled,” MR. Bankole William told theghanareport.com.