Introduction and background
In Ghana, little is known about the life of persons with disabilities, whether auditory, vision, mental or impairment and / or caused by deformities at birth or by disease. People with disabilities (PwDs) are estimated to comprise about 5% to 10% of the total population in Ghana to amount to a total of over one million people. The majority of them live in rural areas and they generally have lower incomes and mostly suffer from poverty. Individuals with disabilties are not only more likely to be poor, but they are subject to prejudice, social isolation and discrimination. Within society, persons with a disability have little to no rights and often are excluded from positions of leadership in their communities.
Ghana is already making progress to involve people with disabilities in society by assigning the Persons with Disabilities Act in 2006 and enforcing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in May 2008. By ratifying the convention, the government recognized the rights of people with disabilities to education, health, work, self-representation and participation in governance processes.
Despite signing the convention and different governmental policies and initiatieves of non-governmental organizations, people with disabilities generally still belong to the poorest and most vulnerable in society. In daily life, often challenges like discrimination (whereas in the Christian religion disability is seen as a punishment from God), negative societal attitudes and difficulties in (access to ) education and employment are encountered.
Therefore, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi started to offer courses in Disability, Rehabilitation and Development and is working on the realization of the Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation (CEDRES) at the campus of the university. With the facilities offered at the centre, KNUST aims to maximize the potential of PwDs and train them to cope with the attitude and current ignorance of society towards persons with disabilities.
Next to empowering PwDs, KNUST has the objective to create a credible database in the sub region and Ghana as a whole to fill the gap. This project, conducting a needsassessment using Photovoice contributes towards achieving this goal of gaining more understanding of the lives of people with disabilities and their families in the Kumasi metropolis.
The objective of ‘Welcome to My Life!’ is to gain more insight in the needs of people with physical disabilities which will help relevant stakeholders to further develop disability policies.
Main research question
‘What needs can be derived from the difficulties people with physical disabilities (PwD) and their families in the Kumasi Metropolis, Ghana, encounter in daily life?
Although ‘difficulties’ are mentioned, during the project both strengths (positive experiences and ideas) and concerns (negative experiences and challenges) of participants are shared.
‘Welcome to My Life!’ was a cross sectional study, involving 10 participants. To allow for in-depth discussion, only this small number of participants was included. During a period of 3 months, in total 4 meetings were conducted:
Meeting 1: Introduction
The first meeting encompasses and introduction to both Photovoice in general and the project in particular. Ethical issues like the safety of participants and fact that carrying a camera implied authority and responsibility were highlighted as well as respect and privacy. The last part of the meeting involved basic lessons in photography:
Meeting 2: Progress
The second meeting involved sharing of experiences with photographing:
Meeting 3: Data analysis
In the third meeting the participants first individually and later in small groups analyzed the content and context of their photographs. As the Photovoice methodology was used as a needs assessment the process involved three stages: Selecting, Contextualizing and Codifying:
Meeting 4: Final Dissemination meeting
In the fourth meeting a half-day seminar was organized in which the results of the investigations were presented to relevant stakeholders, policymaker and other members of the community who have the ability and power to influence and make decisions:
The pictures made by the participants were shown in the form a 15-minute compilation to voice and present the needs of PwD in the Kumasi metropolis: