Make educational institutions disability friendly

BY: Gertrude Owusu-Ansah

In every society, there are children and adults with various forms of disability. Some have visual or hearing impairment; others have physical challenges, as well as those with learning difficulties.

Disabilities often occur by accident. One cannot predict or intentionally decide to be disabled. In fact, everyone is prone to a disability at any time.

According to the Children’s Act, 1998, children with disabilities have the right to be educated with their non-disabled counterparts. The Act also states that children should have access to the same general curriculum taught to children without disabilities.

This will ensure inclusive education because persons with disabilities are supposed to be placed in the same teaching and learning environment as other children of their age who do not have disabilities.

Education is key

Education is the most effective way to break the cycle of discrimination and poverty that children with disabilities and their families often go through.

Schools are supposed to make provisions for all categories of students to experience a favourable atmosphere on school compound because people with disability deserve better too.

Educational institutions cannot be indifferent as people with disabilities continue to face problems in school as a result of their challenge.

Tertiary institutions

Tertiary institutions tend to host students either on campus or within the community to ease the stress of coming to school. But certain situations are evidently not favourable for students with disabilities.

It is unfortunate that no drastic measures have been put in place for people with this predicament.

According to records, one of the few schools that have been able to meet the needs of the disabled is the University of Ghana, Legon.

This was made possible due to the numerous demands of the disabled students for accessible facilities. Currently, there are pathways specifically designed for physically challenged students aside the normal staircases.

However, the story is different at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ). Some students with challenges have narrated their ordeal when using the staircase at the institute.

One of such students, who decided to speak on anonymity, said persons with disability are being admitted into the university with no user-friendly facilities for them.

She indicated that she’s a bit fortunate she can climb the stairs with the aid of crutches but that is not comfortable.

‘‘By the time I am done with the first floor, my shoulders will already be hurting. Since I use the elbow crutches, I’m a bit comfortable but then again, the environment is just not suitable for me,” she pointed out.

This should send a signal to the institute that it is not making life comfortable and dignifying for students with disabilities.

Inclusive education

However, the concept of inclusive education is a relatively controversial subject for many parents and educators but the reality is that “inclusive education” involves modifications in philosophy, curriculum, teaching strategy and structural organisation.

Such modifications go beyond just affecting those students labelled as “disabled” and even far beyond the purview of what is traditionally known as special education.

Each of these modifications has the potential to effect the necessary transformation and support needed by students with disabilities.

It is indeed evident that more than physical structures will need to change in order for students with disabilities to be included into academic programmes, and have the same opportunities to succeed and enjoy life as students without disabilities.

God has blessed all human beings with various abilities such as the ability to see, hear, walk etc.

The fact that one has a problem with one of the abilities does not make one a disabled person, who is viewed as incapable of doing anything in society.

Hence, we all have a role to play to ensure that persons with disabilities live contentedly in society, especially in our various educational institutions.

I believe that for every educational institution to succeed in making students with disabilities feel at ease, it must be a passion that is shared by all the protagonists involved, including agencies, teachers, families, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), chiefs and the whole community.

It also requires policy, inclusive working policies that ensures the welfare of students with disability and their families at the centre of it.

Such collaborated efforts will go a long way to make students excel in their academic work so as to contribute their quota to the growth of their families and the country as a whole.

The writer is a student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ).
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