The experiences of students with disabilities in a Ghanaian university. (2021)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
In general, there has been an increase in the number of students with disabilities accessing and participating in higher education across Africa. In Ghana, higher education qualifications have become a requirement for obtaining employment. Increasing numbers of students with disabilities in higher education calls for consideration of their interests and welfare in planning educational services. Although this would suggest the need for research into the views and experiences of people with disabilities, there are limited research to this effect in Ghana. Using a qualitative phenomenological approach, this study provides an in-depth understanding of the experiences of students with disabilities in a Ghanaian university. Social constructionism and critical disability theory lenses were used to guide this research. Data was generated through in-depth semi-structured interviews with eleven participants (two females and nine males) from the university, and through observations and documentary analysis of national and institutional policies. Purposive and snowball samplings were used to select research participants. Data were analysed thematically.
The study indicates that the Ghanaian understanding of disability is influenced by socio- cultural and medical conceptualizations. The association of disability with evil influences the way students with disabilities are treated both on the university campus and in traditional Ghanaian societies. This conceptualization has resulted in marginalization, discrimination and stigmatisation of students with disabilities in higher education. A number of disability policies have been developed in Ghana but implementation remains a challenge. The study found inadequate resources, poor understanding of disability issues, superstitious beliefs and a lack of support from non-disabled people including staff and students to be the main reasons for poor implementation of policies. The motivation to access and participate in higher education by students with disabilities has been influenced by their desire to be role models, familial and societal recognition, physical strength and dynamics of job and financial benefits. The study also found that education of students with disabilities was hampered by inadequate resources, inaccessible built environment, poor information flow and negative attitudes of many non- disabled people toward students with disabilities. Notwithstanding this, non-disabled people including lecturers and peers who have knowledge on disability issues supported students with disabilities in their daily activities at the university.
Although this study showed that higher educational institutions have been making efforts towards the realisation of inclusive education, a lot remains to be done as students with disabilities continue to experience challenges. This study recommends that encouraging the education of students with disabilities requires transformation of the physical, social and learning environment and this should involve all stakeholders. Minimising gaps in the implementation of inclusive policies will also go a long way to support these students.
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