The Directorate of Students Affairs (DoSA) of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi in collaboration with Debby Bless Ghana Foundation and the Students with Disabilities Association, KNUST (SWDA) have organised the maiden edition of the Disability Awareness and Advocacy workshop at the Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies (CEDRES) on Tuesday, 16th August 2022.
Deputy Director in charge of Housing and Welfare, DoSA, Professor Marian Asantewah Nkansah, who spoke on behalf of the Directorate reiterated their commitment to offering the needed welfare/support services for students during the period of their studentship. She added that, with the recent elevation of the erstwhile Dean of Students Office to a Directorate of Students’ Affairs (DoSA), the outfit was on the quest to widen its collaborative efforts with all key stakeholders.
The purpose of the workshop, according to Prof. Nkansah, therefore was to highlight all the stakeholder platforms that concern Persons with Disabilities in the University Community. The initiative also sought to collaborate and deepen already existing relationships to ensure that KNUST’s effort in responding to the needs of PWDs is visible to others.
The Chairperson of the Advisory Committee of Persons with Disability, Dr. (Mrs.) Lucy Afeafa Ry-Kottoh in her opening remarks underpinned the importance of creating awareness and sharing experiences with others to help them better understand their situation. "Disability is not a disease and people must come to the realisation of embracing the idea of living with PWDs," she stressed.
Dr. (Mrs.) Ry-Kottoh indicated that KNUST as an institution has commenced a conversation on Disability Policy and established committees that will oversee the affairs of disability issues. She expressed her delight to the organisers, stakeholders and sponsors of the programme and encouraged them to keep the conversations open for all. She, therefore, urged PWDs to seize every opportunity to showcase their abilities rather than their inabilities on campus and anywhere they find themselves.
Mr. Sampson Owusu Bempah, the President of Students with Disabilities Association (SWDA), KNUST, mentioned that the Association seeks to prioritise sustainable and resilient community support through some offices in the University such as the Directorate of Students (DOSA), the KNUST Counselling Centre (KCC), the Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies (CEDRES), the KNUST Students’ Representatives Council, the KNUST Chapter of the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS), the KNUST Chapter of the Ghana Association of Disability and Rehabilitation Students (GADRES), among others. He hoped that all students would learn about disability as a programme of study to help eradicate the misconceptions and perceptions around PWDs.
He thanked the University Management and stakeholders for their contributions toward improving the inclusivity and integration of PWDs in a conducive environment.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Debby Bless Ghana Foundation, Ms. Deborah Abrefi Addae, shared her journey on how she became physically challenged and the hurdles she goes through due to her condition. “Do not focus on what your disability prevents you from doing but on all the activities you can do. PWDs should be determined, confident and believe in their capability in attaining greater heights. Tap into your unique abilities and endeavour to stand out,’' she encouraged.
Professor Anthony Kwaku Edusei, the Coordinator, Office of Persons with Disability, KNUST, reminded the audience and the students that, “disability is not inability, rather a diverse human situation which can take turns in anyone’s life.” He noted that the public must appreciate PWDs through various dimensions which include ‘impairment, which can be implicit or explicit, participation restrictions which can be societal issues and activity limitation.’ He also advised the participants and the public to treat and accept PWDs for who they are and promised that an office will be created to specifically cater for their needs.
Participants in an open discussion suggested the need to have slots on the University's website highlighting the opportunities and services available to PWDs on the KUNST campus; the use of bulk messages among other channels to encourage PWDs; Introduction of Sign Language Course in all colleges for staff and students and review the admissions application forms to include a portion to indicate whether an applicant is disabled or not for the University to adequately plan for their arrival and mobility on campus.