Dr. Awo Mana Asiedu, Coordinator of the OSSN delivering opening address
The Office of Students with Special Needs (OSSN) of the University of Ghana has organised a durbar to commemorate the 2015 World Disability Day. The International Day of Persons with Disability was instituted by the United Nations in 1992. The theme for the 2015 World Disability Day celebration was “Access and Empowerment for people of all Abilities”. The durbar was attended by some senior members, students and invited guests from the various associations of the disabled persons. There were also students from two special schools in Akropong, Akwapem.
Prof. Kwame Offei, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Academic and Student Affairs (Second right) in a discussion with Mr. Yaw Ofori Debrah, President of the Ghana Federation of Persons with Disability, during the ceremony
The Pro-Vice Chancellor in charge of Academic and Student Affairs, Prof. Kwame Offei, chaired the function. He congratulated staff of the OSSN for their good work in organising the event. He indicated that management of the University was concerned about the accessibility of buildings on campus and thus a decision had been taken that all new buildings must have elevators to facilitate the movement of all persons with disability. He reiterated the commitment of the University towards a more inclusive campus for all persons.
Mr. Yaw Ofori Debrah, President of the Ghana Federation of Persons with Disability, speaking at the ceremony
The President of the Ghana Federation of Persons with Disability, Mr. Yaw Ofori Debrah who was the Guest Speaker for the occasion called on government and stakeholders to come up with a policy on employment that would ensure that all persons with disability have equal job opportunities in both public and private sectors of the country. He urged management of private entities to provide employment opportunities for persons with disabilities and not just donate to Special Schools and Associations for Persons’ with Disability. “We need their understanding not their sympathy, their help not pity and we want equity and equality not consideration since we all have equal rights as citizens of the country”, he said.
In her opening address, the Coordinator of the OSSN, Dr. Awo Mana Asiedu expressed her appreciation for the University’s decision to set up the Office of Students with Special Needs, in response to the growing numbers of such persons gaining admission into the University. She traced the history of this initiative, noting the pioneering role of the Balme Library and the then librarian, Prof. Alemna and the two previous coordinators, Dr. K.A. Poku and Prof. I.K Asante. She noted how over the years, much attention has been given to improving the learning experiences of students with visual and hearing impairments, though there is still room for improvement. Dr. Asiedu further called on the University management to take a closer look at the needs of students with physical and medical disabilities. These categories of special needs students, unlike the others, do not have any trained resource persons at the office to handle their peculiar problems. The physically disabled students, she said, have grave challenges with accessibility and mobility issues around campus, which need urgent attention.
Mr. Gilbert Asamoah, President of the Campus Association of Students with Special Needs acknowledged the work of University management in improving the learning experience of persons with disability on campus. He further appealed to management to provide signage on the roads to serve as notices to drivers on campus.
Two students shared their experiences on life on campus as persons with disability. Mr. Jones Odame, a post-first degree law student, noted that there had been tremendous improvement in the services and facilities available to students with visual impairment compared to when he first came to the University as a first year undergraduate student. He expressed his gratitude to the University and various staff of OSSN for their efforts to ameliorate their learning experience on campus. Mr. Joseph T. Gmakawadom, a wheel chair bound level 400 student, narrated his woes in accessing such disability unfriendly spaces such as the Central Cafeteria. He expressed the desire that some thought would be given to allocation of lecture facilities for courses patronised by people like him to more accessible buildings, such as the N Block. He in turn was grateful for the OSSN, which had been set up to look out for the interests of persons with disability.
The Abibigromma Theatre Group in collaboration with some students with special needs presented a short but moving drama, highlighting the social prejudices against persons with disability. It sought to encourage people to be inclusive and less prejudicial towards persons with disability.
There were solidarity messages from some persons present. Dr. George Akanlig-Pare, Master of Akuafo Hall, and patron of the Legon Association of Students with Special Needs, shared his experiences, which he said led to the introduction of Sign Language as a course of study in the Linguistics Department. Dr. Ahortor, a visually impaired lecturer in the Department for the Study of Religions, urged students to focus on their studies and not on the difficulties which they are bound to face as students with special needs. He assured them that with determination and hard work, they are bound to succeed.
The Legon Lions Club, who were very well represented at the programme made a donation of two beautiful and significant paintings to the OSSN. Lion Dr. David Odoi of the Language Centre and immediate past president of the Legon chapter of the club made the presentation on behalf of the club.
As part of the celebrations, a Goal Ball match between the staff and students of OSSN was held later in the afternoon.
A section of the students and guests at the ceremony