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Eric

Eric Kwobla Ofori was born in July 1960 at Vaneh near Ho in the Volta region of Ghana. He belongs to the Ewe ethnic group and is the eldest of five children born to Madam Anni Gbagbo and Rev. Daniel Kwame Ofori of the Methodist Church.

Due to his father’s profession as a Minister of the Gospel who travelled around the country, Ofori completed most of his schooling in the Western Region of the country. He began his education at the age of seven in 1967. Later while he was in middle school in 1976, he began to experience a growth on his eyes. Although he underwent surgery the problem persisted. After trying the medical option without much success, Ofori’s mother decided to take him to an herbalist in the Western Region. Here the herbalist diagnosed his ailment as being a result of piles. For a period of time Ofori had a daily dosage of herbs applied to his eyes to combat this. However, this was to no avail. His family then decided that he be taken to a faith church where the spiritual option could be explored. This was in line with the cultural practice of seeking a spiritual remedy for otherwise unexplainable phenomena. Here he was informed that his sight problems were the direct results of a spiritual attack from the Devil who was attempting to alter what was otherwise a very bright future. After a period, Eric’s father got fed up with the spiritual process and decided to go back to the hospital. Here the doctor reprimanded them for allowing the condition to deteriorate and waste such valuable time. In 1979 Ofori underwent a second surgery. Although it was relatively successful in halting the growth around his eyes, he virtually lost the sight in one eye and suffered greatly diminished vision in the other. After the surgery, his parents moved to Ho in the Volta region and Ofori was enrolled at a local secondary school at Vaneh near Ho.

During that period in 1979, information about low-vision was limited and not widespread. As a result, Ofori had a tough time in school because he could not see the board, which affected his academic performance. After struggling through secondary school with his sight condition, Ofori’s father was hesitant for him to continue school in his condition without support, however Ofori was determined to go. Unfortunately, after he entered teacher training college in 1985 an event occurred which had a massive impact on his life; his parents divorced. This brought about a lot of hardship for Ofori and his siblings. Ofori’s father wanted him to enter the Ministry, however, he was convinced that was not his calling. Instead, he had wanted to enter the teaching field. Unfortunately, just as he entered the training college his family was hit with the divorce of his parents and massive economic hardships. This situation coupled with his sight challenges compelled Ofori to abandon his teaching ambitions for the time being. As a result, he dropped out of the teacher training college.

For a period of two years, he served with the clergy of a local church. However, as he had always expressed, he did not have the right calling and he gave up on this endeavor. Almost immediately, he gained employment as a shop keeper in Ho. On the surface it appears significant that a person with a sight disability was hired to be a shopkeeper. Knowledge of this condition was quite limited at that time. Consequently, distinctions were only made between blind and sighted situations. It was perceived that either you could see, or you could not. Since Ofori had a level of vision, and could identify currency, his disability was simply over-looked or even ignored. Thus, he had to strain his limited sight to cope with expectations. However, business was not fulfilling enough for him. In 1988 on the advice of his father, Ofori undertook a course in craft at the Rehabilitation Center. This gained him employment with the Ghana Education Service as a craft instructor in 1987. After teaching at the Methodist School in Ho for a year, Ofori entered the training college under a special program and finally graduated with a basic certificate in Education in 1991.

It was in 1988, even before Ofori gained admission to teacher training college, that he was invited to a meeting of the Ghana Association of the Blind in Ho. At this event, he was greatly inspired at the level of empowerment and confidence exhibited by the members. He was particularly impressed by the braille readings and the level of interpretation and articulation of Government policies. He was further inspired by the fact that most of the members and leaders of this group were totally blind. As a result, he realized that there was a lot he could do as a person with low-vision. He quickly developed a relationship with them and joined the Association. At the time the Volta Region branch had just begun and accordingly there was a membership drive. Ofori found that he was greatly needed as the members relied on him to help them get around, especially when it came to outreaches for mobilization. He also assisted in resource mobilization, running errands, and helping to organize programs for the Association. Later that year at a workshop organized by the National office of the Ghana Association of the Blind, elections were held to appoint regional leaders. At this point in time there was no regional structure for the Volta region, which was the situation in most regions as the GAB was still in the process of evolving its regional structures. At this election, Ofori’s exhibited zeal and effort in assisting with the organization of the group in Ho was recognized and he was elected as the secretary to the Regional Branch of the Association. Ofori and his fellow executive leaders of the Volta region branch of GAB were faced with the challenge of establishing district branches of the organization. They were engaged in advocacy on various fronts, and as secretary Ofori was on the front lines as his position meant he oversaw correspondence and follow ups. He engaged community leaders and helped with the discovery and mobilization of the blind.

In 1990 The Volta region branch of the Association was rocked with several leadership challenges. As a result, a vote of no-confidence was passed against the current president. At an emergency meeting of the regional Council, Ofori was appointed as acting regional President, which he held until the following elections when in 1994 he was unanimously elected at a regional convention as the President of the region. By this appointment, Ofori became a member of the National Executive Council. As President, Ofori championed the cause of empowering blind individuals. He also made sure that those with low vision were not ignored, as at this time there was still limited information about this level of visual disability and rose public awareness on the subject. Ofori also led a regional campaign to get children with visual impairment into school. In line with the objectives of the GAB, Ofori inaugurated many district branches in the Volta region. He was a strong advocate for the introduction of the tactile ballot system of voting in 2001 and campaigned hard to ensure that most of the district branches in the Volta region also received training. He involved himself in the training effort, travelling to rural areas to teach potential voters to facilitate their independent participation in the National general elections of the country. He was also involved in lobbying for the release of government funds from the local authorities. In line with his fight for economic empowerment for blind individuals to ensure their full participation in society, Ofori also sought funding through the submission of proposals to several would-be funders. Ofori’s main drive was to create awareness for the rights of blind persons to lead productive lives in society. Ofori’s main strategy was to use the opportunities created by projects or events to establish district branches.

In 2007 his term in office came to an end under the restrictions imposed by the amended constitution of the GAB that limited the terms of elected members. After this, he continued to play an active role as a member of the local Ho branch. In 2009 Ofori won a scholarship to India to take a course in social entrepreneurship. Upon his return to Ghana, he established the New Horizon Foundation for the Blind. The focus of this organization is to support blind and partially sighted children in the area of education and rehabilitation. Despite the fact that Ofori has founded a new organization, he is still a staunch member of GBU. In fact, he views the roles of both organizations as complimentary.

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Ebenezer

Ebenezer Appiuh Karlong was born on September 21, 1944 in Manyoro, a farming community near Navrongo in the upper East region of Ghana, to a family of five. He went to Ajumako Local Authority School in the Afram Plains of the Eastern region where his father was a migrant farmer. Karlong furthered his education at Bremen Secondary School in 1966 and completed in 1970. After his education, Karlong migrated to Tarkoradi in the Western region of Ghana in 1971, where he got a job at Allied Chemical. Mr. Karlong was employed as a restaurant worker and worked there for four years before leaving to the Pure Paper Convention company in 1975. Karlong was with them for a long duration as a multi-cutter operator.

Karlong enjoyed his younger years as a sighted individual, working with several companies and eventually getting married. In his role as the bread winner of his family, Karlong started helping other members who needed support. He tried his best to provide for his family until he had a problem with his sight in 1986 at the age of 42. Karlong was working one day when paper particles sprayed into his eyes. At that moment he could not see or open his eyes. Karlong was rushed to the hospital where he was given the opportunity to explain to the doctor what happened to him. After several checkups, the doctor gave him some medication for his eyes hoping it would enable him to see and open his eyes. When the medicine was applied for the first time, Karlong experienced a very sharp pain like he had a cut on his eyes. After some time, he called the company nurse and showed her the medicine because he doubted the professionalism of the doctor. According to Karlong, the doctor was talking with someone and was not paying attention when Karlong was telling him what happened to his eyes so he believed the doctor might have given him a wrong medication.

For some time, Karlong could see partially until his sight began to recede. When this started, he became upset and reported it to the management of the Company he worked for. He was promptly referred to a specialist eye clinic for further treatment, where he underwent surgery. He was also provided with a pair of spectacles which enabled him to partially see. With the spectacles, Karlong was able to resume work. However, although he could see better, he still had to strain to keep up with his daily work routine. This situation lasted for a period of time until the pain in his eyes resurfaced. After a while, his eyesight began to deteriorate, and he subsequently sought treatment at the Government hospital in Accra. He kept up with this treatment for about two years until he lost his sight completely in 1988 when he was 44 years old.

When Karlong lost his sight, his family was understandably devastated because he was the only educated person in the family and a lot was expected of him. He was the bread winner of his family and after his education, his family thought he was going to secure a good job in order to take care of them. However, this prospect died with Karlong’s sight. Although in those days the two schools for the blind had been established in Akropong, located in the Eastern region of the Country in 1948 by the Basel mission, and another in Wa, in the Upper region by the Methodist Church in 1958, there was very limited information available about rehabilitation of an adult blind person. Public education on blindness was limited. As a result, families were often left to their own resources. In frustration, the entire situation of sight loss was blamed on witchcraft, which is in line with cultural beliefs when there appears to be no tangible explanation for an ailment or situation. Karlong’s family naturally attributed the sight misfortune to witchcraft. This notion was re-enforced by the fact that he had inherited the wealth of his late father. For such a fate to befall the heir of the father’s estate was firmly believed to be an act of witchcraft intended to destroy what otherwise would have been a very prosperous life.

Although Karlong did not fully accept the explanation of witchcraft as being responsible for his blindness condition, he could not rule it out completely. This was due to the fact that members of his family refused to allow him to possess his late father’s property that was due him. Although it was possible that this may have been due to greed or discrimination on the part of the family members who wanted to take advantage of a blind individual, in the cultural experience of the people, witchcraft was known to cause such problems. Karlong, who did not know about the existence of social welfare, reported them to the chief but there were no signs of change. In fact, the family started discriminating against him, so Mr. Karlong went back to Takoradi, where he currently lives.
Mr. Karlong became traumatized and did not know how to cope with his disability. To add to his misfortune, his wife could not accept the fact that her husband had lost his sight and in 1987 decided to leave him. He sought the intervention of his wife’s uncle to talk to her on his behalf but to no avail. She left him to her hometown, Adanse, located in the Ashanti region of the country. Things were difficult for Karlong and he resorted to drinking. Life became unbearable for him as he began to experience discrimination in the house and in the community. In his house, his fellow tenants often left obstacles in his way to hinder his safe passage. Many times, when he decided to go out, people refused to help him cross the road and drivers also refused to take him on board because of his disability.

A new chapter opened in his life when in 1989, The Ghana Association of the Blind held a congress at Tamale in the northern sector the country. News of this congress reached Navrongo, where Karlong was paying a visit to his hometown. Karlong heard the news when the district social welfare director came to Navrogo to announce the congress. Almost without hesitation, Karlong joined the Ghana Association of the Blind in 1989, where his membership became very useful to himself and the people around him.

Karlong was impressed by the confidence and level of empowerment exhibited by the members of the Ghana Association of the Blind. He began to see a new perspective on life and realized that there was hope for him. He stopped drinking and put on a more optimistic and serious attitude and understanding about living as a blind person. Mr. Plahar, who was the president of the Association, inspired Karlong and taught him many things, including how to use the white cane, how to walk without the white cane, and how to be self-oriented whenever you find yourself in new environment. Through workshops, Karlong learned much and eventually went on to teach these things to the other blind persons in his district. When Karlong joined the association, he participated in several advocacy programs. These mainly dealt with the rights of the blind individual and acceptance in the community. There were many occasions when he appeared on radio stations to talk about issues pertaining to discrimination towards people with disability. Karlong also took part in organizing workshops to teach blind people the use of the white cane.

Karlong recalls that organizing blind people in those early days was difficult because there was virtually no financial support from any quarter. Consequently, they relied on their own meager resources to fund trips and even to support other blind individuals in what little way they could. They put in significant effort into organizing the blind in the region. This entailed walking from community to community when they could not afford transportation, enduring harsh conditions like the blazing sun and rain when it fell. They walked to villages far away to ask other blind people to join. They went to churches and other social gatherings places to solicit help to raise funds for their programs.

Not everyone was receptive to their message, and there were times when they were practically driven away as carriers of ill fortune. However, as more blind persons began to recognize the strength in their numbers and the enlightenment the GAB taught, their numbers began to increase steadily. Despite the hardships he faced, Karlong remained focused on organizing the blind in the region. Gradually the message of rights began to be appreciated by the local people. Karlong and his colleagues began to establish district branches in the region. The effort was aided by the policy of the Kufour Government (2000-2001) to make funds available for the district disability groups.

Through Karlong’s efforts funds were secured for the purchase and distribution of white canes for blind individuals in the region. As a result of his hard work, Karlong was unanimously selected to be the secretary for the region at the election held to choose leaders for the Western regional branch of the GAB. Later on, he was elected as Regional president.

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D13

D13 was born with the ability to hear, but an illness at a young age resulted in his deafness. D13 is now a carpenter at a furniture company, but he has concerns about receiving the support he needs to establish his own business. Below are his reflections on the experience of hearing loss.

“When [my illness] happened, my parents took me to the hospital for medical check-ups.[…] I was not sent to prayer camps.”

“I attended normal school with my friends until I became deaf[…]. [L]ater I was enrolled into the School for the Deaf. I completed Junior High School but could not enter Senior High School because I failed my exams.”

“[Because] our teachers taught us by speech and I could hear my teacher’s voice a bit but my mates couldn’t, […] after lessons all my mates would come to me and ask me to help them. In the past we had more hearing teachers but there are more deaf teachers presently.”

“I have siblings who are hearing. Our parents’ attitude towards us has been the same. In the family there’s no preferential treatment. […However,] the family does not involve me in family affairs.”

“Being deaf, I feel that I cannot hear when my friends talk, but I try to listen at times by reading lips[…]. I really want to hear again so that I can communicate by speech.”

“I attend the hospital often. It’s all fine. More deaf people can go to the hospital but there are no deaf doctors. The challenge I faced in the hospital is whenever I went there I would sit for long hours – I could not hear if my name was called[…]. There are not interpreters in the hospital.”

“[The a]ttitude of people towards the deaf is better today than as happened in the past. […Yet] a lot of people are focused on helping persons who are blind and those with physical disabilities. The attention received by deaf people is not welcoming. Disabled people […] get information faster than us. When there is something to share among all disabled people, they will be the first […]. They always inform the deaf late. Treatment is not the same.”

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D6

D6 and his twin brother were both born deaf. After discovering this, D6’s parents sought various cures for the deafness, though without success. D6 was then enrolled in a school for the deaf where his step-father taught, and he is currently in senior high school. Here he discusses his experiences growing up as a deaf person.

“[When] my parents realized that I could not hear they sent me to the hospital for diagnosis and treatment. This didn’t work so I was sent to the priest and was given some bitter drugs to drink. Yet, I could not hear so my parents sent me to the traditionalist. We did not get the desired result. My mother was very much worried so she tried all the means available to her.

“When I got admitted to Kibi school for the deaf, the feeling was good.[…] I did not know sign language but I often went around to socialize with my school mates and […] I was feeling very much excited because my father was always there to help me.

“After junior high school, I asked my mother to help me to secure a job with a construction company, but this did not work out because I was told that until I completed senior high school I could not be employed.”

“With all the support I have received, I feel very much satisfied. When I was in need of help, the family always there. Anything I need, I received. My mother was very much supportive. [However] I do not feel very much included because I am very young and I have to take care of my younger siblings so I have not been included that much in the affairs of the family.”

“My parents believed that I had a future so they always threw their support behind me. They never wanted to leave me because I am deaf. In the family, whether you are deaf or hearing you will be treated equally. But I and my twin brother received much attention because of our deafness.”

“When I was very young, my parents took very good care of me. They did a lot for me in the past, but presently they feel that I am an adolescent now and I can care for myself, so they do not offer the same treatment. The way deaf people are treated depends on their families. I think some of them who have a good family background are better treated than those from poor families. Other families left their deaf children.

“I think other disabled people are treated better than the deaf. The idea is that most people believe that deaf people can do anything; they have eyes, they can walk, they have hands and can do so the people do not see any problem in a deaf person. People feel that the condition of other disabled people is more dangerous so they pay more attention to them than to the deaf.”

“I wondered why I became deaf. I feel that I am saved because for some people if you are deaf, your family will not take good care of you because the idea is that if you are deaf you are useless. But I have come this far with the help of my parents and I am very much happy for this.

“I am in school now and this makes me proud. I never feel worried as a deaf person. I am very happy because I know that it was the purpose of God. I want to be successful in the future as a deaf person. I never want to regain my hearing ability because hearing comes with lots of negatives. For example, people insult you and you can hear them, which can easily make you angry; but in the deaf community things like this oftentimes have been taken as a joke. If I were hearing, a lot could have been said about me but as deaf person, I am free and cannot hear all these. Hearing people deceive, so I do not want to become like them. I am happy as deaf.”

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D5

D5 was born able to hear, but became deaf at a young age. As she says, “I was sent to prayer camps and hospitals for a cure, but all to no avail.” From that early age, D5 has navigated life as a deaf person.

“[M]y father went to Winneba to look for a school for me to attend.”

“I went to Hohoe school for the deaf when I was five years old and I completed in 2014. I also had access to secondary education but couldn’t continue due to financial challenges; so I went into dressmaking as a profession. All the teachers took good care of us and our relationship grew fine. But the use of sign language was a problem because most of our teachers at the time could not use [it].”

“Access [to education] has improved well, and teaching is progressing steadily, and enrolment is increasing because of the high birth rates of deaf children.”

“Access to healthcare is good now. Deaf people get assistance from doctors and nurses all the time. Previously, we used to communicate in writing on paper because there was no interpreter, but today we have some interpreters who accompany us. The availability of sign language has given room for more deaf people to access healthcare.”

“My family members felt guilty when they found out I was deaf, but I do not feel sad. I am happy as a deaf person and I feel satisfied with all the support I have received from everyone.”

“[But though] I am deaf I wish that I could hear again because it would enable me to understand better. If I am able to hear, I can speak with [friends and family] and sign language will not be needed.”

“People have called me ‘mumu’ because I cannot hear and talk. This hurts badly, but anytime my friends or relatives heard about this insult they would come to my defence.”

According to D5, “[h]earing people think that deaf people cannot do anything because they cannot hear. This is a wrong impression and must be changed.”

At the same time, though, D5 has noticed that “most disabled people had better treatment than the deaf. People see their condition as something that deserves special attention and needing better care. People believe that deaf can do everything except to hear.”

“I share my concerns or problems with the leadership of the deaf community in my district and a few of my friends. Whenever I do, they take time to sit with me, advise, and encourage me.”

“[A] friend helped me to look for employment and I found work at the University of Education in Winneba. At work, the relationship between me and my boss was good.”

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David

David Akpo was born in Akim Oda in the village of Kwanten. At the age of ten he lost the ability to use his legs and was given crutches and calipers to help him walk afterwards. Akpo joined the Disability Scouts in 1975 and worked at a primary school in the Ako Adjei area before joining the GSPD in 1983. Akpo helped organize the disability sports in Accra for more than eleven years with the organization.

I joined [the GSPD] in 1983…I came to know about them and join at my training school because that was where they held meetings… I went there and asked them how I could join. They showed me and encouraged me to join since I had started school at the training center. Truly when I joined, I was happy, I forgot all my problems at home and felt comfortable in the midst of other disabled people… when I joined the meeting it was good, if you request for anything they provide it and if you are sick, they even pay you a visit to check up on you… our chairman was called Quaison and other elders included Owusu, Torto.

Whenever I went anywhere and met my friends with disabilities, I talked to them about the group, so I brought more people to the group… nowadays that we are performing sports activities, three of us brought the sports to the group. In 1984, we went for a congress in Kumasi, I was first in the wheel chair racing and Greater Accra won the first, second and third positions since 1984… it [the disability sports] started here in Accra… when it started here in Greater Accra… we were three… Adjetey Sowah and David Nii Okine [David Akpor]… and Odoi who is dead… when it started in Accra, a certain man called Adjevon who used to host bicycle racing every year hosted one in Accra. Nii Okine took the first position, I was second, and Odoi was third… So when [Adjevon] hosted the race in greater Accra and we won the trophy, then he said in 1984, he will host it in Kumasi so that whoever is capable can also win. He also said he will send it to all the ten regions and in 1984 when he hosted it in Kumasi, we won it again for Greater Accra region…. Sowah, Nii Okine, Odoi and I [organized the race in Accra].

Most of the leaders who used to manage us are dead, so nowadays we are being managed by most of the young people and they cannot handle us very well, they are also not sociable that’s why things have changed in the meeting. Most of the elderly are dead, now there are even no elderly leaders in the meeting… nowadays, the current leaders don’t allow us to express ourselves like how we used to express ourselves in the past. I wouldn’t like to be disrespected by someone younger than me because of something I said, so nowadays, I don’t like going to the meeting.

The problem [the GSPD] are facing now is that, there is no honesty in the group. We are not faithful to each other nowadays. At first, each person liked to share what they had but now, they don’t. So if I don’t see any improvement I will just concentrate on my job with my children.

The [GSPD] will get back its former glory and joy if all the members who have stopped come back. Again, if we organize meetings and people are absent, there are ways to visit them and find out why they have been not been present. The person might tell you what’s bothering him/her and the leaders can in turn, convince them to be regular at meetings by pampering them.

Now that our [Disabilities Act] has been passed, it means everything that is being done is in accordance with the law. This means that, due to the existence of the law, once you take up issues that bother you as a disabled person, the law will be used to address the problem… before the law we were happy among ourselves. Now that the law is here, our problems can be addressed using the law.

The [disability] scout was formed in 1975. We went to join in 1975… The scout has been in existence for a very long time [before the GSPD]… when we joined the disabled scout, I must admit there was a lot of joy there. When we joined, there were no females in the scout. My wife [Maame Veronica Quaye] was the first woman to join when we started the disabled scout… At the time we joined, our leader was known as ‘Aluta’… on Fridays we went on camping… When we went for camping, we were taught a lot of things. We were taught scout laws and ways, first aid – what to do when you are ill before you visit the hospital… ours was the disabled scout. Among us, we had craft, sewing, shoemaking, etc. When Trade Fair was organized for instance, we wrote letters and were given stands where we displayed a whole lot of craftwork products. People came to the Trade Fair and bought the things we displayed… we had the skills already. Our leader only supervised us… the use of money, unfaithfulness within our ranks and greed among many other things [caused its collapse]. The Scout too is not the same. Again, we are growing and cannot use the crutches effectively like before. All these are reasons why we stopped.

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Agor

Agor Ablor was born in 1934. At the age of three he developed polio and was taken to the hospital. There he was given an injection for measles, and afterwards became paralysed in both legs. Ablor worked for civil service in 1961, before joining the GSPD as the Vice President of the Accra area. After resigning from this position, he became the National Vice President in 1981. He shared stories with us about the founding of GSPD and his work with the organization.

So one Mr Wereko from Kumasi came to see me that they wanted to form a disability society so I should also be involved I said oh fine. So we had some meetings both in Accra, and in my office… [In Accra] It was then made up of Myself, Wreko, Wofa Yaw, Kumi, Quayson [J.J. B Arthur, Emmanuel Anang, Adjetey Sowah part]

So we started in Accra, Mr Qwayson was the President and I was the Vice of the Accra meeting and Adjety Sowah was the secretary. At the time oh we were doing very well we were mobilizing people and getting a lot of people to join but something happened and I resigned… I was a signatory to our bank account so one day for Accra and one day I realised somebody told me that they have withdrawn some money from the bank without my knowledge I made enquiries and realised that it was Qwayson and Adjetey Sowah who signed for immediately I resigned… [I] didn’t trust them anymore but I was going for the meetings.”

[I was Vice president] more than four years or so. Then in 1981 or so there was a national delegate meeting and I applied for the post of National Vice President and I got the post and I become the vice president. So we were traveling throughout the country to form the society, to inaugurate executive officers and others. So with exception of Wa I know every part of Ghana. But there is one thing too that even with GSPD there was some sort of discrimination… We had people who were using crutches, we had people who were using wheelchairs, we had people whose arms were amputated etc. so they were discriminating against those of us who were using the wheelchairs because we couldn’t go to places… So I think in 1981 there was a general election as I said, I got the post so we’ve been travelling and sensitizing people that they should join the society so that we could raise the image of the disabled people and disabused peoples mind that our disability is not inability. So we mobilize a lot of people. And we also had a lot of help”

Then when the time for the president expired I put in an application for president but you know there were a people were in tricks against us those of us using the wheel chairs so people who even told me will support me, there was another boy who was using crutches he maneuvered he even bribed people not to vote for me in fact so at the congress I lost, I lost. And then I was peeved because most of the people thought I will get the post but the way this boy manoeuvre in connivance with the financial secretary they were using… their own money ensure people didn’t support me in fact I got to know it late otherwise I would have withdrawn because I will not tolerate it even at the congress center… he [Christopher Kisseh] won but unfortunately for him he died about a year later

[Christopher Kisseh] was a treacherous boy he was my close friend when I was the vice president he was my secretary and all the committee we set up I will help him, I was drafting letters for him, but he tricked me so I was peeved so from the congress I stopped going for their meetings because if this small organization you do such a thing I didn’t understand why it should be like that, I don’t the society I was contributing to the society so if you want to take it take it that is fine I am not after post all that bad even to become the vice president one lady called Catherine Tsagli brought the forms to me and asked me to sign it before I signed it I was not interested.”

To draft the disability bill and we met and our chairperson was the late Registrar General which was a woman I have forgotten her name by then was the chairman and one Dr C we were about 19 of us on the committee and one Mr Oye he was social welfare director so he drafted the whole bill, which was sent to parliament and it was passed”

[Challenges forming the GSPD included] Financial problems you know as a new organisation and you were expecting to get financial aid from among ourselves and you know people with disabilities some of them are not working so how do you expect them to pay dues so that is a big challenge. Also we had transportation problems so when I was in Teshie and we were going to meetings when I didn’t have car, how many of our people at that time could afford to take taxi from Teshie to Adabraka and back for meetings, so transport problems impeded the progress of the organization many people were willing to come but you can’t take trotro so you have to take Taxi so these are some of the problems

[The GSPD] have achieved a lot… We have sensitised people a lot that we are not a different person that if you want to do something you can do it don’t think of your disability first think of your ability… almost every year we go to one region to hold our congress there and then sensitize people, advise them and convince them that we can do something

In GBC and GSPD, to rise from the position of deputy director of administration was not an easy thing and with GSPD to rise to the position of Vice President for the whole nation was also not an easy thing and also to be president of Aquinas Old Boys Association was also an achievement.”

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Blindness 1

Edited by Cameron Baer

This is the first of twenty anonymous testimonies collected in the Eastern Region from blind interviewees in February-March, 2018.

“I was at Sefwi when I first experienced trouble with my sight. Visits to a number of hospitals quickly confirmed a diagnosis with glaucoma. Despite efforts to combat the illness, it was not long before I was completely blind.

As owner of a cocoa farm and father to several children already advanced in life, the consequences my blindness were not as debilitating as for some. I am not burdened with the need to support a large family, most of them having already moved on with their lives, and the cocoa harvest brings in sufficient monetary support. Even so, the effects on my lifestyle have been acute and difficult. I am now entirely dependent on one of my children, whether it be dressing, bathing, or leaving the house; once an avid traveller, the farthest I travel now is to my farm, or to the hospital for medication.

Despite my abrupt turn of fortune, I am able to “live together in harmony” with my community members. I have never been referred to in a derogatory manner related to my condition, and many in my family and the community show concern and care for me. If my own child cannot look after me, children in the community will do so, and local friends will call on him occasionally.

While I have not suffered any overt discrimination, my relationships with my community and family are nevertheless mixed, as a more passive sense of apathy colours my situation. My family, while not inconvenienced by my condition, do not consider it their responsibility, aside from occasional visits. I am also hesitant to speak about my situation with the community. I once shared his feelings with select friends in my local church, but even this emotional outlet has closed as of late.

I simply wish not to bother anybody with the challenges of my condition, physical or emotional. I rarely leave the house, and I have never asked for assistance from any community or government institution; even after government support payments dried up, I refused to raise his voice, in spite of my feelings on the matter. I don’t seek employment outside of my farm. How can someone who is blind work? How on earth is the person going to get a job?”

I do not expect anything from my community, a feeling that is apparently mutual.

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Charles

We met Charles on an overcast day in the Eastern Region of Ghana. In the excerpt below he describes the source of his disability and challenges of education for disabled children:

“I am almost fifty-nine years old. My disability started when I was young, according to my mother I was three years old. She said she injected me and it caused polio. When you are a child, you don’t feel that you are (disabled) because you used to play with all, especially kids. But when my friends started to leave for school, that is when I started to realize, oh, no. Something is short in my life. I studied elementary and middle school in my hometown.

 

My biggest concern was that…I wrote common entrance exams, I think 1976 I passed very well to go to school but because of my disability… When they sent me there all the buildings were storey and I couldn’t climb so that prevented me from going to school at that time.  Also, all my friends I started with, when they finish school they will leave for higher education. So the number of people I was playing with reduced, because they all went and I was left alone. My education was a great concern to me. After I came out of school, in 1977 I learned shoemaking … I started doing it for some money.

Then I had everything to go to teacher training college. I went to training college 1987. When I was looking for admission to enter training college, the principal told me she will not accept me. Why? Because some disables came there, the way they were misbehaving, it wasn’t possible to sack them, it wasn’t possible to punish them (laughing). In fact this made me to stay home for almost a term, so it was some elders who went and spoke with them that she doesn’t know the kind of person I am. The principal is from my hometown and by the grace of God I made her happy, I didn’t do anything bad.”

Despite the barriers Charles describes above, he graduated from teachers’ college in 1991 and his now employed by a primary school in the Eastern Region.

 

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Naomi

We interviewed Naomi in her home in a town in Ghana’s Eastern Region.  In the interview she told us about her experience raising a son with severe cerebral palsy, and the lack of support form her husband and his family:

“My son was in born in 2006.  When I was going to labour the nurses were on strike…the midwife [was young]. Around midnight the day of his birth he started to cry … he cried continuously for two weeks and he started to deform. I sent him back to the midwife and she said that his veins has become green and she told me that she has been infected … so she directed me to a man (a herbalist) who treated him for three months. He became very nice but his breathing was like someone who has a cold.

It continued like that so when he was 4-5 months, I took him to saint Joseph’s [hospital] at Koforidua. When I was in Koforidua they gave me a specialist (who) told me he was born with a particular sickness (cerebral palsy). I used a lot of herbal medicine. At the beginning, his father was helping, and later he took me to a prayer camp and we stood there for 6 months. We tried but there was nothing new. So when he was 11/2 years I informed the owner of the camp that I want to send him home.

When he was one year eight months, I had information that people from Salvation Army [hospital] were coming to Presby so they invited me and I went. They told me they will put him on physio because his sickness is only physio that can help. I came to tell his father … but he didn’t agree. I didn’t have any work in that time so I couldn’t send him by my authority. One day I met a certain doctor and he referred us to Korle Bu (hospital in Accra). They gave us a doctor and they divided the care: neuro, physio and others. One of my husband’s friends was a doctor in Korle Bu and for him his child’s problem was autism. So he was the one who advised my husband not to bother himself with caring for the child. Whether good or bad if he will get up he will.

Later (my husband) informed me that his family members are saying all my children will be sick so he should divorce me. He stopped caring for the child. My grandmother brought me up with farming, so I took the machete and told myself if this child should be well, I will farm and whatever I get I will use it to support him. I was doing vegetables only, so I started okro farming little by little…I was doing it by myself. Though his father was not helping, with a little farming I was able to get the money for (medication). Later I added palm oil making. I was doing palm oil.

 

All the family wish is that we all pray and he dies. Some said he is a river child so ‘yen k) gya no kwan’ let’s go and kill him. My husband said the best thing is that we agree and pray for him to die. As for my family, I don’t get any help from them, I remember last year my brother told me there was one sister abroad, her child had similar condition, they ‘k) gya no kwan’ went and kill the child so I should go to the place she did hers and do same for my child to be free. I told him I can’t.”

 

 

Naomi continues to care for her son on her own, without any help from her husband or family. She relies on income from farming activities at her home, including palm oil, vegetables and root crops, chickens, goats and a fish pond.