ghanadisability No Comments


Mrs. Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame was born on September 23, 1957. Her parents, Dr. Edward Owusu Menu, an Entomologist, and Mrs. Victoria Owusu Menu, an Educationist, hailed from the Akan ethnic group in the Eastern Region of Ghana. Fefoame is the eldest of eight siblings. Although she was part of a nuclear family, her early life was placed in the context of the extended family where aunts, uncles and cousins were all regarded as one collective whole. As such, Fefoame grew up with the advantage of experiencing both a smaller family unit and the more cultural African extended family situation. She spent her early life at Akropong in the Eastern Region of Ghana, a place renowned for Christianity and Education. For all intents and purposes, Fefoame was brought up in the strict Presbyterian tradition, an environment provided by family and community. As a young girl, Fefoame lived with her grandmother who was the resident supervisor principal of the Presbyterian Girls Boarding School. Her relationship was so close with her grandmother that in many respects it appeared to her as though her grandmother treated and regarded her as her own child rather than the grandchild that she was. Fefoame was part of a very close-knit family and as the eldest her siblings and cousins alike looked up to her for leadership and direction. The issue of disability was never a consideration in these matters. There were times when this posed some challenges as her disability was often forgotten and the focus was on her as a person. There were even a few times when walking with a sibling, she could slip because the person she was walking with had forgotten about her disability completely. Fefoame views these occurrences as positive, since her family always saw her first and foremost as a person and never focused on her disability. Fefoame was later elected President of the Family Association. This position was given to her due to her situation as the eldest of the siblings and cousins, however, the more substantial reason was due to her proved resourcefulness in various areas of endeavors.

Fefoame began her education at age five at the local Methodist Church primary school in Akropong in the Eastern region where she lived. When she got to the stage of primary 6, she was transferred to the demonstration primary school attached to the Presbyterian Teacher Training College, now the Presbyterian College of Education. From there she continued her education at the Presbyterian Demonstration Middle School at Akropong. Later she enrolled at the Ghana Secondary School at Koforidua, also in the Eastern region, where she pursued her secondary school education.

It was during her primary school education when she was only ten years of age in 1967 when Fefoame noticed she could not read from the board properly. Her grandmother took her to the hospital for treatment of her sight situation. From the local hospital she was referred to the Korle Bu Teaching hospital in Accra, a facility that mainly receives referrals and very serious cases. Her referral to this hospital was the first indication to Fefoame of the seriousness of her situation. Initially she received eyeglasses but as time went on it was obvious that these were not effective, and she continued to experience difficulties in reading from the board. Next, she was put on a series of different medications. There were times when this interrupted her schooling. It was in this situation that Fefoame struggled through her secondary school education. Although the school authorities were aware of her situation, no help came from them. As such, she had to rely on her own ingenuity and support from friends who would read the textbooks to her. During this difficult part of her education, Fefoame also had some assistance from a few tutors who would meet her after class hours and explain the diagrams that she had not been able to read or understand from the board. However, not all her teachers were so accommodating. Fefoame recalls that many teachers did not have any understanding of disability and conveniently simply chose to ignore her special needs in the class, yet they expected her to do as equally well as the rest of the students. In this condition, Fefoame made it through her secondary education. She faced another challenge when the examination council refused to provide her with the large print she had requested for her exams, even though they had agreed to this request a year earlier.

In 1975 Fefoame successfully completed her secondary school education. Although her results were not exceptionally good, she was elated because she had put so much effort into going through the system with her receding sight. To her, whatever the results the fact that she had not given up was an achievement by all standards. This joy and sense of achievement was shared with her family who had stood by her all the way through. 1975 proved to be a pivotal year in her life. A new course was introduced for teachers for the first time; Professional Studies for the Education of People with Visual Impairment. An advertisement went out and teachers were encouraged to enroll for this course. Fefoame was interested but it was explained that since the course was intended for trained teachers, she had to be trained as a teacher before she could take it. Due to her residual vision to achieve this she had to learn braille and typing at the School for the Blind at Akropong. Since Fefoame had grown up at Akropong and thus was accustomed to seeing and even interacting with blind individuals, she did not have any problem learning at the School for the Blind. However, the expression of sorrowful emotions by friends and some members of the community, who were dismayed that she was learning as a blind person and thus was now virtually blind even though she still had residual vision, very nearly dampened her spirits. Dealing with this realization of life as a blind person filled Fefoame with all kind of thoughts, some even boarding on giving up and suicide. It was at this time that she met another blind lady by name the of Grace Preko who was a student at the Presbyterian Teacher Training College, which was close to the School for the Blind. The two struck up an acquaintanceship and became life-long friends. Later, they would both play major roles in the disability activism movement in Ghana. This meeting proved to be a turning point in Gertrude’s life. After her meeting with Grace and experiencing the vibrancy of Grace’s spirit, Fefoame resolved to dedicate her own life to improving the lot of other blind people in Ghana. This meeting also served to encourage and re-invigorate her, and she put all her effort into her studies. Learning from her earlier experience where the Examinations Council had relented on their promise to provide her with the large print necessary for her exams, Fefoame personally went to the offices of the Examination Council and demanded that her questions be put in braille and in addition that a supervisor be provided for her. In order to ensure this she took her exams in Accra, where she had proximity to the Examination Council. Fefoame’s forcefulness paid off, and her questions were given in her desired format and a supervisor was provided. With the needed systems in place, Fefoame took the exams and qualified for training college in 1976. There she joined Grace, her peer mentor. In 1979 after three years of hard work, Fefoame became a qualified teacher. Later in 1989 she gained a Diploma in ‘Special needs Education for Visually impaired Persons.’

Even before she completed her teacher training in 1976, the year she enrolled at the training College, Fefoame joined two organizations; the Ghana Society for the Blind, which focused on advocating and providing services to the blind, and the Ghana Association of the Blind which also focused on fighting and advocating for the rights of blind people. Due to her membership in these organizations she began to fully understand what it meant to be blind and the negative societal barriers and limitations imposed on people with this impairment. This knowledge aroused an anger and determination in her to be part of the process for change, which she felt was very necessary. When presented with the option of teaching in a school for blind persons or in the regular system, she chose the latter. In her estimation, being blind did not make her less of a person, and so she chose the regular system to prove this point. Later, she also taught at the Presbyterian Teacher Training college, where she had formerly been a student. All this was geared at making a statement and showed that she could train anybody just as well as her non-blind colleagues. As a partially sighted person she began to involve herself in the activities of groups like the GSB and the GAB. Before long, her qualities were noticed, and she began to attain various responsibilities in the organization of the Ghana Association of the Blind. Even within disability organizations like GAB, Fefoame was concerned about minority voices. It was because of this notion that Fefoame and other of like-minded individuals came together to advocate and form the Women’s League, now Women’s Wing, of the GAB in 1981. She was elected as the first secretary of the Women’s League.

Although she had been part of previous empowerment workshops while she was still a student, it was not until 1992 in a workshop organized by the Institutional Development Programme of the World Blind Union that she truly began to develop and realize her own advocacy and leadership potentials. Fefoame had the advantage of associating with several future leaders of the disability movement, who mentored and encouraged her. With this motivation, she pressed for women’s issues whenever the opportunity presented itself. There were times when she visited the School for the Blind to speak to blind girls and young women. Fefoame also made it a point to ensure that every for general meeting she would organize a section for women mostly after the main meetings. This was because it was not easy to get a slot for women in the main agenda. Fefoame’s persistence with her colleagues led to the creation of the women’s chair at the Ghana Association of the Blind. In 1996 when she was elected to the position of Vice-president of the GAB, she ensured that the President of the Women’s Wing was given a place on the Board of the Organization. This was met with resistance from some members, who did not understand why women should have a seat on the board. Fefoame continued to pursue her interest in the welfare of blind women. As a representative of the GAB to the African Union of the Blind, she became a founding member of the Women’s Committee of the African Union of the Blind, which was established in 1994, and became the first secretary of the Women’s committee. Before long, her contribution to the development and empowerment of blind women was well known by all. Because of this, in 1997 she became the global vice-chair for the World Blind Union women’s work. Later in 2000 she also became the Chairperson for the World Blind Union children’s work.

Even before all this occurred, Fefoame was elected to the position of Vice-president of the Africa Union of the Blind from 1996 to 2000. During this same period, Fefoame also served as an executive committee member of the World Blind Union. Fefoame used her international exposure to ensure that the African Union of the Blind had a place for women in its constitution. Stemming from this came the requirement of member countries of the African Union of the Blind to be represented by both male and female delegates to the congresses of the Union. Before Fefoame’s time this had not occurred. Naturally she came up against some opposition, however, employing the lessons she had learned from the local Ghana situation, she and her like-minded colleagues were eventually successful, and this requirement has remained in place even today. Fefoame had a very hectic schedule, at a particular period she wore many hats at the same time; vice-president of the Ghana Association of the Blind, and vice-president of the Africa Union of the Blind. In addition to her World Blind Union women’s work, she was also Public Relations Officer of the Federation of Disability Organization, a tutor, a wife, a mother and a role model.

One of the most vivid instances of her activist qualities was seen during her participation at the International Summit for Women held in Beijing, China in 1995. At this conference, Gertrude was nominated to present a paper on behalf of women in Africa. During the conference it was discovered that the needs of people with disabilities had not been properly factored into the planning of the event. For instance, presentations by certain individuals with disabilities, especially those in wheelchairs, were located upstairs. The result was that participants in wheelchairs had to be physically carried upstairs. Next there were tents provided for group meetings. Unfortunately, the tent allocated to people with disabilities was located relatively far off. Matters were made more difficult by the fact that it was raining almost every day of the conference. To Gertrude this was not going to stop her. On one particular day when a meeting of the disability group was scheduled, she began a protest chant; “we-are-going,” drawing awareness to the presence of disabled persons at the conference. The chant was taken up first by a small group and then spontaneously by the entire conference. In effect, they refused to walk through the rain to their tent which was located far off. The international media was present, and cameras began to flash. The results were instant, and the tent was re-located to a more suitable venue. After that incident, Fefoame was swamped with interviews by the press.

Fefoame views her main achievement as being able to mentor young people to stand up and fight for their rights as well as pursuing their aspirations in life. Her mentorship is not limited to people with disabilities, however. In her church, she is the patron for various youth groups like the Young People’s Guild and the Young Adults Fellowship. Fefoame also views her task of raising awareness and creating opportunities by opening doors for other persons with disabilities as another of her major achievements. Throughout her career, she has always sought to create awareness about the capabilities of persons with disabilities, especially blind individuals. This has led her to venture into some unexplored territory. She was the first blind person to attend the Ghana Institute for Management and Professional Administration, or GIMPA. Along with this, she was the first blind person in her district to be appointed into the District Assembly and district parliament. Her interest and zest for human rights, especially the rights of persons with disabilities, is also well known. In 2007, at the Golden Jubilee anniversary celebration of Ghana, she received the presidential award for meritorious service to her nation. In 2018 she was elected to serve on the United Nations Committee of Experts for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

In her opinion, Gertrude views disability as part of the diversity of God’s creation. Any limitations associated with this are brought about by society, the environment, and individuals themselves. This situation is reflected in language, attitude and expectations. These barriers can be removed by society so that a person with disabilities can live life to the fullest. To her, “Education is a steppingstone to understanding what the World is and breaking the barriers in what we have.”

ghanadisability No Comments


Vivian Dede Nartey was born on September 18, 1966 in Agoteme Opagame of the Volta region, hailing from the Ewe ethnic group. Her mother, Florence Adwoa Asare, and father, Vincent Nartey, come from Okagyakrom and Agoteme Opagame respectively in Ghana. Currently, Vivian lives at Kpando with her nine siblings where their father works as a fisher man. She went to Dodo Amanfro School in the Volta Region for her lower primary and from there continued her upper primary at Damanko in 1979. However, Vivian could not further her education due to financial problems and she stayed in the house for three years even though she had passed her common entrance exams.

Nartey was born sighted and completed her basic and her junior high education without experiencing any eye problems until she got to high school. In 1984, she began to lose her sight when she went to Kpando Technical Institute. In her first year, she started to notice some signs that something was wrong, such as her eyes beginning to itch and experiencing blurred sight. Her teachers noticed her struggles and tried to help the situation by ensuring that she sat at the front of the class where she would have unobstructed view of the board. Unfortunately, her situation did not improve and because of her diminishing sight, reading and writing became difficult for her and she started performing poorly academically. After several months she realized that she could not see from one eye, which eventually affected the other eye. In 1985 she began having severe migraine headaches, which continued for some time. However, she was able to cope with it and completed her secondary education. She completed school in 1985 and got married. Unfortunately, Vivian had a miscarriage with her first pregnancy, which doctors later connected to her severe migraine headaches. She was referred to Kolebu hospital where she was diagnosed with glaucoma. Vivian and her family were devastated by this news, knowing that the condition was not reversible. At this point she still had some sight in one eye, so she resolved to do everything in her power to save it. As a result, in 1996 she underwent two eye surgeries in an attempt to preserve the little sight she had left. Unfortunately, this was to no avail and Vivian lost her sight completely.

Nartey’s situation had many social ramifications. Her husband was not able to reconcile with the fact that he was married to a blind woman. He, like many people, viewed disability as very negative and began to maltreat her and cheat on her. Nartey, like many women of her time, tried to bear the mistreatment for a time. When her husband began to cheat on her, however, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back and she divorced him.

Taking charge of her life, Nartey moved with her two children to her family house to live with her parents. However, after a while she had to leave again because of the high level of stigmatization she experienced there. Life became so difficult that at a point Nartey felt like giving up and committing suicide. Fortunately, she met a good Samaritan who encouraged her. She managed to secure some capital from this person and began to bake and sell bread to earn her income so she could look after herself and her family. Her hardships, however, did not end here. Her trading job suffered a setback when robbers attacked her shop and stole virtually all her wares. Despite all this, Nartey refused to give up. She secured another loan and began trading again, this time in the area of kitchen utensils, determined to make it work. Nartey was more successful and found that she was able to enroll her children in school. Although Nartey lived what was a very independent life, she still did not have all the skills needed for effective independent living. In 2004 Nartey was introduced to the Ghana Association of the Blind by a blind teacher who she had met in church. She was immediately attracted to the kind of discussion and fellowship the members had with one another. Barely a month later she had joined the GAB and took part in a workshop which was organised to empower its members. She was very active at this workshop and served in part as an interpreter for those individuals who did not understand English. This program had a profound effect on Nartey, and she began to get more involved in the activities of the GAB. Her zeal and energy were noticed by some of the leaders of the GAB and they suggested Nartey stand for leadership positions. Greatly encouraged by this, on her return to her home district of Kpandu she devoted her energies to the mobilization of blind women to join the organisation. Later in 2007, she was able to organize a workshop geared at empowering blind people in the district. Not surprisingly Nartey became the women’s coordinator for the Volta region in 2007. She used her newly acquired lobbying skills to secure support from the district assembly for the efforts of the GAB to organize more programs in her districts. Nartey also targeted blind children who were not in school and advocated for support from the local authorities to put these children in school. These activities took her through the length and breadth of the region, including to the very little villages whenever she learned of the presence of blind children not in school. Wherever it was established that the parents could not afford to put the children in school or did not see the need to, Nartey through her education campaign lobbied for admission for these children and money from churches and other institutions to pay for the fees of them.

As an executive member of the regional branch of the GAB Nartey did a lot of advocacy on the radio and in public meetings. In 2010 she was elected to the position of regional Public Relations Officer. Later in 2012 she became the regional President and held this position until 2018 when she was elected as the National Vice-President of the Ghana Blind Union. Nartey is a mentor to many young people in the Volta region. Apart from her involvement in the activities of GBU, she is also very active in community affairs. For instance, in 2015 she contested for the position of Assembly Woman for the Kpandu district. Although she lost this contest, it greatly boosted her confidence and inspired her to advocate more for the rights of blind people. Nartey was also instrumental in the establishing of many district branches for her organizations.

ghanadisability No Comments


Steven Amponsah Nketia was born August 20, 1948 to Mr. John Kwabena Nketia and Mrs. Hannah Ofobi in a farming community in Akim Oda, situated in the Eastern region of Ghana. He hails from the Akyem ethnic group, a sub-group of the Akan. His father was a sanitary inspector and health worker and his mother was a farmer. Nketia is the eldest child of his parents and has five siblings, though one has since passed away. He started his early level of education at the Oda government Primary School, which has now been changed to a High School. He was a very brilliant child with very good academic records.

In 1956, when Nketia was eight years old and in class three, he went out to play football with his friends during break time. While they were playing on the field, one of the students threw a stone which hit Nketia’s right eye. He was quickly rushed to the hospital and upon their arrival was attended to and put on some medication, but things started getting worse each day. His parents became worried and started moving him from one hospital to another. Many eye specialists came to treat the Nketia to help him regain his sight, but all efforts were in vain. Though Nketia’s parents could not afford surgery they did not give up on their little son and kept pushing until they met a German doctor called Dr. Hoppin Buurd. Dr Hoppin Buurd also ran several tests hoping to help fix the little boy’s sight, but all attempts were to no avail.

Nketia’s parents became very distressed and did not know what to do. In fact, they were ready to try any kind of medication at all. One day, their neighbor recommended an herbalist to Nketia’s parents. Upon hearing about the wonders the herbalist had been performing, they quickly packed their things and took little Nketia there. When they got there, the herbalist prepared some concoction and poured some few drops into Nketia’s eye, who by this point was helpless and very desperate to try anything at all. As soon as the drops were put into his eye he began crying, indicating how much he was suffering. This aroused his grandmother’s curiosity to find out what the concoction was made of. The next day, she followed the herbalist to his garden unnoticed and found out that the herbalist was using cassava leaves, a favorite root crop of the Akan, to prepare the concoction. Out of anger, she quickly went to the house and packed their things and took them back to their hometown Oda. Other herbalist came to try and help Nketia, but they eventually failed and could not restore his sight. One herbalist came who was believed to have hailed from the northern part of Ghana and possess some spiritual powers. This person requested items such as the eyes of fish, needles, goats, sheep and other strange objects. Nketia’s parents got all the items he requested and called the herbalist to start with the treatment, but surprisingly the man requested for human blood. At this Nketia’s parents became angry and threw the supposed healer out of the house. A common cultural belief was that spiritual forces could negatively affect the lives of people, and since the cause of Nketia’s blindness was baffling his family began to attribute his misfortune to this. Members of the community also attributed the cause of his blindness to witchcraft.

This remained the situation until one day when Nketia’s cousin, who was a social worker, came to visit the family at Oda. Upon seeing her little cousin’s situation, she encouraged him and told Nketia’s parents about the Akropong School for the Blind in the Eastern region. She immediately arranged for Nketia to be enrolled into the school. About a month later, the headmaster of the school, Mr. Godfred Alexandre Sakyi Amoako, drove to Oda and collected little Nketia’s details and gave the family the date they should report to the school. He gave Nketia’s parents a copy of the filled documents and instructed that he be brought to school. In January 1956, Steven was enrolled at Akropong School for the Blind. The headmaster and his wife were very good to him.

He started his studies at class one with only five other students in the class. Nketia showed active interest in school activities. He joined the Boys Scout, Scripture Union, and participated in sports such as goalball and swings, and other games in the school. Nketia completed middle school in 1964 and applied to Pope Jones Senior High School and Saint Martin’s Senior High but could not continue his education at the high school level because there was no money to fund his education. Nketia continued at the Akropong School for the Blind, where he took a secretarial course, and trained as a typist and stereographer. Though his parents did not have the money to send him to school Nketia did not feel discriminated against, rather he saw it as a situation of poverty. When he completed the secretarial school in 1967, two teachers in Akropong School for the Blind got scholarship to United Kingdom for training. As a result, there was an opening that Nketia filled, receiving a one-year contract to work as a pupil’s teacher at Akropong School for the Blind. After the one year, when the teachers returned from UK and took over their duties, he returned to Oda unemployed. He kept looking for a job for two years but could not get any work. His parents were devastated but they did not give up on him. His mother helped look everywhere to get her son a job, but all efforts were in vain. There were opportunities to teach but because of his disability and the nature of the job he was not employed.

Nketia’s family went to the Ghana Society for the Blind for help to further his education. The Society asked his parents to enroll him in school and care for him for the first year, and the Society would take over from his second year onward, but his parents did not have the means to enroll him. In 1970 Mr. Nomah, who was then the head of the School for the Blind, employed him as a braillist. His job was to create braille textbooks and other reading materials for the pupils which he did for about four years. In 1974, he started studying for the GCE O level. He wrote his first exam in 1974 and passed four papers but failed English. He wrote it the following year and passed. Nketia, who wanted to experience other working environments, went to the ministries and talked to several employers there. Through this he was able to secure an appointment in July 1976 as a stereographer at the Ministry of Justice. Nketia enjoyed working there, and did not experience any discrimination from his colleagues, until 1979.

In 1980, the International Society for the Blind organized a program for five African countries, aimed at teaching the people how to use sophisticated brailling machines. Nketia was selected and went to Germany for five weeks in January to February of 1980 before returning home. He made provision to continue his education and contacted a friend who had gotten a scholarship in the UK to assist him in securing funds to take a course there. Fortunately, the Lutheran World Federation offered to sponsor him, and he gained admission to a school managed by Southern London Association for the Blind. With this support, he secured admission at the Southernton Institute of Higher Education and studied public administration from 1982 to 1984. After the course, he applied to Brunel University at west London and did a post-graduate diploma, followed by a Master of Arts program in public and social administration which he completed in 1986. After the course, he stayed in the UK for one year and then went back to Ghana to join his family at Oda.

Nketia’s younger brother Yaw, who had also become blind at a young age, was in the house waiting to be enrolled into school. Their mother, who was left with them after divorcing their father and taking the blame for the cause of her children’s disability, was looking for any means to support her children. Their father had tried all means to solve Yaw’s eye problem, but eventually abandoned them and left the children with their mother. As an Akan proverb says, “it is the hen that takes care of the chicks and not the cock.” When Yaw finally lost his sight, the society began blaming their mother for her children’s disability. Some people sympathized with the mother, however, others said she might have offended someone and was paying for it, while others said she might have been cursed. They attributed the cause to many spiritual things, but Nketia’s mother stood firm and never gave herself the chance to be intimidated by the society. Nketia encouraged his brother, who went through almost the same blind experience, supported him, and got him enrolled in school. His brother completed his junior high school and got enrolled into senior high school with support from the Ghana Society for the Blind.

In 1987, Nketia, who had then taken a study leave with pay from the Ministry of Education, went back to the classroom after returning from the UK and became a welfare teacher of social studies and English. In 1991, he went to the University of Cape Coast to do a PDCE course and gain official recognition as a professional teacher. In August 1995, Mrs. Bonsu, the executive director for the Society for the Blind, came to see him and asked him to join her coordinate a project she was handling. Mrs. Bonsu wanted a visually impaired person to assist her to render her services to the blind people. Nketia accepted the offer and started working with the Society for the Blind in 1995, where he worked three days of the week with them and two days at the Akropong School for the Blind. The headmaster of Akropong School for the Blind gave Nketia an ultimatum to either work for the school as a full-time teacher or be evicted from the school bungalow where he resided. Nketia was left with no choice but to quit working with Society for the Blind and become a full-time teacher. He taught at Akropong School for the Blind until 2001 when Special Education requested for representatives in all the districts. About seven of the teachers, including Nketia, were chosen. He who was posted to Kede in the Eastern region as special education coordinator, until August 20, 2008 when he retired.

Nketia proved to be a disability rights activist and devoted much of his time to the establishment and organization of the Ghana Association of the Blind as well as being one of the pioneers who came together to found the association. They held their first meeting at Nsawam in the Eastern region in 1963, where the association was formally launched. As a young person, he had the opportunity to meet the founding fathers of the Ghana Association of the Blind. These included Mr. Berkoe, Ansom, Luthorout, Huum, Kofi Bour, Paul Dotsito and others. It was during his school days at the Akropong School for the Blind when in 1963 the joint founders Berkoe and Anson met the students and convinced them of the need to join the new organization. At that point in time the main organization that sought to address the rights and welfare of blind people was the Ghana Society for the Blind. This organization was made up of persons who had the interest of blind people at heart but were not necessarily blind themselves. In fact, over 90% of its membership was made up of non-blind individuals. Nketia, and others, wanted there to be a new organization formed that was made up of blind individuals themselves. As a result, Nketia and his colleagues bought up the idea of forming the association, realizing how positively the association could contribute to their lives. Later in that same year of 1963 they met and founded the GAB and started forming regional branches. Nketia became an active member of the GAB and played a major role in the creation of district branches in the Eastern region. He also represented the GAB on many radio programs, advocating for the rights of blind persons. He became an Executive member of the Oda district branch, and later in 1985 he was elected as secretary for the Eastern region branch. In 1988 he was further elected as President for the Eastern region, which made him a member of the National Executive Council of the organization. At the congress of 1993, Nketia contested against Paul Dotsi, one of the founding fathers, for the position of National president. Unfortunately, he was not successful in this venture.
The main aims for GAB at the time were; exemptions for blind people from paying fares when joining government buses (STC), special seats to be reserved for blind persons in on public transportation, employment inclusion, and recognition of the white cane as part of the blind traffic code. To a large extent these advocacy goals were achieved. During the regime of President Rawlings from 1992 to 2000 the Ghana Education Service introduced a policy to remove all craft instructors from the Ghana education service. Since most craft instructors were blind persons and therefore were in danger of losing their jobs, GAB saw this as a legitimate advocacy issue. Nketia was at the forefront of this struggle. He, along with other leaders of the organization, held many meetings with the educational authorities asking for a policy amendment to favor craft instructors. They were able to negotiate a compromise with the government in that craft instructors who were already in the Education service would be allowed to keep their jobs, but new craft instructors would not be employed henceforth.

Nketia was also part of a local GAB wing. When he went to Kede in 2002, before the GAB was rewriting the constitution in 1984, they asked GAB members to pay a certain fee, which Nketia paid. A meeting was held and there was a misunderstanding between Nketia and Mr. Plahar, the then president. When they were rewriting the constitution, they brought in some new guidelines for payment dues which Nketia disagreed with. In response, Mr. Plahar told Nketia to leave if he was not in support of the new proposal. Nketia felt disrespected and wrote a resignation letter to the president, but his request was not approved. After some time, the Kede branch held an election and elected Nketia as their branch president. When he was presented at the national level, Mr. Plahar opposed this, and wrote several letters to the branch and Nketia himself requesting he relinquish his post. The pair started sending each other cold letters which Nketia termed the “War of Letters.” Nketia felt his rights were being infringed upon and wrote to Mr. Koray, the then national president, asking him to intervene. After a month, the GAB held a meeting at Kede where the issue between Nketia and Mr. Plahar was brought up. Mr. Koray asked Nketia to relinquish his post since he had already presented a resignation letter. Nketia felt the issue was not well addressed, however, he stepped down as district president and after an election was held in 2003 handed it over to Yaw Debra. Mr. Debra presented the issue to the national level where it was addressed properly and the ban on Nketia was raised. In 2007 Nketia was re-elected to the district presidency of the Kade branch. The year prior he had been elected as the chairman of the Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations for the district. He currently holds this position.

ghanadisability No Comments


Prince Akonnor, who is 43 years old and belongs to the Ewe ethnic group, hails from Ho in Volta Region. He grew up together with his four siblings and his parents, though his father has passed away. Both of Akonnor’s parents were involved in trading. Akonnor started his early education at Prince of Peace Preparatory School in Ho. After he completed his education here, he continued at Pope Jones Senior High for a period and then went to Akropong School for the Blind, before ending at Okuapeman Senior High School in 1994.

Akonnor enjoyed his early life as a sighted boy together with his family until he started experiencing problems with his eyes in 1991. He reported this to his parents and was quickly taken to the hospital. Much to their disappointment he was diagnosed with glaucoma, though the doctors asked them to return for further tests. Meanwhile, Akonnor was given other medications. Unfortunately, this was to no avail. The doctors informed Akonnor’s parents that in order to save his sight he would have to undergo surgery. Sadly, the family was unable to raise the money for the surgery. Akonnor’s family was devastated and did not know what to do, even trying local treatment without success. Eventually Akonnor became totally blind in 1990.

At the initial state of Akonnor’s blindness, it was not easy to live in his community because a lot of people associated the cause of his disability with witchcraft and other spiritual things. Others even went to the extreme by saying he was given to the parents by a fetish priest and other spiritual practitioners. As a result, he experienced a lot of stigmatization and discrimination in his community. Akonnor’s parents became very worried and started seeking help from religious leaders, herbalist, pastors, and more, but nothing they did could help restore his sight.

One day, a social worker in the community went to Akonnor’s parent and advised them to take him to school. Mr. and Mrs. Akonnor, who had both lost hope in the future of their son, saw no reason why a blind boy should be taken to school. They had little or no idea about the capabilities of blind individuals. At that moment, the only thing they cared about was their son’s safety. The social worker educated the parents, however, and convinced them to enroll their son. Akonnor was enrolled in Okuapeman and did a one-year program. After successfully completing the course, he applied to Akropong Presbyterian Training College. After his course at the training college, he gained admission to the University of Cape Coast in the year 2000 and studied for a first degree, finishing in 2004.

After his education, Akonnor applied to a couple of companies and schools for employment, but all these efforts were in vein. He stayed home for about six years until he was offered a teaching job at Adaklo in the Volta region. Before he was offered the teaching job, he was a casual labourer at the National Coalition of Civic Education until he forwarded his application to the Adaklo educational service to be employed permanently. Akonnor was the only blind teacher in the school and taught religious and moral education.

Akonnor’s romantic life has not been bad, in fact he has enjoyed every bit of his marriage regardless of the normal ups and downs in relationships. Akonnor had three children in his previous relationships before he met his wife, however this was not an obstacle in his marriage. In the initial stage of their marriage rites, the family of the lady were hesitant to allow their daughter to marry a blind person. However, with some persuasion the parents of the lady agreed and gave them the chance to perform the rites. After that Akonnor and his wife lived happily as a family.

Akonnor heard about Ghana Association of the Blind when he was in Akropong School for the Blind. Although Akonnor really admired the association and wanted to join, he could not find a way to. Akonnor spoke with one Mr. Ofori who kept educating the students about the association, and invited Akonnor to proceed with his application. Two years after becoming a member, Akonnor contested for the regional secretary position and won. He later served as the president for the Ho municipality in 2014. In both positions, Akonnor has been able to help the members of his district branch to access their common fund. He has invested energy and time into educating drivers and other road users about the importance of the white cane. He also took part in the organization of workshops for his people and attended regional conventions.

In the Ho municipality, the biggest challenge blind people face is lack of finances to establish themselves. Also, the society tends to pity blind people. According to Akonnor, this kind of attitude erodes the little self-confidence blind individuals have in themselves.  Akonnor continues to educate the people to have empathy instead of sympathy towards blind persons in the society. Akonnor does not see blindness as a punishment or as a disability, but as a unique way of life. He believes blindness is an opportunity to instead use the other four senses of the body and encourages all blind individuals and parents with blind children not to give up but rather push for education. He encourages blind people by expressing that their situation is nothing close to disability, and that they have a lot of hidden talents and capabilities. Aside from the common fund, Akonnor wishes that the government will make policies that will incorporate and help blind people in their access to public facilities. Akonnor encourages the Ghana Blind Union to do more to empower its members. He thinks that empowering blind people will help them to do away with the stigmatization they go through in the society and will them to rise and occupy higher positions in the community while bringing out the best in them.

ghanadisability No Comments


Michael Owusu Asante was born in Accra on August 6, 1954 and hails from Anum in the Eastern region. His family moved to Accra Newtown when he was two in 1956 and remained there to date. He has ten siblings; seven brothers and three sisters, though one has passed on.

In 1960 when Asante was six years old, he attended Garden Temple Preparatory School in Accra as a sighted child. Michael’s disability started when he was in Anum Boys Middle School in 1968. The blindness started in his left eye, though he was able to see partially until it eventually affected his other eye. He was in form one and became totally blind by 1971. He had no accident or pain that would have led to the disability, it simply occurred. He was taken to the hospital and was diagnosed with glaucoma at the Kolebu Teaching Hospital in 1969.

When the blindness started, the society blamed it on witchcraft and a family curse. Some said the parents might have done something wrong to someone and Asante’s blindness was a punishment for this wrongdoing. This was a common perception among most traditional societies as witchcraft was normally used to explain strange occurrences that had no immediate explanation. Some also said that Asante’s blindness was a result of envy from some members of his family or community. Though there were times when Asante thought his disability might have been caused by witchcraft or something of that sort, he had his doubts despite these rumors. Asante rather encouraged his parents whenever he realized they were depressed. As an eldest son, he was expected to help the parents take care of his siblings, but this expectation became complicated with his disability. After several attempts made by doctors failed to cure Asante, his parents then switched to herbal medication and were ready to try any other treatment. This led them to Kyibi Amanfrom in the eastern region of the country in 1971. Asante and his mother stayed there for about six months but there was no improvement, so they packed their things and moved to meet a European herbalist who had established himself in Kyibi in the same year. He welcomed them and gave them accommodation, but only for Asante. His mother was located somewhere about a mile away from where Asante was.

They spent about four months there, but the European herbalist was unable to cure him. The man created a concoction suspected to have been prepared from ginger and other leaves, which was put on Asante’s eyes twice daily. Though the aim was to heal the eye, Asante felt the concoction was rather worsening the situation because of the pain he had to endure when the potion was applied. Asante and his mother began to suspect the man, so they started monitoring every move he made. One evening, Asante was in his room when his mother came knocking. He quickly went to open the door, and his mother invited him to sit outside for a while. Just as they were about to start talking, they overheard a conversation between the herbalist and a man suspected to be the leader of the Kyebi traditional execution group, or executioners. They listened to every word that was said during the conversation. Asante and his mother had put their trust in the herbalist to cure his eyes, not knowing the European herbalist had sold Asante’s head for ritual purposes. Asante and his mother subsequently fled and left to their hometown.

In 1972, Asante was taken to Ho to see an eye specialist hoping he could help him regain his sight. After several tests were conducted, he concluded that Asante’s sight could not be restored and therefore he should be enrolled in a blind school. The news was awful, but Asante was consoled because he could continue his education. Akropong School for the Blind was the school that came to mind. His uncle who was an educationist and grandfather who was the Ghana Education Service director, helped, advised, and enrolled him in the school in 1973 in form one and started with braille lessons. Initially he was very sad because he had to start all over again, along with the fact that his siblings were ignoring him and refused to stay by him and help. When he got an admission to Akropong School for the Blind, they even refused to take him to the school, but his cousins stepped up and assisted him. Things started turning around, and he met a lot of blind students he had met earlier at Anum Boys School. When he was at Anum Boys School, their head teacher invited the Akropong School for the Blind band to perform at their opening ceremony in 1970. He made friends with most of them; George Kotoku, Foster, and other students. These friends helped show him the compound, assisted him and gave him support, and encouraged him. Asante started from form one in 1971 because of the braille component and completed in 1979. Later he did a vocational course for another two years and completed in 1981. Asante left Akropong School for the Blind in the year 1981 and went back to Accra of Blind. He went into the teaching field, teaching at Kotobabi School from 1981 to 1990. Later he was transferred to another school where he retired in 2014.

Asante experienced several hardships, including right violations in the community, stigmatization, discrimination and other demeaning comments from the society. Culturally some people saw him as impure because of his disability. He faced stigmatization, especially when he was of age and wanted to marry. People made comments about if a blind person should get married, and if it would result in blind children. Some people even went further, contacting his future in-laws asking them questions about what Asante’s parents bought for them that they were giving their daughter out for him to marry. Nevertheless, he married his wife when he was in Akropong School for the Blind even before he completed his vocational course in the year 1977. Asante had two children before he married his wife. He would have married the first woman who bore his child, but the pressure from the woman’s family became a hindrance which prevented this from happening. Later Asante’s father introduced him to a lady who understood his situation and agreed to marry him. They got married in 1977 and have four children together. That is where the discrimination started. Her parents said Asante could not take care of her since he was blind and took his wife and child away from the village where he was. Discrimination in the family was there as well, because his siblings did not cooperate with him, though by then his cousins were there and helped him. They showed him love and did not make him feel as though he was blind. This is in contrast with Asante’s siblings, who were not so caring. In order to have someone to assist Asante, his father thought it wise to help him marry his wife, even though Asante himself did not agree as he was still in school. The lady however, agreed to marry him with the permission of her parents. Early on in their marriage they did not stay together as a couple, and she only visited during holidays until he finished school and started working in the 1980’s.

Asante joined the GAP when he was still in school. He heard about them when they came to do a convention on the campus in the year 1974. Mr. Plaha and some other members were there for visibility and spoke to some of the students, particularly the older ones. Asante decided to join, and Mr. Plaha made him the campaign manager while he himself was contesting to be president of the union. Asante was the singing master for the school by then and led the singing of South African songs. Asante was hard working so when Mr. Plaha told him about the GAP he joined and became Plaha’s campaign manager, advocating for him strongly and helping him win the presidency. That was the beginning of Asante’s time with the GAP, and he would attend meetings at the Accra Rehab whenever he came home. He was part of the GAP until he completed school. During the AMA meeting for the GAP he was elected the regional president, while Mr. Plaha was the national president. He was elected to this position twice, each for a four-year term, spanning from 1981 to 1988. After stepping down as president and handing the position over to Adjeihom Paul, he became the PRO for the region. Asante stepped down because the constitution stated that one could only serve for a maximum of two four-year terms, while Paul would serve for a few years before stepping down due to health issues. Though the constitution was there before he joined, Asante was one of the people who made amendments to the constitution. The executives would read the constitution at Akropong and all agree on it.

When Asante was the president he fought for the growth of the association. Asante and his team moved from one place to another to mobilize and get people to join the GAP. Through this exercise, they got more members to join the association. They also devised a way of sharing information to their members, by organizing meetings for the leaders at the national level aimed at transferring information from the regional level to the districts level. Also, conferences were organized to solicit money for the organization. As a president, Asante joined hands with other leaders and wrote to several European and foreign organizations to come to their aid by raising funds for the association. They were able to get some people from America and Denmark, with Denmark became their biggest donor and assisted the association financially. Asante also participated in the white cane recognition program. They went to lorry stations, on the street, churches, markets and other places to orient the people about the white cane.
When he became the national PRO for GAB, Asante and other members of the association wrote pamphlets and handbooks about the association for the general public. Mr. Ham was a journalist, so he published some of the handbooks and papers in the form of newspapers.

After Asante stepped down as a PRO, he became president again. This was because the Ghana Blind Union emerged and collaborated with GAB in 2008, and a new constitution was introduced allowing all past presidents to be delegated and elected again as president. He served as a president for another eight years, making him the first president to have served the association in this position for sixteen years.

Apart from GAB and GBU, Asante was also a member of the Anum Improvement Association, whose aim was to support the wellbeing of the Anum people and the improvement of the township. The leaders of the association were to see to it that the citizens of the town were catered to and ensure the facilities of the town were well maintained.

Comparing his years as GAB president and GBU president Asante stated that the GAB had fewer facilities, and as a result did not have an organized secretariat. They had a small kiosk made by metal which was used as office. The GBU had enough furniture to accommodate the leaders so their programs were more of field work, but they had good structures which enables structured secretariat. When the GBU emerged, the donors to the GAB did not change, but rather increased. Though most of the GAB support was from donors, the government also supported when they asked for some support. The government under the Acheampongs regime helped most visually impaired people into the educational system until the introduction of the GES system when J.J. Rawlings took over, which laid off craft specialist including many visually impaired people.

ghanadisability No Comments


George Firimpong was born in Cape Coast on March 18, 1958 to Mrs. Martha Thompson and Mr. Albert Firimpong who was a former manager of shell petroleum. In addition, he has two sisters. He attended Phillip Kwaku Boys Primary School and moved to Abesam Memorial school and furthered his education in Adisadel college in 1971. He left Adisadel college after his O and A level in 1978. George was the sports prefect, and he also participated in football, volley, athletics and was the school cadet. As a long-distance runner, he joined the national academy team in 1976 and was nicknamed “Fire” due to his magical movement when on the field. George got married to madam Doreen Ayison in 1987 with three children; two boys and one girl.

From Adisadel College he proceeded to the University of Science and Technology where he studied social science and law. During this time, he traveled outside the country to Nigeria where he worked as a journalist. He worked with the Holy Quran Speaks newspaper, Weekly Focused newspaper, Daily focused and the flight newspaper. He began as the sports and entertainment editor, and then moved to the sub editors’ desk. He had the opportunity to travel to France in 1983 for some months and came back to Ghana to continue his education. He enrolled in the Ghana School of Journalism to do a certificate course on public relation, advertising and marketing and to secure a high-profile job. He wanted to pursue being a journalist and he started his own publishing firm called “Akoo Poli,” which means “The Gossiping Parrot,” in 1987. He later left Akoo Poli and started his own publishing firm called “African Best.” He did the first Afeyhe of Cape Coast in 1989, and continued with the second edition in the same year.
This Afehye was an annual festivity which portrays the culture and tradition of the people of Cape Coast and its surroundings. George’s publication was done annually, and he did his publication three times before eventually things became hard because he could not fund his publication. Firimpong then gave himself a break and applied to the University of Cape Coast to study history and religion and received a diploma in education in 1990. While he was at the university, he published his article on the Afehye and also joined the ATL fm as a pioneering staff. He was the first coordinator of the fm station and was able to extend it from a two kilometers radius radio station to a thirty kilometers radius one and hosted the morning shows on the station.

In 1991 he began to experience eye problems which was later diagnosed as retinitis pavement Oria. This presented a hurdle in his education. He sought treatment from various specialists and also had to deal with the emotional aspect of contemplating that he might lose his sight completely. Dealing with this situation took him about two years and subsequently delayed his graduation from the University of Cape Coast. However, he did not give up and pursued his educational goal. George returned to the University in 1995 as a partially sighted student and completed successfully in 1996. After his graduation, Firimpong went to teach economics and religious studies at Academy of Christ preparatory school in 1998 to 2000 until his sight totally faded away. When this happened, he accepted his disability and began putting things in place to help him make use of his academic achievements. In 2001, he went to the Akropong School for the Blind, where he went through rehabilitation. There he learned to read and write braille and met many other blind people and forged long-lasting friendships.

In 2002, he returned to Cape Coast and worked at the Cape Coast School for the Deaf, which also had a special unit for blind learners, as a teacher for inclusive education. Here Firimpong put a lot of commitment into the job. His first task was to ensure that the blind students received their lessons in a clean environment to ensure good atmosphere for his student to study. He did this by initiating a program which attracted the interest of an NGO from the Netherlands to come to their aid. They built a classroom block for the students, which was done through fund raising. George had then established a trade between the Netherlands by sending African print cloth to them to be sold to raise funds to support the inclusion program, and bought furniture, braille machines, computers, and more. He also got them a school bus which conveyed the students to and from the school. In 2008, George returned to the University of Cape Coast to study for a Master’s in special education. After 2010, he completed his Master’s program and was posted to the central regional education head office as the coordinator for inclusive education. This allowed him to continue with the pioneering work he had commenced until he retired in March 2018 with the rank of assistant Director of Education.

Firimpong established an NGO called Africa Best Foundation in 2008, which addresses disability issues in the central region. They organized HIV tests, regional sponsorships, advocacy for inclusiveness, planting for food and jobs, community-based rehabilitation, sports, and more for people with disabilities. In 2005, Firimpong was appointed as a chief in Suodo, Cape Coast in his blind condition. This marks a changed perception on people with disability traditionally, which often saw people with disabilities as being unfit to be a king or a chief. With the help of Firimpong, a fort which had been closed down was renovated and opened as a tourist site to generate revenue for the community. This fort was called the ‘Abold of Dwarfs’

Firimpong together with some others formed the GAB in Cape Coast in 2004 and built a school for individuals with visual impairment. They also did fund raising, organized several advocacy programs, did the white cane exhibition at lorry station and started a radio station to create awareness. After 2008, there was a move from GAB to GBU and in 2014 Firimpong was elected as the Cape Coast president of GBU. He contested for the national president of GBU but lost to Mr. Ofori Debrah.

He moved from the position of GBU regional president of the Central region and became the president of the GBU sports wing of the central region until 2014. Later Firimpong again contested for the regional presidency of the GBU and was elected to the position in 2014. In 2015, he had the opportunity to travel to South Africa for the senior management institute program Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations (GFD) which was officially inaugurating its new constitution and creating the position for regional chairpersons. He was elected as the first regional president of the GFD for the Central region, a position he still occupies. As the regional president of GFD, he spearheaded the advocacy for the district common fund, and successfully became the signatory to the account for persons with disability. They also advocated to have the mainstream disability subcommittee formed for persons with disabilities at the Cape Coast sub metro assembly. Firimpong observed that their meetings were being hindered by the inability of the deaf to adequately follow procedures, due to lack of sign language interpretation. As a result, Firimpong came up with a slogan, “no sign language interpreter, no GFD meeting” which was aimed at ensuring effective distribution of information. Also, through the advocacy programs, he was able to compel the Cape Coast sub metro assemblyman to put a sign language interpreter at the district teaching hospital. As GFD regional president, he was able to advocate for five more districts to employ sign language interpreters. Firimpong also created a regional office for the GBU and GFD in Cape Coast. Firimpong contested for a place in the Council of state but unfortunately was not successful.

ghanadisability No Comments


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.

ghanadisability No Comments


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.

ghanadisability No Comments

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.