“A history of disability rights in Ghana: transition, adaptation and lived experience”

This SSHRC-funded project seeks to produce a history of disability rights in Ghana, offering a window into the experience of disabled Ghanaians over the past 60 years. The research will fill a key gap in knowledge – the recent historical experience of disabled persons in Ghana – providing an original contribution and an important resource for historians and policy experts. There is an urgent need for historical projects of this nature, which provide necessary context to an issue of global importance. This is particularly true of Ghana, where societal attitudes toward and social supports for disabled persons remain limited despite the advances in human rights instruments.

There are two important aspects to historicizing disability rights in Ghana: (1) using a case study approach to root out the lived histories of disabled Ghanaians, and (2) setting the broader context by investigating the history of Ghana’s Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs), which had their origins in the 1950s and are concerned with specific disabilities including blindness, deafness and physical disabilities.

We will undertake this project by: (1) interviewing 200 disabled Ghanaians over a four-year period; (2) producing case studies and original testimonials of disabled Ghanaians from the 1960s to the present; (3) using archival materials to examine the postcolonial history of disability rights in Ghana through the experiences of the country’s DPOs, identifying the processes by which these organizations were nationalized and adapted to Ghanaian contexts.

Ghana offers an excellent case study because the government implemented a national disability law in 2006 and ratified the CRPD in 2012. Canada also has ratified the CRPD (2010), and Global Affairs Canada lists Ghana as a country of focus. It is therefore an opportune moment to conduct research that will help Ghanaian DPOs and Canadian policymakers to make better informed decisions about disability initiatives in Ghana.

Funding for this project has been provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.