Images by Alex Leff (AlexGhana.blogspot.com)
A cohort of eighteen NYU students learned how disability is viewed in Ghana during a January Intersession course, ‘Disability in Global Context’, taught by the NYU Steinhardt Department of Occupational Therapy at the NYU Accra campus. Led by Anita Perr, Clinical Associate Professor at the NYU Steinhardt Department of Occupational Therapy, the students represented the wide variety of programs at NYU Steinhardt including: Early Childhood and Childhood Education, Special Education, Educational Leadership, International Education, Occupational Therapy, Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Drama Therapy and Music Therapy. Students from the International Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy program at NYU Wagner and the Interactive Telecommunications program at NYU Tisch School of Arts also participated.
Students investigated the issues of physical access as well as environmental attributes like noise and crowds, in various settings such as the Makola market and the Accra business district. Visits were arranged to health, disability, and vocational training centers, and to general education settings where students learned about the services that are available to people with disabilities in Accra.
A series of guest lectures by local Ghanaians augmented the site visits to allow students to learn about religion, family life, and non-profit organizations in Ghana. Prior to visiting an autism center, a school for deaf children, and a typical public school, Professor Akosua Anyidoho, Director of NYU Accra, provided an overview of the educational system in Ghana.
It wasn’t all work and no play for the students. They participated in a number of non-academic activities as well. The group traveled to a national park and hiked the canopy walk, visited a wildlife refuge and learned how traditional African beads are made. A visit to the historic site of the slave ‘castle’, Elmina, proved to be very memorable.
Since the students came from different academic disciplines and had different life experiences, they were able to learn from each other and consequently meld into a cohesive group. Their willingness to share their own experiences and perspectives helped them to build on their interests, by exploring new ways of thinking about their own fields in relation to disability.