A narrow aisle separated the two groups from one another: blind students on the right, deaf on the left. We were at Cape Deaf, a school for the visually and hearing impaired that was putting on a drumming and dancing performance for us — the blind students drummed for the deaf to dance. The performance was vibrant, joyful, and moving. As I blinked back tears and took in the dancing figures around me, a million thoughts ran through my mind. The most pressing was the question of communication in a space with deaf and blind individuals. For instance, we were taught to applaud by waving our fingers in the air for the deaf students who danced. But what about the blind students drumming? Their performance was met with silence, just noiseless waving that they could not see. Were we prioritizing the deaf dancers by accommodating their applause over the drummers? I wondered how a classroom would operate within this challenge, how the students could communicate with one another across these disability boundaries.
As the students paraded across the room in t-shirts that exclaimed “Disability is not Inability”, I couldn’t help but think about the ways I’ve noticed disability back in Kumasi. I thought about the blind woman being led from car to car by a child, hand outstretched asking for coins. The man hopping on one leg with a cane, touching my arm through the window of a tro tro with hopeful eyes. Almost exclusively, the individuals I have encountered with disabilities in Kumasi have been wandering the busy streets, asking for money. Would these vivacious, emboldened students, dancing and laughing before me, face the same fate? My hopeful answer would be no, that they were being educated and trained within a world that was growing to accept change, and that they would refuse to see themselves as unable to try anything they set their mind to. I tried to hold onto that hope as I watched their spinning, clapping, laughing figures, moving to a vibration in their feet.
“Cape Coast School For The Deaf And Blind Lack Basic Learning Materials.” News Ghana, 1 Mar. 2017, www.newsghana.com.gh/cape-coast-school-for-the-deaf-and-blind-lack-basic-learning-materials/.
Coleman, Casely Ato. “Promoting Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Ghana.” MyJoyOnline.com, 3 Dec. 2017, www.myjoyonline.com/opinion/2017/December-3rd/promoting-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities-in-ghana.php.
Opoku, Maxwell Peprah, et al. “The Family and Disability in Ghana: Highlighting Gaps in Achieving Social Inclusion.” Disability, CBR & Inclusive Development, vol. 28, no. 4, 2018, p. 41., doi:10.5463/dcid.v28i4.666. (link: http://dcidj.org/article/view/666/377)