After a long day of traveling from Accra to Cape Coast, our group is welcomed by thunderous drums played by patiently waiting students and faculty members at Cape Coast School for the Deaf and Blind. Many of us did not know what to expect upon our arrival at the school and were pleasantly surprised by how welcoming and happy the students were to meet students from Davidson College.
Cape Coast School for the Death and Blind truly is a sanctuary for groups of students that Ghanaian society typically disregards due to their disabilities. Although Ghana has established “The Disabled Persons Act” which prevents the discrimination of people with disabilities, it is hard to find locations that are truly accessible for these individuals to thrive. It would be interesting to conduct a more thorough cross-cultural examination of Disability Acts between the United States and Ghana to see how different this group of people are represented in society. The choir greeted us by singing their welcome song “Akwaaba” which emphasized the school’s pivotal role in their development and learning as well as its ability to set them up for future success.
The performances from the student dance crew and choir compelled me to learn more about the effects of these “disabilities” on student’s abilities to showcase their talents. It is a very common assumption to believe that people who are blind and deaf to have an “improvement in the remaining senses as a result of learned behavior” (Bate). However, these improvements are not only due to paying closer attention to behaviors and auditory or visual clues but thanks to the neuroplasticity of the brain as it redesigns itself to adapt to process other senses better. This can be seen by the blind students being able to sing on tone and for deaf students to dance to the correct beat of the drum whose vibrations are felt throughout their body.
It is important to understand that these performances are not powerful simply because the students at this school have a disability. “Disability” is seen as “the lack of ability to perform mental or physical tasks that one can normally do” (Baffoe) which is a socially constructed idea created by the barriers that society enacts on these individuals. These performances are powerful because they showcase the talent in a group of students that society glosses over.
Cape Coast School for the Deaf and Blind fosters an atmosphere where students can harness their abilities and prepare them for future success. According to Baffoe, “all children are capable of learning and becoming recipients of quality education if the right atmosphere of inclusion and acceptance are created” which describes Cape Coast School for the Deaf and Blind perfectly. However, more work needs to be done in order to ensure that after these students graduate from this school that they can navigate and thrive in Ghanaian society.
Baffoe, Michael. Stigma, Discrimination & Marginalization: Gateways to Oppression of Persons with Disabilities in Ghana, West Africa . Journal of Educational and Social Research , Jan. 2AD, citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.653.906&rep=rep1&type=pdf.
Bates, Mary. Super Powers for the Blind and Deaf. Scientific American, 18 Sept. 2012, marybatessciencewriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/mindmatters_deafbrain_9182012.pdf.
“Ghana – The Disabled Persons Act Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund.” Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, 12 June 2019, dredf.org/legal-advocacy/international-disability-rights/international-laws/ghana-disabled-persons-act/