BR. GREGORY BARWOUR.
In every aspect of life, people are bound to face some challenges. Challenges that are well managed lead to growth and development. According to Neil, “a challenge is the perception that a task or situation exceeds one’s comfort zone or capacities.” Thus, a challenge will require a person to find “something extra”. Challenges should ideally trigger positive emotions such as excitement and confidence or the trepidations of fear and doubt. Therefore, if one knows the reason for the challenge and can manage it, one can cope with any given situation.
Despite these positive views about the management of challenges and in spite of the global awareness about the capabilities of People with Disabilities (PWDs), many people still opine that vision is the most reliable way of receiving and interpreting information from the outside world. They fail to realize the deepest inner workings of the brain. Even though it is generally accepted that vision is the dominant sense, people who are visually impaired experience the world through entirely different mechanisms. Blindness comes with its share of challenges, of course, because most of the world is designed for sighted people.
It is often asserted that teachers are not born but made. Therefore, it is imperative that anyone who desires to be a good teacher must make a constant and deliberate effort to nurture the knowledge and the skills acquired. According to Arends, “learning to be a teacher is a long and complex journey full of excitements and challenges. It begins with the many experiences we have with our parents and siblings; it continues as we observe teacher after teacher through sixteen to twenty years of schooling; and it culminates, formally, with professional training, but continues through a lifetime of teaching experiences.”
In the light of the foregoing warped ideas about PWDs and considering that the school is a microcosm of society and that the school’s core business is teaching and learning, can the blind be a good teacher? To underscore the importance of this question it is necessary to know what teaching entails. One of the prerequisites to be a good teacher is to understand the teaching-learning process in more depth. This facilitates better appreciation of the teaching profession as well as the process of imparting education. Considering the complex nature of teaching, one may ask, how can a totally blind person teach “Social Studies – a subject that is multi-disciplinary and takes its sources from geography, history, sociology, psychology, economics and civic education”.
Again, how can a blind teacher effectively contribute to the achievement of the ultimate goal of Social Studies education which is to engage students in analysing and attempting to resolve the social issues confronting them.
In view of the foregoing awareness of the demands of Social Studies educator, I became anxious about the processes, challenges and stages that even sighted beginning teachers go through on the way to becoming accomplished Social Studies teachers. These were the puzzling issues as I contemplated taking teaching as a profession. I anticipated some challenges such as: mobility, because most of our school-built environments are not disability friendly – no accessible facilities to aid the movement of people with disability within the school premises. Added to this challenge is the lack of support for the assessment of student learning, recording grades, evaluating the student’s academic achievement, writing on the board during the teaching process, managing a classroom full of active, energetic students, preventing and dealing with disciplinary problems, taking care of the reams of paperwork on my desk, drawing of maps and reading of tables, among others, were going to be serious challenges to me.
Besides the above anticipated challenges, societal perception about people with disability was another concern. In Ghana, many people with disabilities still face various forms of discrimination and are more likely to live in poverty because they are unable to assert their rights. Unfortunately, despite the rigorous campaign for an “All Inclusive Society,” societal perception of the disabled is still negative. In this regard, people who are visually impaired experience similar challenges like socio-cultural discrimination, stigmatization and fear. Despite the global awareness of the audacity of the disabled, a number of persons with disabilities are still discriminated against when seeking employment, relationship among others based on the ground of their disabilities. “The disables are often abandoned because we find them to be good for nothing and additional social burden; so are left to fend for themselves.”
Furthermore, “Ghana has accepted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which envision that ‘no one is left behind’ in the country’s efforts to achieve socio-economic development”.
However, there still exists the assumption that people with disabilities in Ghana are “unproductive and are incapable of contributing significantly to socio-economic development. Instead of being considered as assets, PWDs are seen as constituting an economic burden on their families and the society at large, thus pushing them into a vicious circle of poverty.” The assumption that PWDs are necessarily a liability seems to be untrue because there are numerous PWDs, who are making a tremendous impact on nation building in sectors such as education, social work, journalism, law and other professions, to the pride of many Ghanaians. Therefore, “there is no glass ceiling for people with disability.”
It must be noted that those referred to as ‘disabled’ should better be described as ‘differently abled.’ When their situation is considered in this light, it becomes easier to recognize that they are equally endowed with capabilities and competences just like other persons. Given the necessary support, the disabled can prove their mettle. However, it is important to note, again, that though Ghana is one of the countries that embraced the idea of an inclusive society, the idea is not backed by any mandatory enforcement law; hence, no serious attention is given to the promotion of inclusiveness in practical terms. Teachers with visual impairment in regular schools generally face many challenges and difficulties in pursuit of their teaching profession and because of these difficulties the teachers develop various coping strategies.
According to Beck, “people who are completely blind or have impaired vision usually have a difficult time navigating outside the spaces that they’re accustomed to. In fact, physical movement is one of the biggest challenges for blind people.” Traveling or merely walking down a crowded street can be challenging. Other factors like environmental and architectural barriers where classrooms are built upstairs and windows open outside would only lead to further barriers and frustration. This is because some of the architectural designs are not disability friendly.
“Ghana as a member country of the United Nation, passed the Disability Act in 2006. The Act offers a legal framework to protect the rights of physically and mentally disabled persons in all areas of life, from education, training and employment to physical access and health care. It is also intended to promote the creation of an environment that will advance the economic well-being of disabled people and enable them to function better in the society.” But ten years after passing the Bill into Law, one would ask how it had been beneficial to the beneficiaries. It is unfortunate that Ghana still has the challenge of finding measures to remove all artificial barriers that prevented the physically challenged from accessing public buildings and facilities.Ghana is boasting of championing inclusive education, an act enacted by the UN Convention in 1947. Inclusive education is mentioned in some of the policy documents such as, disability policy and education and training policy, but these policies do not state how inclusive education should be put into practice, scrutinized and evaluated.
I stand to believe that “placing teachers with visual impairment in the regular schools (Senior High and Junior High Schools) is neither integration nor inclusion. Integration or inclusion means that the people who are being integrated are provided with the necessary supports to enable them to function effectively in the regular schools. The absences of adaptive and assistive devices have undermined the aims of inclusive education.
Therefore, it is well noted that the success of visually impaired teachers in regular school depends on adaptation of materials and human resources. Attitudes of teachers, administrators, students and others are not accommodative.
Beck observed that, visually impaired person teaching abstract concepts, information in pictorial form and diagrams on the board are more demanding. The difficulty in reading brailed work and inability to prepare questions and answers in text form for the lesson being taught.
Kappur posited that, the challenges experienced by visually impaired can be resolved by the use of technologies, materials, devices and equipment. The availability of human assistance in making them understand the concepts and taking examinations is vital.
It is important to note that though Ghana is one of the nations that embraced inclusive education, it has no mandatory enforcement law; hence, no serious attention is given to practical inclusion. It is rather unfortunate that, “integration continues to gain ground. The situation in most integrated Senior and Junior High Schools are not encouraging. Teachers with visual impairment are merely placed in regular schools without fulfilling the necessary conditions for placement.”
It is therefore, imperative that the school environment must be friendly to promote the ‘all-inclusive education.’ For a long time however, the environment in most schools has neither been conducive nor friendly to the visually impaired. Notwithstanding the environmental challenges, no provisions have been made to cater for the challenges especially the visually impaired teachers in Social Studies. Perhaps, this lukewarm attitude towards the realisation of inclusiveness is due to paucity of research to provide a basis for deciding how to build an inclusive society. In the field of education, there is a dearth of research to identify the challenges faced by visually impaired teachers in Social Studies in regular schools.
It must be noted that, the adoption of “All-inclusive society is not a matter of policy formulations. If Ghana is indeed championing the cause of ‘All-inclusive society’ as enshrined in the UN Charter. Then, it is imperative that the Ministry of Education together with Ghana Education Service and other stakeholders of education should make the schools environment more accessible by constructing specialised facilities for use by teachers with visual impairment and also prepare more teaching and learning materials in braille and audio which are in line with current trend in the field of teaching, more in-service courses, workshops and seminars to keep teachers abreast with current trends and the issues on the special need education. Again, there is need for public education on disability so as to erase the erroneous perception about PWDs. This will go a long way to bridge the gap between the able and disable, eradicate poverty and to ensure active participation of the national development. Knowing very well that disability is an evolving phenomenon which can happen to anybody regardless of one’s status, race, gender, age etc. at any point in time.
Furthermore, visually impaired teachers must be able to use a computer and master the appropriate adaptive technology which will enable them to use it independently.
 James Neil, The concept of challenges: growth via stress with supports (Kenya: New Age Internal Ltd, 2015), 3.
 Richard I, Arends, I. Richard, learning to Teach, ninth edition (New York: McGraw Hill Company 2012), 23.
 Harnataka A. Sequeira, Introduction to the concept of teaching and learning (2012), 3. Accessed at: https//www.researchgate.net/publication/272620585. Retrieved on: 27th September, 2017.
 Anthony Boadu, Curriculum Research and Development Division (CRDD): Teaching syllabus for social studies (Senior high school 1-3), (2010), 2. Accessed at: https://www.academia.edu/31737696. Retrieved on: 26th September, 2019.
 Avevor, 10 years of enacting the disability act, has Ghana achieve its purpose? 1
 Ghana Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) platform condemns the disparaging comments made by 2nd deputy speaker, Hon. Alban Bagbin. Accessed at: https://newsghana.com.h/csos platform-on-sdgs-condemns-bagbins-disparaging-comments-2/you org. Retrieved on: 23rd August 2018.
 Avevor, 10 years of enacting the disability act, has Ghana achieve its purpose? 1
 Avevor, 10 years of enacting the disability act, has Ghana achieve its purpose? 3.
 Mary Esere, “Challenges and coping strategies employed by students with visual impairment in South Eastern State of Nigeria” African Journal of Special and Inclusive Education, Vol. 1, No. 1, (2016, 42-54), 23. Accessed on http://mzuni.ac.mw/cie/journals/Esere.pdf Retrieved on: 5th October, 2018.
 Kate Beck, Challenges That Blind People Face (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2018), 12.
 Esere, “Challenges and coping strategies employed by students with visual impairment in South Eastern State of Nigeria,” 23
 Avevor, 10 years of enacting the disability act, has Ghana achieve its purpose? 5.
 Wilson, Some problems of teaching social studies, 15
 Wilson, Some problems of teaching social studies, 15
 Radhica Kappur, Challenges experienced by visually impaired students, 2018, p1. Accessed at: https://www.researchgate.net./publication/323833804. Retrieved on: 13th September, 2019.
 Esere. Challenges and coping strategies employed by students with visual impairment in South Eastern State of Nigeria, 15.
 Desmond E. Ozoji., Elements of special needs education (Jos: Deka publications (2008), 10.
 Ozoji., Elements of special needs education, 7
 Ozoji., Elements of special needs education, 11
 Esere, Challenges and coping strategies employed by students with visual impairment in South Eastern State of Nigeria, 4.