About Portraits of Ability

Why Was This Project Created?

The story that is widely told about persons with disabilities in Ghana, West Africa is a story about challenges, barriers and discrimination. Far less is known about what people with disabilities are already doing in their lives and what future they seek.

A new platform is needed for persons with disabilities in Ghana to share their stories, abilities, and visions for their lives – now and in the future after challenges, barriers and discrimination are eliminated. In doing so, important questions about what local and international bodies are doing to actualize change can come to light.

What Is Its Mission?

Portraits of Ability is a research initiative raising awareness about the abilities of persons with disabilities across Ghana, West Africa. We use photo-interview.

The project is operated and undertaken by advocates with disabilities in Ghana, who are leaders of the Disability Needs Foundation. These leaders interview other persons with disabilities, who are also members of their organization.

Who Can Participate?

To participate, you must satisfy the following five requirements:

  1. Are you a person with a disability living in Ghana?
  2. Are you affiliated with the Disability Needs Foundation?
  3. Do you voluntarily choose to share your story with our team to contribute to research and awareness about the lives of persons with disabilities in Ghana?
  4. Do you understand you will receive no money or financial benefit for participating and the purpose is solely for research and awareness?
  5. Do you agree to have your name, story and picture published online on this website?

What Does Each Participant Do?

The research team travels to the participant’s house or workplace.

All participants are required to sign a written informed consent form before participating that indicates their voluntary participation in the project and an understanding that their responses will be published online to raise awareness without any monetary compensation – now or at any later date.

Participants then answer a short survey of questions about their basic information such as age and birthplace, education, employment, and family life. Next, a semi-structured interview occurs with each participant, starting with ten broad questions that leave room for basic follow-ups. Finally, the team takes a photograph of the participant.

What Questions Do We Ask?

  1. How does your story begin?
  2. How have you overcome any barriers and discrimination you’ve encountered?
  3. What is your best ability?
  4. What are your happiest and most difficult moments in life?
  5. What dream do you have for yourself in the future?
  6. If you were in parliament, what would you change first for persons with disabilities?
  7. What should local and international bodies do to support persons with disabilities?
  8. When you meet another person with a disability, what do you tell them?
  9. How would you explain disability to someone who asked you to describe it?
  10. What will life be like for persons with disabilities in Ghana in twenty years?

What Happens After the Interview?

The interview is transcribed, edited, and uploaded onto this website alongside the participant’s photograph. This website is then used by the Disability Needs Foundation throughout Ghana to raise awareness and self-advocate for its members through events such as radio and TV programs, art galleries, and other presentations.

Who Are the Researchers?

Our in-the-field research team consists of four rotating members – an organizing representative from the Disability Needs Foundation who explains the project and administers the consent form, a translator who is also a person with a disability, a volunteer who assists with transportation, and a scribe who records the interview and then transcribes and edits it into written form afterwards.

Organizing representatives from the Disability Needs Foundation have included Executive Director Billy Wilson, Operational Director Agnes Fobi, and Board Member Kwame Fobi, who have also served as translators.

Students involved in supporting project organization, interviews, and project website development as part of a senior thesis from 2014 to 2015 included DL Lundberg and Alexandra Szczerepa from Boston College, Boston, USA.

Which Organizations Are Involved?

The Disability Needs Foundation is a non-profit organization located on the high street Accra, Ghana. Our mission is to be a mouthpiece and watchdog for people with disabilities in Ghana through research and advocacy and to facilitate high impact programs designed to empower people with disabilities and their families to meet their own needs. We oversee and implement this research project and invite members to participate if they are interested.

How Far Have We Traveled?

Summer 2014: 40 Portraits of Adults with Physical Disabilities across the Greater Accra, Central, and Eastern Regions of Ghana

Summer 2015: 35 Portraits of Adults with Physical Disabilities across the Greater Accra and Volta Regions of Ghana

Where Should Questions Be Sent?

If you are a past participant and have any questions or concerns about the project, or if you are interested in participating in the future, or if you simply want to learn more about the work we’re doing, you can reach us using the following contact information:

Questions about the project within Ghana should be directed to:

Return to the portraits.