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Executive Department for
Press, Communication and Marketing

Adolf-Reichwein-Straße 2a
Gebäude AVZ (Gebäudeteil AR-NA)
57068 Siegen

Phone:    +49 (0)271/740-4915
Fax.:    +49 (0)271/740-4911
E-Mail:  presse@uni-siegen.de

How do people with disabilities live in West Africa?

In cooperation with the University of Ghana, the University of Siegen is conducting research into the life courses of people with disabilities in West African societies.

What are the life courses of people with disabilities in West Africa? What do they experience in school and when they enter the world of employment? What happens when they leave the parental home or want to start a family? Researchers from the Universitity of Siegen and University of Ghana are now examining these and similar questions. The scientists are jointly researching life courses of people with disabilities in West African societies. The German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the three-year project.

"In its sustainable development goals, the United Nations explicitly specifies persons with disabilities as one of the target groups which must not be left behind in international action for sustainable development," explains Dr. Efua Esaaba Mantey Agyire-Tettey. The social scientist gained her doctorate at the Center for the Planning and Evaluation of Social Services (ZPE) at the University of Siegen. She now works at the University of Ghana. During the cooperation project, she will establish and lead the "Disability & Life Course" research focus at her university. She will support a group of around ten African scientists working on eight PhD projects. Lars Wissenbach is the project coordinator at the University of Siegen. He states: "The sustainable development goals explicitly demand access to education, vocational training, employment, social protection, and healthcare for millions of people with disabilities worldwide." However, he points out that there is limited scientific knowledge about the living conditions and life trajectories of people with disabilities in African societies. "Research so far has concentrated mostly on the Global North," says Mantey Agyire-Tettey.

The project aims to help fill in this research gap. The scientists want to find out about the transitions between life phases of persons with disabilities They will search for patterns and structures, for example at the transition points between childhood and youth, young adulthood and old age. "How successful these transitions have been depends on various factors," explains Wissenbach. "These factors include what society expects from a certain life phase, and the prospects and resources available to individuals involved. This includes for example things like knowledge, role models, money, and abilities." According to Mantey Agyire-Tettey, successful transitions also depend on the availability and accessibility of resources in the immediate environment of people with disabilities, for example family, friends, the local community, and professional support are all resources that would be needed for successful transition

To find answers, the researchers will interview people with various disabilities in Ghana and other West African countries. The social scientists are keen to discover for example the strategies people with disabilities develop to manage transitions between life phases. They are also interested in defining the factors that help support or hinder transitions.     

Another area the project would focus on is the findings from West Africa and how it may differ from researches conducted on the life course of persons with disabilities in the Global North. The findings could help improve the delivery of social services and social protection strategies in West Africa. The findings of the study and the researchers’ experience will help to enhance teaching at the two universities and also serve as a source of reference to students and academics.

Lars Wissenbach    
Center for Planning and Evaluation of Social Services (ZPE), University of Siegen   
++49 (0) 271 740 4353       

Dr. Efua Esaaba Mantey Agyire-Tettey   
Department of Social Work, University of Ghana   
eemantey@ug.edu.gh / efuam@yahoo.com