An exploration into the social impact of COVID-19 on persons with disabilities living in Kumasi, the Ashanti region of Ghana

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Osei-Kuffour, Rita
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Although simulations from literature evidence and theories about the vulnerability of people with disabilities abound, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with disabilities is largely unexplored in Ghana, thereby creating a research gap. In this study, the social and economic impacts of the pandemic on people with physical and visual disabilities were probed. The empirical evidence was gathered from the Ashanti region of Ghana, a known region with a high population of disabled people. The phenomenological research design was utilized, as it aided in studying the lived experiences of disabled people. Ethical approval was sought from the Human Ethics Office (HEO) of the University of Manitoba, while permission was sought from the Ghana Blind Union and Ghana Association of the Physically Disabled, Kumasi chapters. Using the purposive sampling technique, physically and visually impaired people were recruited if they met the following criteria: (i) 18 years old and above; (ii) willing to be interviewed; (iii) willing to be recorded; (iv) willing to voluntarily provide informed consent to participate in the study; and (v) able to communicate in Ashanti Twi or English language – the commonly spoken languages in the study area. In-depth telephone interviews were used as the data collection tool for this study, while the interview guide served as the data collection instrument. The data was analyzed to reflect the Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) as double hermeneutics where participants interpret their experiences, then the researcher interprets the interpretation of their experiences. High awareness of COVID-19 and perceptions ranging from the transmission and deadly attribute of the viral disease was prevalent among the participants. The participants also perceived physical distancing, the wearing of masks and good hygiene practices as means of preventing the spread of the virus. Negative social impacts ranging from isolation, loneliness and feeling dejected – all which deleteriously impacted their mental and psychosocial health. Lastly, varied economic impacts – increased demand for essential goods and services (resulting in high revenue for traders), decreased economic activities – leading to business closures, retrenchment, and high cost of living amid declining incomes were also found among persons with disabilities. Access to support from social networks and the state in addition to religious bodies moderated the economic impacts of COVID-19 on disabled people. Economic recovery programs that are disability-centered must be implemented to offset the economic implications of the pandemic, while mental well-being and psychosocial factors must be factored into disaster management programs to lessen the social impacts of crisis of this nature.
Social Impact, COVID-19, Kumasi, Ghana, Economic Impact, Persons with Disabilities