August 2023
People involved in establishing the disability studies certificate program at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana: Godwin Awabil (upper left), Sefakor Komabu-Pomeyie (lower left), Winnie Looby (upper right), and ICI's Macdonald Metzger (lower right).

The first disability studies certificate program in West Africa begins this month at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) in Ghana, the result of a nearly two-year partnership formed to train disability services professionals in a region where stigma still keeps many people with disabilities from education, employment, and other aspects of community life.

Enlightening and Empowering People with Disabilities in Africa (EEPD Africa), the University of Vermont, and the Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota partnered with UCC to design the International Certificate in Disability Studies, a one-year program. It is modeled on disability policy and services certificates offered at ICI and University of Vermont and on work the Institute has done in Kenya. UCC is adapting the curricula from the U.S. programs to be culturally relevant from a West African perspective, but the course will be offered online and open to anyone.

“The organizations are collaborating on several initiatives, including the certificate program, that are aimed at putting people with disabilities at the forefront of their own lives,” said Macdonald Metzger (pictured at lower right), ICI’s director of outreach and engagement. “My hope is that it will inspire other organizations to partner with us in other parts of the world.”

For its part, UCC had been looking for ways to diversify its revenue sources and attract new students, said Godwin Awabil (upper left), dean of the faculty of educational foundations in UCC’s College of Education Studies.

“In Ghana, there are many people providing services for people with disabilities without any formal education or qualifications,” Awabil said. “This program will help upgrade the knowledge and skills of practitioners and enable them to carry out better services that will change attitudes about disability. I believe it will also change hearts.”

Advocacy is at the heart of the educational effort, said Sefakor Komabu-Pomeyie (lower left), a University of Vermont adjunct lecturer who is founder and president of EEPD Africa. As a UCC graduate, Komabu-Pomeyie said it was “a dream come true” to have her vision for the course come to life at her alma mater.

“The purpose of this certificate is to bring equity, justice, and total inclusion to Ghana, and all of Africa,” Komabu-Pomeyie said. “It is open to managers, educators, caregivers, anyone who wants to connect with people with disabilities and to help solve the problem of stigma. No matter where you are sitting in the world when you take this course, the vision is to change the narrative on disability, and students will be asked to take what they’ve learned in the course and pass it on.”

Winnie Looby (upper right), disability studies project coordinator at the University of Vermont’s Center on Disability and Community Inclusion, said she is hopeful the new certificate will provide a pathway for students to engage in meaningful dialogue with others around the world.

“As this program gets underway, I’m excited to explore possibilities for community-based research and civic engagement. As they collaborate in the classroom, students will have the opportunity to simultaneously create a vast network of allies who advocate for disability rights and community inclusion.”

To register and learn more about the online program, contact Awabil at