Disability is an important aspect of human health because every human being has the potential of being disabled at some point in life. Because of its importance, it is necessary to make disability and its related issues familiar to health workers to improve their understanding of the healthcare needs of persons with disabilities so as to increase access to health care for persons with disabilities.
The study evaluated the level of knowledge and perceptions of health workers about persons with disabilities. It also assessed attitudes that are held by health workers towards persons with disabilities as a result of held perceptions about them.
The study was quantitative using questionnaires to ascertain the level of knowledge of and attitude towards persons with disabilities. The study targeted all categories of health workers including doctors, nurses and pharmacists. The sample size for the study was 155 and included both males and female health workers selected purposively.
The findings indicated that respondents‟ attitude towards persons with disabilities was somewhat positive. However, their perception of disability was mixed. For example attitudinal assessment of respondents across the hospitals revealed that a little over half of the respondents (55.9%) agreed that „persons with disabilities should be helped even when they have not asked for help.‟ On the impossibility of preventing disability through medication and early detection during pregnancy, majority of the respondents disagreed. Finally on whether respondents were willing to work with persons with disabilities in the same hospital, the responses across health professions indicated a general agreement of their preparedness to work with persons with disabilities.
Health professionals are essential for providing health care for everyone in the country including persons with disabilities who are considered one of the minority and marginalized groups. The findings from the study showed that health professionals within the study area had adequate knowledge on disability related issues which could impart positively on their attitude towards persons with disabilities.

Indeed, findings from the study established that the health care workers under consideration had positive attitudes towards persons with disabilities and this is as a result of their experiences which should be maintained and encouraged among all other health care providers.

Disability has been defined variously by different scholars, institutions, countries, and legal documents. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) (1976), disability is the interaction between individuals with a health condition, such as cerebral palsy, hearing loss, blindness and personal and environmental factors such as negative attitudes and inaccessible physical environment. Under the International Classification of Functioning Disability and Health disability is defined as an umbrella term for impairments, activity limitation and participation restriction (International Classification of Function (ICF) (WHO, 2001).

According to the WHO (2013), about a billion people are living with some form of disability, which constitutes about 15% of the world‟s population. Although disability is a complex, dynamic and a multidimensional issue, many scholars and disability activists have agreed that attitudinal and physical barriers in the society play a massive role in the lives of persons with disabilities (PWDs).

Disability is an important aspect of human health because every human being has the potential of becoming disabled. Because of its importance, it is necessary to make disability and its related issues familiar to health workers because healthcare access is important for every individual both PWDs and persons without disability (Nordhaus, 2002). With access to good health care, the health conditions of persons with disabilities (PWDs) will improve as they will have access to quality healthcare (Mugilwa et al., 2005, Marmot et al., 2008).

However, there are disparities in healthcare utilization among PWDs and persons without disability across countries and communities. In every society, PWDs lag behind other citizens in accessing healthcare (Rimmer et al., 2004). This problem is common to the PWDs in Africa and most developing countries (An Action on Disability and Development [ADD], 2005).

Analysis of the World Health Survey revealed that people with disabilities were twice as likely to find health care provider skills and equipment inadequate to meet their needs; three times as likely to be refused care; and four times as likely to be treated gravely by health care providers (World Health Organization and World Bank 2011).

Many explanations have been offered for the problems persons with disabilities encounter accessing health care. One of the main reasons is negative perception about disability and negative attitude towards persons with disabilities by society, including health care workers (attitudinal barriers).

Specialists with knowledge on disability related issues are also lacking and hence special matters relating to the health needs of persons with disabilities are not seriously addressed (Elwan, 1999). Thus, while throughout the world several changes take place in the health status and treatment of persons with disabilities, they are vulnerable to many health conditions.

Attitudes are theoretical concepts that represent what an individual views as positive, negative, or neutral; comprised of affective, behavioral, and cognitive responses and can be altered by persuasion and experience. Altman (2008), explained attitude as a mental state, belief, or a predisposition to behavior. This statement implies that attitudes like all other psychological constructs, can be observed directly or indirectly in human responses (Albarracin D et al, 2005).

The worth of health care services is influenced by the attitudes of health professional towards PWDs. Thus, attitudes of health workers play a direct role in the quality of the patient care experience at the health care facilities attended.

However, attitudes and misconstructions among health-care providers are major barriers to health care for people with disabilities (Hewitt-Taylor, 1987). For example, some health-care providers may feel uncomfortable about treating people with disabilities and may avoid them when they seek health care (Aulagnier, 2005). Also clinical decision-making may be influenced by negative attitudes and assumptions about disability among health workers. Additionally, limited knowledge and understanding of disability and the health needs of persons with disabilities among health-care providers often prevents timely and effective coordination of health care services for persons with disabilities (Cowling et al. 2006).

Clearly, it is essential to influence the attitudes of health professions to become more appreciative of the health needs of persons with disabilities (Cowling et al. 2006; Lammers & Happell 2003). Therefore health workers should be conscious of the roots, consequences, and appropriate treatment of disabling conditions, and of the incorrect assumptions about disability that result from stigmatized views they hold.

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Item Type: Ghanaian Topic  |  Size: 61 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
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