The study examined the utilisation of information communication technology in the training and education of students with visual impairment in tertiary institutions in Ghana. The study employed the cross-sectional descriptive survey design using questionnaire for data collection to provide answers to the research questions. The study population included resource persons and all students with visual impairment across three Public Universities in Ghana namely: University of Cape Coast, University of Ghana and University of Education, Winneba. In all, 20 resource persons and 116 students with visual impairment were valid to participate in the study. Data were analysed using Means, frequencies and standard deviation. The study revealed that ICT tools are available but inadequate in the three tertiary institutions in Ghana. It was established that ICT tools were fairly accessible in some locations in the various tertiary institutions. Again, it was revealed that ICT tools (hardware and software) are difficult to be used by students with visual impairment and that the students lacked the necessary skills to utilise ICT tools. It was further revealed that utilisation of ICT in the training and education of students with visual impairment has been hindered by various barriers of which inadequate training opportunities was the leading barrier. Students with visual impairment believed that ICT will assist them to learn independently and suggested that more ICT tools should be procured. It was recommended to the Ministry of Education and tertiary institutions to procure more ICT tools. Also, students should be introduced to more ICT skills.

Background to the Study
Vision is a pivot through which the individual appreciates his or her environment. It is an essential part of human existence as it plays vital roles in the life of an individual by enabling him or her to be aware of near and far objects (Eguavoen, 2016). Thus, any hindrance to vision results in total or partial loss of sight and places such a person at a great disadvantage such that many of the concepts which sighted persons acquire easily have to be taught deliberately to individuals with visual impairment. Three-quarters of what we learn in life according to Adediran (2004) are acquired through the organ of sight while Keefer (2011) suggests that because 80% of a child’s learning relies on his vision acuity, early detection and treatment are needed. According to Smith (2007), the loss of vision affects the individual in significant ways limiting mobility, access to printed information and independent living and use of new technology such as Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Students with visual impairment may, in fact, face difficulties in “utilisation” of ICT tools and, depending on the severity of visual impairment, the types of obstacles encountered may vary considerably.

Globally, the estimated number of people with visual impairment is 285 million, 39 million of this number are blind and 246 million have low vision (World Health Organisation, 2012). The incidence and demographics of blindness vary greatly in different parts of the world. In most industrialised countries, approximately 0.4% of the population is blind, while in developing countries it rises to 1% (WHO, 2012). It is estimated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that 87% of the world's blind live in developing countries for which Ghana is part. Over the last decades, visual impairment and blindness caused by infectious diseases have been greatly reduced (an indication of the success of international public health action), but there is a visible increase in the number of people who are blind or visually impaired from conditions related to longer life expectancies (Velázquez, 2010).

Throughout history, education has played a vital role in developing an individual’s ability and talent in any society, be it in Africa, Europe, America and the world over (Banyah, 2001). This makes the individual to be relevant in both the public and private sectors. As a result, the education sector will be proud of available skills for the development of the nation’s economy. This is why the attainment of higher education through which quality assurance would be assured for the overall development of humanity and for many nations across the globe is desirable. However, there are global challenges which must be met in order to attain this goal. The visually impaired need higher education to minimize the effect of their disability and develop their potentials adequately. People with visual impairments do not need pity and sympathy. They can never live comfortably on these and as such what they need is improved opportunities for qualitative education so that they can have increased versatility in employment. Quality education in the 21st century cannot be done without the knowledge and utilisation of various ICT tools. According to UNICEF (2003), education is a social benefit regarded as the right of every citizen. Individuals must be given equal opportunities and access to education.

The term “information literacy” is not more than 50 years old and dates back when Paul Zurkowski elaborated the concept of premium learning and articulated the need for information to solve problems or make decisions (Horton, 2013). During 1960s and early 1970s, information was beginning to be viewed as a commodity, necessary for solving problems and making decisions. It is clearly argued by scholars and information professionals that learning how to search and retrieve information; organize and arrange it in appropriately convenient ways; communicate and use it effectively for the intended users; index and archive information for future use or possibly discard it if no longer needed, are all imperative in the information society.

The Constitution of the Republic of Ghana (1992) Article 25 (1) states that “all persons shall have the right to equal educational opportunities and facilities, with a view of achieving the full realisation of that right: Basic education shall be free, compulsory and available to all”. The education of an individual with disability was re-echoed in the Disability ACT 2006; ACT 715 Education of a Child with Disability Article 17, which states The Minister of Education shall by Legislative Instrument designate schools or institutions in each region which shall provide the necessary facilities and equipment that will enable persons with disability to fully benefit from the school or institution. In the field of education, the basic concept of “Non – discrimination” entails the ability of all people to have “equal opportunity in education, regardless of their social class, ethnicity, background or physical disabilities” (Klironomos, Antona, Basdekis, & Stephanidis, 2006). Students with visual impairment have, the right to expect the same standard of education as their schoolmates and, in this view, they also have the right to access and use mainstream educational tools, including ICT based ones.

Rapid advances in information technology have dramatically transformed the world during the past several decades and the basic requirements of education for the future have changed. Knowledge has become the most critical resource for social and economic development (Altbach, Reisberg, & Rumbley, 2010). One’s ability to use computer and Internet effectively, having a qualified education, getting a job and communication skills have become prerequisites for human life quality. Thus, accessing and using computers and the World Wide Web is increasingly required for education and employment, as well as for many activities of daily life. While these changes have improved society in many respects, they present an obstacle for visually impaired people who may have significant difficulty processing the visual cues presented by modern graphical user interfaces (Chiang, Cole, Gupta, Kaiser & Starren, 2005). It is however observed that, people with visual impairment face special barriers in using the Internet, aside from those related to material access and computer-related trainings (Puffelen, 2009).

ICT tools are worldwide considered powerful tools to foster learning (Hitchcock & Stahl, 2003) but, at the same time, it is well known that, due to the widespread use of ICT tools, “disadvantaged or excluded groups, including the visually impaired face the danger of further marginalization ”. In fact, “with the advent of the digital computer, and its broad penetration, the disabled face serious problems in utilising computing devices” (Stephanidis & Savidis, 2001, p. 33). Anderson (2006) underscores that, in the field of education, while technologies are beneficial and have been shown to help with educational tasks, their design and usability are an issue for students with visual impairment.

Ghana introduced ICT into the school curriculum in September 2007 following the recommendations of the ICT4AD document and the Anamuah-Mensah National Education Review Committee Report (2002). Both documents highlight the importance of integrating ICT into the curriculum at all levels. As a result, the government and other institutions have invested huge sums of money in procurements of computers and establishment of computer labs in most tertiary institutions, but it is still unclear whether these computers are being used effectively. Thus the question of whether the student with visual impairment need any further support to be able to effectively use ICT in their daily training and education routines remains unanswered.

ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) is defined as a Diverse set of technological tools and resources used to communicate, and to create, disseminate, store and manage information (Huda, Tabassum, & Ahmed, 2009). ICT has become a very important part of the educational delivery and training processes. ICT to a great extent facilitates the acquisition and absorption of knowledge, and hence can provide extraordinary opportunities to developing countries for enhancing their educational systems particularly for the underprivileged constituency, and thereby for raising the level of quality of life of their people. The new communications technologies promise to reduce the sense of isolation, and open access to knowledge in ways unthinkable (Mishra, 2010).

There is enough evidence that ICT can support learning in a number of ways (UNESCO, 2012). The use of ICT can, for example, facilitate communication between educators and learners, increase access to information, provide greater access to learning for learners (including learners with visual impairments) and generally motivate all learners, develop problem solving capabilities and aid deeper understanding. Selinger (2008) asserts that for learners who are visually impaired, the use of ICTs can provide access to learning in new ways which for many were previously inaccessible.

Information and communication technology (ICT) is an important tool which enhances academic performance of all students especially students with visual impairment. It is a necessary condition for the development of the digital proficiency required of today’s citizens, and, on a more basic level, must consist of the use of multimedia technologies to recuperate, evaluate, store, produce, present and exchange information (Mutula, 2002). The expansion of new technologies has made the accessibility of computers to today’s students possible. The popularisation of computers has translated to the presence of these resources in multiple contexts in students’ lives at school and at home (Cuban, 1993).

ICT facilitate the learning of school subjects and basic skills needed for a meaningful living thereby contributing to the development of students with visual impairment immediate environment and the society at large. ICT has brought about a revolution in every walk of today’s life. Particularly, it has become an integral part of education and its impact on teaching and learning is widely accepted (Warschauer, 2004).

Access to ICT for visually impaired students may require more resources than are provided for other differently-abled students (D'Aubin, 2007). It has impacted greatly in education for the visually-challenged in a number of ways. ICTs are electronic technologies used for accessing processing, gathering, manipulating and presenting or communicating information. The introduction of ICT in education accelerates, enriches and deepens basic skills in reading, writing and it can motivate and engage students with visual impairment to learn as they become more independent and responsible for their learning (Nkomo, 2009).

Cook and Polgar (2014) posit that the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) allows for the removal of many of the remaining barriers faced by students with visual impairment. With ICT increasingly integrated into every aspect of the modern world, these ubiquitous technologies have become a positive force of transformation and a crucial element of any personal development/empowerment and institutional framework for development. ICT is already providing access to key public services, with widespread implications for social progress and economic growth aimed at eradicating poverty and promoting inclusive societies and sustainable development. Accessible ICT has the potential to provide persons with visual impairment unprecedented levels of access to education, skills training and employment, as well as the opportunity to participate in the economic, cultural and social life of their communities.

Moreover, ICT helps to encourage students to become active participants in social, cultural, and economic development. ICT can be multimedia for instructional delivery, additionally, it can be delivered in textual, audio, visual, and audio-visual forms (Soman& Sudhier, 2015).

Data of the World Health Organization seem to confirm, that visually impaired students are a relevant percentage of the overall population of the students with disabilities (Evenhuis, Sjoukes, Koot, & Kooijman, 2009). Such students, in principle, could highly benefit from using ICT for educational purposes but they actually, despite the availability of a growing number of technology-enhanced and sophisticated assistive devices, face a number of usability problems (Burzagli et al., 2004).

Findings from numerous studies have shown a positive relationship between the use of information and communication technology and students’ academic performance. For example, in an Illinois blue collar rural community, mathematics achievement levels improved (computation and problem-solving skills) as well as student interest among elementary and secondary students (Warschauer, & Matuchniak, 2010). Using a computer assisted instruction (CAI) programme called Fundamental Mathematics, led to higher mathematics achievement for students in two elementary and one middle school in a large urban North Carolina school district (Slavin, Lake, Davis, & Madden, 2011). In another study (Judson & Sawada, 2000) involving eighth grade students, mathematics achievement increased through the integration of math and science using inquiry-based data-generation technology (graphing calculators and probes). But this raises the issues of whether this study on use of ICT will yield the same level of importance to students with visual impairment in Ghana.

Though a lot of ICT are in the system, it has become difficult for students with visual impairment to utilise some of these devices in their training and education. This denies the student with visual impairment the opportunity to utilise the current trend of educational technologies which are necessity for 21st century training and education. This study seeks to investigate the utilisation of ICT in the training and education of students with visual impairment in tertiary institutions in Ghana.

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Item Type: Ghanaian Topic  |  Size: 163 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
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