Applying a socio-ecological model to understand the psychosocial support services available to students with disabilities in universities

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The importance of psychosocial support for students with disabilities to participate effectively in universities cannot be overemphasized. As an essential aspect of inclusive practice, psychosocial supports empower students with disabilities and improve their accessibility to and belongingness in higher education. In the Ghanaian context, some attention has been given to challenges students with disabilities encounter during their university education, while less attention has been paid to the types of support they receive. Using Bronfenbrenner’s socio-ecological model as a theoretical framework, this study conducted qualitative semi-structured interviews with 11 participants with a disability, made up of 10 undergraduate students and one lecturer (physical disability: n=8 and visual impairment: n=3), to understand the nature and extent of psychosocial supports institutionalized for students with disabilities in universities in Ghana. The participants were recruited using purposive and snowball sampling approaches from one of the largest public universities in Ghana. The interview data were transcribed verbatim, and theoretical thematic analysis was performed. The psychosocial supports received by the students with disabilities that enable them to maintain their status at the university were presented and discussed around three levels: micro-system, meso-system, and exo-system. The result showed that students with disabilities received most of their psychological support from the micro-system. The study concludes with a call to policymakers to consider the important role of stakeholders such as family and peers as well improve support services to enhance the retention of students with disabilities.


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How to Cite
Akoto, Y., Nketsia, W., Opoku, M. P., Fordjour, M. O., & Opoku , E. K. (2022). Applying a socio-ecological model to understand the psychosocial support services available to students with disabilities in universities. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 30, (152).
Author Biographies

Yaw Akoto, University of Canterbury

Dr. Yaw Akoto is disability/inclusive education specialist. He completed his PhD in educational studies and leadership from University of Canterbury, New Zealand, in 2021. He holds a master’s in special education from University of Jyvaskyla, Finland, and educational foundations from University of Cape Coast, Ghana.

William Nketsia, Western Sydney University

Dr. William Nketsia joined Western Sydney University (WSU) as a lecturer in inclusive education in January, 2018. He completed his doctoral and masters’ degrees in education in 2016 and 2011 respectively, from University of Jyvaskyla, Finland.

Maxwell Peprah Opoku, United Arab Emirates University

Dr. Maxwell Peprah Opoku is an assistant professor in special education at College of Education, United Arab Emirates University. He holds a PhD in education from University of Tasmania, Australia.

Mark Owusu Fordjour, University of Canterbury

After completing his master's degree at the University of Ghana in 2013, Dr. Mark Owusu proceeded to the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, and obtained his PhD in 2019. He joined the New Zealand School of Education as a lecturer in 2021.

Emmanuel Kofi Opoku , University of Education Winneba

Emmanuel Kofi Opoku holds a degree in language from the University of Education Winneba, Ghana. He has previously worked as a classroom teacher at the private school level.

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