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OPINION: Persons with disability, an issue we all have to understand

By Dorothy Muhawe

There’s little understanding that people with disabilities are also human beings, equal to everyone else, and entitled to the same privileges, opportunities, and rights.

Persons with disabilities are physically and mentally impaired and they are limited to doing one or more major life activities.

These people are dependent on others for support and this has to happen because they are incapable of performing certain activities on their own for example a person with no arms can fetch water for him or herself, and a blind person can’t help him/herself cross the road or drive a car.

Regardless of this these in-capabilities, disabled people just like anybody else require the same basic needs of food, shelter, clothes, education, and love.  Unfortunately, the people who are meant to help them mistreat them.

In Uganda persons with disabilities face discrimination and barriers in accessing equal opportunities depriving them of realizing their human rights and freedom.

Being comprised of more than one ethnicity, the people of Uganda have different superstitions about disability most being unjust. Some think of the disabled as cursed, by evil spirits (demons), or being punished by their ancestors.

Persons with disabilities in Uganda are incapable of making their fate; they are abandoned in rural areas living in poverty, with no education, helpless, and neglected by both relatives and the community. Persons with disabilities often aren’t prioritized in society, leading to less education, skills, and medical attention amongst them.

This has consequently left them with the inability to compete for employment, thus failing to fight for their needs and rights because they lack knowledge of them resulting in more disabilities amongst them like low self-esteem, depression, and sometimes leads to suicidal behavior.

Parliament enacted the Persons With Disability Act,2006  which makes provision for recipe resection, and realization of human rights of the persons with disabilities as a fulfillment of its mandate under Act 32 and 35 of the 1995 constitution of Uganda which recognize the right of PWDs to the inherent dignity and affirmative action respectively.

Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development coordinates the Uganda community-based rehabilitation program for the disabled which aims at enhancing the participation and productivity of persons with disability within their communities.

The parliamentary election statute of 1996 provides 5 representatives of the PWDs in parliament and at least one should be a woman and use sign language where applicable.

The Ministry of Education and Sports through Kyambogo University has Special Needs education addressing issues of children with disabilities through training teachers and other professionals in special needs education and rehabilitation.

The government put in place rehabilitation and resettlement schemes that include vocational rehabilitation services, sheltered workshops that focus on employable skills, training, and orthopedics workshops for the provision of assistive devices to PWDs.

To fulfill the persons of disability Act 2006 which calls for respect, protection, and realization of the human rights of PWDs, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) requested all TV stations to have a sign language interpreter by January of 2019 but this has seen few stations complying to the directive.

These initiatives are still weak mainly because the public lacks awareness of them and fears associating with people with vulnerabilities thus more sensitization are needed.

Just because you are not disabled or have a relative who is, doesn’t mean you can’t fight for their right and treat them as human. The government put up initiatives but everyone in the country has to fulfill these initiatives.

There’s no greater disability in society than the inability to see a person as more thus we all have a debt to create a conducive environment for the persons with disabilities and it should be each and everyone’s moral authority to accommodate others in society for the good of us all.

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