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Disability in Uganda Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Ssendagire Paul, Uganda Feb 5, 2006
Health , Human Rights , Disability Culture , Green Spaces   Opinions


Disability is part and parcel of every society. There is no generation or society without a disabled person. Yet the term disability encircles the mentally ill, the visually impaired, people with behavioural and communication disorders, the poor who cannot meet their essential needs, people with learning deficiencies, physical and health problems. Such problems are a result of factors including infection by diseases, intoxication, genetic inheritance, war, malnutrition and accidents.

Historically, the Romans used the disabled as jesters to perform and entertain the rich and powerful. In most African societies, such people were believed to be cursed by gods and were therefore thrown and left to die in the wilderness.

During the rule of traditional kings in Uganda, however, the impotent and other people with noticeable kinds of disabilities were believed to be “half-men” and were thus exempted from paying some taxes.
Exempting them from taxes is good, but regarding the disabled as “half-men” is criminal indeed. All men are equal and therefore, should be treated equally without any kind of discrimination.

Today, it’s a blessing to see that a good number of local and international bodies sacrifice their time and resources to promote the well-being of the disabled in Uganda. Such organizations include the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), among others.

The government of Uganda is also working hard to ensure that the rights and welfare of the disabled are catered to. For example, through the Education Assessment Resource Services (EARS) program under the Ministry of Education, communities are sensitized on disability issues. Placement for children with disabilities is organized in or recommended to schools. More recently, the government has made it possible for the disabled to be represented in the national parliament.

Despite attempts to promote the welfare of the disabled in Uganda, however, many of them still face problems like discrimination, lack of self-confidence, inadequately trained teachers to handle their education and wheelchairs.

If the government and local non-government bodies claim to be improving the welfare of the disabled, why are these inconsistencies, such as discrimination, still so pronounced in almost all corners of Uganda? Why are there so many disabled people on Kampala’s streets roasted by the sunshine every day, begging for survival? If such situations exist in Uganda’s capital, what about other parts of the country? In schools, why are there no special toilets for the disabled? It therefore becomes a pile of lies to conclude that most of the country’s disabled people are benefiting from the services these organizations.

Local organizations dealing with disability issues should have disabled people on their management teams. This will provide a chance to better meet the needs of the disabled, to get them employed and minimize the mismanagement of funds allocated to them.

The government should pass an employment policy to ensure that those with disabilities are given top priority in fields like education, accounting and law. A history teacher on a wheelchair is as effective as one without any disability. Instead of “mastering politics,” the government should create special employment and radio programs for the disabled.

Sensitizing people about disability issues should be intensified and done so regularly. This will help the disabled develop their self-confidence and overcome self-pity. Some disabled people have done this and used their disability as a blessing, tapping their own potential. For example, some disabled Ugandan musicians like “Bucha man’ and Sam Gombya have won hearts because of the quality of their music.

A lot has to be done to improve the welfare of the disabled. This should be everyone’s role and thus, discrimination and other hindrances to positive living will become history.



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Ssendagire Paul

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