International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Dec 2, 2016

Helping people to help themselves is the basis for empowering persons with disabilities. None are more aware of their disadvantages than persons with disabilities themselves. Disability is more than a physical or mental limitation on the part of the individual, but links to the resources available to them, to an ability to make a contribution and, ultimately, to the self-confidence of the individual man, woman or child with disability.

Here, we talk to Henry; the Director of Youth with Physical Disabilities Development Forum (YPDDF) about what life is like for people who have disabilities. Henry uses a wheelchair so has firsthand experience of the various challenges people can face. Henry – please can you tell us what the situation is like for people with disabilities in Uganda?

According to the 2014 Population and Housing Census, in Uganda 16% of the population, have some kind of disability.

Persons with disabilities (PWDs) in poor rural communities are the most disadvantaged people in the world. Most PWDs do not complete their education; that counts specifically for women/girls. Due to lack of access to education most PWDs do not have skills and competencies required to get employment or get involved in any activities that can give them a livelihood.  Hence most of them are left out in most of the government programmers intended to reduce poverty levels among rural communities such as NAADs/ wealth creation. In addition, the physically demanding nature of unskilled labour also makes it difficult for PWDs to be involved in labour intensive activities, that otherwise do not require high skills or competencies.

PWDs usually are faced with the challenge of accessing programmes that addresses their economic needs such as loans, information, improved agricultural inputs as well as strengthening their skills and competences in managing viable economic enterprises.

What life has been like for you, living with a disability?

Uganda is part of the Global south developing countries in Africa were culture has a high level of influence on how people live and behave. 65% of women and men in Uganda believe that disability is caused by misfortune, rather than physical illness. This makes their minds totally negative about involving persons with disabilities in the community development programmes, which has resulted in the exclusion of persons with disabilities in the education sector and employment. They also have very limited access to health facilities leaving persons with disabilities in absolute poverty conditions.

Having a disability myself, I was a victim of these circumstances especially in the education sector where there was no facilities to enable me to access quality education. After many struggles and much perseverance, I was able to become a professional lawyer and a champion to advocate for the inclusion and mainstream persons with disabilities in all community programmes.


How has Disability Youth helped young people find training and work?

Disability Youth help young people in four main ways:

We’re an advocacy organization and a game changer in changing the lifestyle of youth with disabilities in Uganda through lobbying and advocacy for fair laws and policies

We build the capacities of youth with disabilities so as they advocate for their own rights.

We support families of children with disabilities in income generating activities to improve on family income.

Finally, we engage in providing clean and safe water in schools where children with disabilities go, and train teachers with skills to teach Special Needs children as well as advocating for employment opportunities for skilled youth with disabilities in both the public and private sector in Uganda.

What do you hope the future hold for people with disability, particularly in Uganda?

In the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and sustainable development goals being an influence of change for lives of persons with disabilities, I see a happy inclusive open society for everyone including persons with disabilities.

Henry, thanks for taking the time to speak with us to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). We wish you and all at YPDDF well as you continue your vital work.

Putting new skills into action.
Working in agriculture.