By Shamim Nampijja
It is often said that persons with disabilities hardly speak up when it comes to their rights. In essence enabling an already ableist society at the cost of their discomfort. But people especially those in places of power do not listen to disabled people and it shows.
As a person with a disability, it is exhausting to turn up for a Government activity as an invited representative from an organisation of persons with disabilities and confront the accessibility obstacles in place. To make matters worse is the constant use of “disability inclusion” in many a presentation while keeping a blind eye to the accessibility challenges in place for persons with disabilities.
Disability inclusion is not just talk but action, something Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies have failed to understand yet the government of Uganda ratified the Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities and created assisting laws such as the Persons with Disabilities Act 2019 to ensure persons with disabilities are accorded their rights in all spheres of life.
As inclusive as they purport to be, they invite representatives from well-known organisations of persons with disabilities and force them to navigate staircases that are a challenge to those with mobility issues.
Why else would a government MDA organise an activity at a hotel’s second floor yet the hotel is without functioning lifts, female bathrooms a floor above the designated room and on top of that have lunch served at the pool area which is practically at the opposite end of the hotel, if not to frustrate the participation of persons with disabilities?
Is this lack of disability awareness and sensitivity towards invited persons with disabilities because of the presence of an abled commissioner for persons with disabilities within the ministry that represents this special interest group? Is this why reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities is blatantly ignored?
Are these government MDAs honestly seeking participation of persons with disabilities or they are just after disability exploitation at the cost of infringing on the rights of persons with disabilities? Should persons with disabilities fill these roles to have the disability needs and their rights met?
Like some government MDAs, a few organisations of persons with disabilities are headed by abled persons. Having an abled person as the head of an organisation for persons with disabilities does not imply that the organisation is without persons with disabilities in its workforce.
To assume so is to short-change persons with disabilities and support the ableist construction of society. At the end of the day, it is the actual persons with disabilities that will make up the disability representation and disability inclusion envisaged. Take the much loved “disability inclusion” talk a step further and walk the talk!
The author Shamim Nampijja is a Gender and Disability Rights Advocate