Government has reaffirmed its commitment for inclusiveness in all programs for persons with visual impairment as the country adopts to the ‘new normal’ brought about by the corona virus pandemic.
On Thursday, Uganda joined the rest of the world to commemorate the ‘International White Cane Day’ observed every 15th October, to celebrate the achievements of people who are visually impaired and the important symbol of blindness and tool for independence.
Uganda National Association of the Blind (UNAB) an advocacy organization has membership of 96 district association of the blind across the country through which the blind meet to have their voices heard.
Celebrated under the theme, ’breaking barriers to Covid-19 interventions by people with visual impairment,’ this was a call to stakeholders, law and policy makers, to ensure designing and redesigning proper infrastructure for persons with disabilities (PWDs) to adhere to Covid-19 protocols and exceptional attention to be given to persons with visual impairment in accessing all services and goods.
According to the Uganda national corporation template 2019 report, people with disabilities constitute 12.4% of the entire population of Uganda and of these, visual impairment accounts for the biggest form of disability contributing 4.5%.
The newly appointed state minister for the elderly and disabled, Hon. Sarah Kanyike said the government continues to put in place programs to economically empower all PWDs and improve their livelihood.
“Currently, Uganda is implementing the national special grant programme with funding being accessed by groups between the ages 5-10 years PWDs. This fund is in addition to the special grant to PWDs accessed at district levels.” Kanyike said.
She also cited challenges faced by persons with visual impairment that include among others access to assistive devices like the white cane.
“The ministry is in the process of procuring assistive devices to PWDs and among these include the white canes, we will work hand in hand with the national association of the blind to ensure equal distribution of these devices.”
The chairman of Uganda National Association of the Blind (UNAB), Kinubi Francis appealed to people with visual impairment to understand the value of having and using the white cane effectively, loving and respecting it for their safety. And to the government to address the needs of PWDs.
“UNAB appeals to government to ensure that all government interventions addresses the needs of people with visual impairment for inclusion. When the lockdown was introduced, a program of teaching using media was introduced. Self-study materials were issued out to all children at home however, the materials were not changed for accessible formats for the blind and those with hearing impairments.’
UNAB in the same vain used the same day to take stock of its achievements as the organization marked 50 years of existence. “We strive to take up more challenges in the next 50 years including employment opportunities for PWDs, access to information for all, the right to quality health services including prevention of blindness, ownership of property like land, good shelter for all, the remaining weaknesses in education for inclusion, the right to good feeding.” Said Kinubi