Politicians’ manifestos should prioritise needs of people with disabilities Manifestos

Wednesday, 05 August 2015 13:00 Written by  Alex Ndeezi

According to a recent survey carried out by the National Association of the Deaf (UNAD), 95 per cent of severely hearing impaired Ugandans can neither read their names nor count up to 10, since the country’s Education system does not adequately take into account their communication needs.

Less than 5 per cent of the visually impaired Ugandans can use braille- a system of reading and writing used by blind persons. More than 70 per cent of public offices in Uganda are not accessible to wheelchair users and other people with mobility difficulties.

In transportation fare, people who use wheel chairs are required to pay for costs of transporting their wheelchairs. Depending on the severity of the conditions of the wheel chair user and the level of training in rehabilitation and independent living, the same wheelchair user may be required to pay for the helper travelling with him or her.

The same scenario applies to a blind person who travels with a guide dog or helper. A deaf person seeking medical treatment pays for the usual treatment costs plus the costs of a sign language interpreter. The same deaf person will be required to meet the costs of sign language interpretation when accessing specialised services, for instance, in courts of law where rudimentary communication as used in the community is unhelpful. Even though government has initiated and implemented affirmative action measures to enable PWDs acquire tertiary and university education, little has been done to address the plight of graduates with disability whose rate of unemployment is much higher than the national average rate of unemployment.

There is affirmative action in accessing education and skills but no affirmative action in accessing jobs. This has translated into an unemployment rate of more than 97 per cent among graduates with disabilities.

Therefore, in spite of recent moves by government to initiate and implement various affirmative action measures in favour of vulnerable groups, studies confirm that PWDs remain the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable of the vulnerable in our midst. They face multiple disadvantages in accessing services and opportunities in an increasingly liberalised market economy.

However, considering their numerical strength estimated at more than 11 per cent of the total population, there is the possibility of transforming all these challenges and many others into opportunities for not only PWDs but the nation as a whole. More than 3.5 million people constitute a potentially huge market for our goods and services.

As consumers, an empowered disabled community would contribute a lot to the government treasury in terms of both direct and indirect taxes. Several studies pin points to the fact that employees with disability exhibit more dedicated loyalty and commitment to their work than non disabled employees. There are so many other benefits to PWDs and the nation as disability does not mean inability.

As politicians prepare to hit the campaign trail, voters with disabilities, their families, friend and caregivers will be keen to know what measures those aspiring to be in power will take to transform disability issues from challenges to opportunities.

It should be noted that disability issues are national concerns that cut across the political divide. Thus, all candidates and parties should make analysis of disability issues in their respective contexts and have these clearly articulated in their manifestos and political programmes during the election season and thereafter.

Mr Ndeezi is the Member of Parliament representing PWDs. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Source: The Daily Monitor