By WILSON KUTAMBA
Activists for persons living with disabilities in greater Masaka have expressed concern over lack of information and statistics in all government offices of persons living with disabilities (PWDs) saying it is against all odds of their opportunities.
According to Richard Musisi, executive director Masaka Association of Disabled Persons Living with HIV/AIDS (MADIPHA) says there is no data about disabled persons in all districts of their coverage.
He says even government policies are very silent on the census of persons living with disabilities and this has continued to make them more disadvantaged and marginalized not only by the government but also communities.
“Even in various tools issued by government while collecting data like tools used by National identification Registration Authority (NIRA) there is no provision to capture disability information,” he said
He noted that in all districts of their operation they are struggling to get any data, information or details on PWDs hence rendering them incapable to extend services to targeted people living with disabilities.
According to Charles Ssegirinya , Rakai district speaker who is also a PWD noted that there is no data on disabilities available in Rakai district .
“Even when government captures data on disabilities it focuses on major impairments which are visible leaving out other invisible disabilities and this marginalizes people with invisible disabilities,” he said
Apart from those in leadership positions like him who amplify the advocacy voice for the rights of children and other PWDs, Ssegirinya said, there are no government programs that privilege such people. What is more worrying is that some disabled children in the community are deprived of rights such as education among others.
He urged the government to conduct a census of people living with disabilities and facilitate their access to opportunities such as employment both the central and local government levels.
Dic Bugembe, the MADIPHA founding chairman, faulted government statistics that show that only 12.4 percent of the population are living with disabilities, arguing that the numbers captured in the national records are representative of the statistics of a single region.
“We fault government on these numbers because in our districts of coverage people with disabilities are beyond that number,” Bugembe said
“We have to be clear that government has not considered sensitization among communities that PWDs are normal and should not be marginalized as it has been the case in other issues like people living with HIV/AIDS,” he noted
Mudasiru Bbaale, the Kyesiga sub county speaker in Masaka district who also doubles as Masaka district chairman MADIPHA emphasized the need to improve accessibility for people living with disabilities to building such as shopping arcades, government offices, and hotels.
“Even in public offices there are no accessibility facilities for persons with disabilities from offices to wash rooms and this disadvantages such people from work which deprives them of some rights,” he said
Nathan Rujunwa , the Masaka district chief administrative officer downplayed claims of marginalisation of PWDs arguing that job opportunities are offered to all Ugandans with pre-requisites regardless of their appearance.
“It not true that people with disabilities are marginalized because opportunities are offered to candidates who show interest and with required qualifications but not appearance,” he said
He noted that it’s only Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOs) with the census mandate noting that nobody should fault the available statistics.
The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 10% of any population is disabled. It also estimates that of the 10% only 5.8% of persons with disabilities need to be provided with services.
The United Nations Standard Rules on Equalization of Opportunities for PWDs (1991) urges all nations to show strong commitment on equalization of opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).
The National Policy on Disability in Uganda therefore, aims at promoting equal opportunities for enhanced empowerment, participation and protection of rights of PWDs irrespective of gender, age and type of disability.