Disability Laws and the Interlocking Regulations in Uganda

By Edson Ngirabakunzi

Uganda in line with its 1995 Constitutional obligation of respecting dignity and rights of PWDs enacted several disability friendly laws. This has been possible due to advocacy and policy influence initiatives of Disabled people’s organizations and their leaders. However, these laws have not been fully translated into practical outcomes towards disabled people. This has been partly due to absence of regulations to make them operational. Such laws geared towards promotion and protection of disability rights and needs of PWD in Uganda include, National Council on Disability Act 2003, the Disability Act of 2006 and the Equal Opportunities Commission Act 2006 and Local Government Act 1997.

Where as some of these laws have been in place for the last 5 years or so, there has been little positive impact of such laws in lives of PWDs. This has been partly due lack of enabling regulation to guide implementation among others. This was further echoed during the celebrations to maker the International Day of Disabled in 2007. The President, who was the guest of honour during the celebrations, noted it as an issue of concern too. He noted that there was need for a meeting with disability stakeholders to discuss and refine further on why such laws were no being implemented and remedy sought. Reasons earlier advanced for non implementation was that some technical people did not know how to manage and implement laws that had no guidance framework. This was later to be provided for in form of regulations. The other issues noted were lack of financial resources to ensure the laws were appropriately addressed.

Therefore, arising from the above, the line Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development has developed regulations on National council on Disability Act and on Disability Act. These regulations are an important landmark in promoting disability rights in development process in Uganda. Where as the parent laws were providing general frame works on a number of disability issues like employment among other, the regulations have defined and refined them further to guide planning and implementation by the technical people at all levels of government. Already, the regulations have been discussed by the disability stakeholders to ensure that disability concerns are well anchored in the regulations. In line with our project, the regulations have provided critical benchmarks for promoting employment and employability of PWDs in Uganda. Once implemented will ensure adequate service delivery to PWDs and hence improved standard of living. Additionally, they are well anchored in the CRPD section 27 on right to work and employment.

It is important to recall these regulations are a recent development this year 2008, yet their parent laws were developed in 2003 and 2006 respectively. Nonetheless, this is a new development in as far as regulations on disability laws are concerned where the employment and employability of PWDs is elaborately expounded. In line with human rights approaches to development, the regulations have been particularly informative. Where as the Disability Act has been broad in as sense, the regulations have defined in detail what it takes to guarantee employment of PWDs. The regulations provide for the line ministry to employ a person responsible for employment placement for PWDs, prohibits the employer from using screening methods that discriminate qualified disabled employee, responsibility to employer to provide assistive services required by employee to execute his or her duties under employment contract thereof, it also provides mitigating measures where disability occurs in the course of employment such as redeployment in line of fitting employment and re-aligning the employment contract without break in the period of service. The regulations also provide for tax exemptions on modification costs to employers. This is in line with CRPD principle of reasonable accommodation. The regulation further provide for consultations with DPOs in and during the process of recruitment and job placement of PWDs by employers.

We are yet to celebrate improved employment situation of PWDs in Uganda. Number factors still negatively influence employment of PWDs, such issues as attitudinal challenges inherent in community value system and economic development imbalances that is skewed against vulnerable communities of the disabled people. Macro economic policies that would rekindle PWDs accessing employment in both formal and informal sector still slow in visibly recognizing poor rural PWDs. It is apparently also not clear in the new regulations how PWDs employed in the informal sector will be catered for.