Hisayo Answered Questions
A university student found this blog site and turned to me with some questions for her research. I thought of sharing my answers with wider audience. • Given your experience working in Uganda, how do you judge the effectiveness of the government's policies concerning the rights and needs of PWDs? In my opinion, using the "effectiveness" measure is not quite correct for any intervention in the field of disability due to the history of profound discrimination against many persons with disabilities. Any single intervention cannot make significant change not due to ineffectiveness of the intervention but due to such historical factor in terms of both disabling environment and consequently under capacity of persons with disabilities, both of which make it difficult to create quantifiable positive impacts. In this sense, this question is somehow out of the context perhaps, particularly when “persons with disabilities” are not monolithic but heterogenic, while rights are many. Having said that, if I dare to answer your question, those persons with disabilities who had been more empowered have benefited from a number of government policies, such as affirmative action policy. For instance, political representation and higher education have empowered as well as mainstreamed a number of persons with disabilities. • What role do you believe disabled people's organizations play in effecting change in the lives of PWDs in Uganda? Again, as persons with disabilities as well as DPOs are diverse, generalizing question as this one is a bit difficult for me to answer. It would be easier when both “persons with disabilities” and “DPOs” are more specific, because different DPOs play different roles and even the same DPO could play totally different roles for different persons with disabilities under different conditions. For instance, some receive essential assistive devices from DPOs and thereby improve their quality of life to a great extent, whereas others get more moral and psychological support from peers. It is difficult for me to say what is more important role. However, in general, Northern actors tend to believe in the role of advocacy or watchdog as important, while Ugandan persons with disabilities expect the role as service providers. In reality, I have observed that Ugandan DPOs play multiple roles for meeting different needs of their constituencies and for making positive changes in their lives. • What do you think are the greatest challenges facing PWDs in Uganda today? Different persons with disabilities face different challenges depending on their situations, capacities, personalities, environments and so forth. Some told me that the greatest challenge is to pay for school fees for their kids, while others claim lack of information is, particularly for deaf and blind people. By answering your questions, I feel that perhaps the biggest challenge facing persons with disabilities in Uganda today is that their heterogeneity has not been fully understood by many. They are, for instance, mothers, daughters, caregivers, breadwinners, women, and/or wives, as well as women with disabilities. Many of women with disabilities face similar challenges as other mothers, daughters, caregivers, breadwinners, women and/or wives, in other words. For instance, illiteracy is not only a challenge exclusive to persons with disabilities. Even some persons with disabilities do not perceive to face a big challenge depending on their capacities, personalities and/or environments. Having made my point clear, if I dare to answer your question in a general term, challenges are many such as prejudice, low expectation, lack of accessibility, lack of medical treatments and services, malnutrition, neoliberalism to name a few. • How do you believe accessibility to resources, facilities, and information for PWDs relates to Uganda's overall development? When they are secured for Ugandan persons with disabilities, I believe that its impact to the overall development is significant. Statistically, persons with disabilities are a big part of the total population (15% by the latest World Report on Disability by WHO and WB) and when their family members are also taken into account in this discussion, it is not too difficult to imagine how big impacts uplifting of persons with disabilities alone could make for the whole country development. Moreover, universal design is for everybody including persons with babies, elderly, and those who are temporarily injured or could potentially become disabled at some stage of lives by accident or by age. The whole population, as a result, would benefit from secured accessibility. • Are there any strategies or initiatives that you believe DPOs should be implementing, but currently are not? It is difficult for me to generalize DPOs and persons with disabilities once again. When statutory and international services and interventions are non-existent or extremely limited, many DPOs are expected to play many roles to fill the huge gaps. For many persons with disabilities, DPOs cannot change their lives dramatically due to disabling environment and their under capacity. DPOs are only part of the society and DPOs alone cannot make big impacts when other actors both locally and globally continue to exclude persons with disabilities. Thus I believe not only DPOs but all actors should be inclusive and keep dialogue and negotiation among us to make eventually equal society for all.