ICT's opening the door to possibilities for PWDs

Bonnita Nyamwire June 2, 2021

ICT has the potential for making significant improvements in the lives of persons with disabilities (PWDs) by allowing them to live independently and enlarging the scope of activities available to them.


On 15th April, a team from Pollicy Uganda shared findings of a study they conducted on access and use of ICTs and assistive devices by PWDs in four districts in Acholi region; Gulu, Omoro, Nwoya and Pader. The launch of the report took place at Hotel Africana in Kampala. The participants were mainly policy makers including government line ministries, organizations of persons with disabilities and companies that procure and sell assistive devices for persons with disabilities.

Gaps of access to ICTs by PWDs highlighted

Key findings from the research indicated that access and use of ICTs and assistive devices is hindered by;

  • Lack of knowledge on availability of the devices on the Ugandan market, as well as those who sell them. In Uganda, there are only two well known suppliers of assistive devices; Enabling Services Uganda Limited and Inclusive Participation Services Limited.
  • Exorbitant device prices: Furthermore, the devices remain costly in terms of affordability and maintenance while others might require access to the internet and electricity in order to operate. Participants were in agreement with these research findings and they believed that they portray the reality on ground.
  • Lack of Data: During dissemination, Sarah Bugoosi, a Commissioner for inclusive education at the Ministry of Education and Sports, noted that learners were more likely to access such devices while at school, compared to when they return home, as most caretakers are unable to afford these devices and additional costs. She also further indicated that lack of data about specific needs of each category of disability is a very big challenge to inform decision making. She noted cases of devices being procured and delivered to schools, only to realise they didn’t meet the specifications of what the learners required. More barriers to access and use of assistive devices that participants mentioned include lack of trained personnel in the country to do routine maintenance of the devices.
  • Funding Gaps: The Commissioner mentioned that the government is supporting some special needs learners who are in school but not all of their needs are fulfilled because of funding gaps. This also means that people with disabilities who are not in school might not be supported. She explained that the ministry has come up with a plan to ensure government activities showcase how inclusiveness for persons with disabilities is being supported and promoted. In addition, the government and stakeholders need to come up with a digital tool that can be used to track routine data on learners as well as a countrywide assessment to establish the digital technology needs of each category of disability so as to enable proper planning.


ICT for PWDs and the Role of the private sector

ICT and assistive technologies were seen as an area that still needs a lot of work to be done and Pollicy was called upon to collect more data in the area of disability and make sure that the research findings are put into practice. Enabling Services Uganda Limited, one of the two companies that import and sell assistive devices in Uganda has a program on adoption and learning - a system where they are designing some devices that are locally produced and sell them at subsidized prices. They are also adapting other learning materials that can provide an all-round function. For instance, a wheelchair could be used for movement but also as a learning tool like “furniture” in class.


ICTs for PWDs and the Role of the government

This project is a collaboration between Pollicy Uganda and the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU) with funding from GIZ and Digital Human Rights Lab (DHRlab). Government is opening doors to possibilities for persons with disabilities by empowering them. There is hope that this empowerment will boost income generation among persons with disabilities thus enabling them to afford some low-cost devices. An inclusive education policy is being developed and the guest of honor said there should be deliberate efforts to fast track the implementation of this policy. But also as a way of ensuring inclusiveness in schools, there is a need to facilitate access of ICT for disability materials that will enable learners to remain in school. Another action point was to raise awareness on the existing policies and strategies across the country.

Possibilities for PWDs through ICTs Report launch

Menya Patrick from the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social development, who represented the State Minister for Elderly and Persons with Disabilities and launched the report suggested that some assistive devices could be made locally in the country to mitigate the high cost of importing them. He hailed Pollicy , NUDIPU and DHRLab for the partnership on this project.

Download the full report here.