Inclusion of PWDs - a responsibility for all

Bonnita Nyamwire April 6, 2021

How can we actively enhance participation and engagement of PWDs in everyday life and go beyond policies and regulations to being heard, seen, and involved? - by Sandra Nabulega and Bonnita Nyamwire


Disability is an asset, an inability to do something. It is not because of the inherent inability to participate - rather it is because of barriers to the individual’s ability to fully participate. Inclusion goes far beyond policies and regulations to being heard, seen, and involved. It is intertwined with feelings and emotions when an individual can actively participate and engage in the spaces they are part of.

Barriers for Persons with Disability in Uganda

In Uganda, an estimated 12% of the population have a certain form of disability, ranging from limited use of limbs, spine injuries, hearing difficulties, seeing difficulties, and mental retardation. For some, the disability is congenital, while for others they are acquired later in life as a result of diseases/illness, wars/civil conflict, motor accidents, aging, poverty and malnutrition. Disability can occur at any time in life either temporary or permanent, also a person can have more than one disability.

People with disabilities face multiple and intersecting types of barriers to everyday activities: they are the most marginalized and socially excluded groups in many communities. This marginalization transcends several spheres and harms their physical, economic, social, and intellectual development and well-being. Many people with disabilities do not have access to basic needs such as health, education, and experience multiple deprivations even within their own families. Additionally even those with access to these basic needs find a hard time navigating the existing physical and social structures which are not inclusive.

Gender and Disabilities

At the intersection of gender and disability, women and girls with disabilities face the same spectrum of human rights abuses compared to non-disabled women and this magnifies their marginalization at the hands of the general society, family members and personal assistants. Society mirrors them as helpless, worthless, and seldom subhuman, and almost deserving of abuse. Their capabilities are always questioned making them the easiest targets for gender-based violence, sexual abuse, neglect, maltreatment, and exploitation. A survey by Human Rights Watch shows that more than one-third of women with a disability in Northern Uganda had experienced sexual abuse.

The perpetrators are often people known to the person with disabilities like partners, family members, friends, acquaintances, or caregivers. These abuses go unreported because of the dependency on the abuser. One of such cases wasreported by a Uganda daily: the Daily monitor wrote about a twenty two year old who was assaulted by her teacher at an NGO-funded vocational institute where she was studying to become a fashioner designer.


A responsibility for all

We can change this narrative. Stepping up for inclusiveness means systematically addressing the barriers faced by people with disabilities in everyday environments. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which is not only an instrument for persons with disabilities but a living document. It spells out the overarching need to strengthen responses against exclusion, and segregation and illustrates that reaching the furthest behind first is the key to leaving no one behind. Everybody around people with disabilities can help them achieve inclusion and participation in society activities and development as well as exercise their human rights. We can be involved by ensuring that even the basic services are accessible and accommodate them. We must make sure

  • physically space is accessible,
  • PWDs are respected,
  • materials PWDs are to use are shared in multiple ways to accommodate them,
  • that we encourage PWDs to have roles similar to their peers, who do not have a disability.

PWDs are mostly creative and innovative

They wake up every day thinking about new and innovative ways of doing things because of the inherent need to maneuver through their environment. They have the potential to contribute and add value to society but for them to really embrace their own disability in a positive way and see it as an asset, we need to fix the system on both the technical and adaptive level, and we need to make it inclusive. Unless we factor in disability inclusion across all sectors, we are losing out, everyone is losing out.


The inclusion of people with disabilities should not be seen in the lens of a charity based perspective but as a human right and value-based perspective as well as the only way of achieving the 2030 Agenda’s fundamental vision for a future that “leaves no one behind.”

By advocating for disability inclusion, you are advocating for your future self.