By Taddeo Bwambale
Lynne Featherstone, the visiting UK minister for disability, has hailed Uganda’s efforts to address challenges of people with disabilities.
In her keynote address at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala, the diplomat said Uganda had played a key role in the promotion of disability rights in the country and Africa.
“Uganda was one of the first countries anywhere to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. You have enshrined the rights of people with disabilities in your constitution, which also recognizes sign language as a national language,” she stated.
She noted that persons with disabilities were well represented right from Parliament to village levels and commended the strong disability movement.
Featherstone, however, said there were challenges in addressing the welfare issues of persons with disabilities as well as discrimination.
“Despite this progress, Uganda still faces a number of challenges when it comes to giving people with disabilities a chance to earn a living and building their own lives,” she said.
She noted that majority of persons with disabilities, especially girls, are faced with unique challenges that hinder their education.
Featherstone is on a three-day visit to see the efforts of Uganda and NGOs in the empowerment of people with disabilities.
She is MP for Hornsey and Wood Green. She is also UK's international violence against women champion.
Featherstone noted that disability was a global challenge, including in her own country where disabled persons are discriminated against and lack access to basic services.
She pledged UK’s support for disability programmes in Uganda and said all schools built with her country’s support will be designed to ensure they are accessible to persons with disabilities.
With the end of Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), she rallied Uganda to take part in the post-2015 framework that seeks to include disability as one of the next global targets.
British Paralympic star, Ade Adepitan, who accompanied her for the visit, appealed to Government to promote sports for persons with disabilities.
“Sports helped me to become independent because I did not want to rely on anyone. Sports can break down barriers to success for persons with disabilities,” he said.
The state minister for the elderly and disabled, Sulaiman Madada said Government was committed to improving the welfare of persons with disabilities by enacting disability laws, establishing social grants, political representation and community rehabilitation programmes.
The MP for people with disabilities (central region), Alex Ndeezi urged Government to integrate disability in all government programmes.