Lack of Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities in Uganda

UGANDA: Majority buildings in Uganda are not fully accessible by persons with disabilities, a report by Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) has revealed.

A person with disabilities climbing the first of at least three flights of stairs to access the polling station at José Martí Technical High School in St Catherine Eastern. (Photo credit: Tyrone Reid/jamaica-gleaner.com)Speaking during the launch of the report on Thursday at Commission’s EOC offices in Bugolobi, research officer Daniel Mabirizi said majority building standards in Uganda do not particularly benefit persons with disabilities.

He said the survey was aimed at assessing the compliance of public facilities to the Building Control Act 2013 and National Physical Accessibility Standards and requirements. EOC is a statutory agency mandated to deal with acts of discrimination and marginalization.

In 2010, the government in collaboration with Uganda National Action for Physical Disability (UNAPID) launched the National Physical Accessibility Standards that were adopted to inform architects and engineers when drawing plans for new buildings. Only plans that adhered to the new guidelines were to be approved.

This was aimed at promoting accessibility to public facilities and services to persons with disabilities, Similarly, Parliament also passed the Building and Control Act in 2013 that requires all buildings to be constructed in line with National Accessibility Standards.

Most of the old buildings in Kampala were supposed to be upgraded to include specific aspects such as signage, ample parking, ramps, squat toilets with grab bars, and tactile markers to guide persons with vision disabilities.

According to the survey, Centenary Rural Development Bank, Mapeera branch is moderately accessible with 64.5% while High Court in Kampala had very limited accessibility with 26.8%. Kiruddu Referral Hospital in Makindye scored 60.2%, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) main building 48.3% and Parliament 63.4%.

According to the survey, the bank has ramps but they are located at the back of the main building or far from the stairs and parking, corridors are wide to allow easy entry for people in wheelchairs while the High Court was described as a hard to access building, as it does not provide for ramps. The stairs at the main entrance do not have handrails and tactile markings.

The commission therefore requires the state and all players in the construction industry to construct buildings and facilities that are easily used by every person especially persons with disabilities.

According to the National Housing and Population Census 2014, 12.4% (about 6.5m) Ugandans are disabled.

Peace Mutuuzo, the Minister of State for Gender tasked all organs in public and private institutions to provide suitable entrance and exits for persons with disabilities and universal designs for public toilets.

Mutuuzo appealed to stakeholders to comply with the legislations, policies and standards for physical accessibility benefits to vulnerable persons or else they risk being prosecuted.

She also revealed that 450 schools that government is slated to build will have designs that will fit persons with disabilities, so that succeed in their special education.

Mutuuzo said she will write to local government, asking them to implement National Physical Accessibility Standards when constructing buildings in the city and Uganda at large.

According to the minister, all industries and factories must be constructed in accordance with the National Physical Accessibility Standards and requirements in the interest of accessing facilities to persons with disabilities.

She said the ministry considers inspecting all the buildings in the country and also review some of those that were constructed and did not capture the privilege of persons with disabilities.

“Buildings which do not consider persons with disabilities are considered incomplete” Mutuuzo said.

According to Sylivia Muwebwa Ntambi, the EOC chairperson, persons with disabilities face challenges in accessing goods and services from public facilities because their architectural designs do not cater for them.

She said the commission has received complaints from the disability fraternity regarding the absence of elevators in public buildings, narrow entrances, lack of ramps and hand rails in storied buildings and narrow corridors.

According to Muwebwa, this contributes to their exclusion and marginalization, adding that this impedes inclusive growth and development as articulated in the NDP II and the realization of the sustainable development goals.

“It is imperative that we take into full account the perspectives and concerns of persons with disabilities as they are economically active and can ably contribute to the country’s development,” she said.

Source: newvision

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