The country of Uganda has a remarkable legacy of disability work. From the national level, it enshrines in its constitution the right to sign language and supports the right of disabled people to participate in community development (Uganda 1995). It has committed to inclusive education and has made significant efforts to include persons with disabilities in government structures. At the district and local level, there are specific initiatives aimed at supporting social inclusion. These include the Special Disability Grant and the Expanding Social Protection Programmes, which is one of the flagship programmes under which poverty reduction strategies are implemented (Uganda 2010:54).
At the community level, specialized disabled groups have been formed and they operate as advocacy bodies for their members. These groups have established an active presence on the regional and international scene. For instance, Deaf Link Uganda is an organization that works with the deaf and hard-of-hearing population to improve their socio-economic opportunities. Its goal is to eradicate traditional prejudice, reduce social isolation, and empower the community to participate fully in national development.
However, despite Uganda’s progress in disability issues, the country has faced several challenges to its disability journey. A major challenge has been the lack of a dedicated budget for disability interventions at the local and national levels. Many initiatives have been funded by donor agencies. This has made it difficult to keep up with a changing funding landscape and the different needs that emerge over time.
A further challenge is that many existing initiatives do not have the capacity to deliver the services needed by persons with disabilities. This is a result of the fact that the majority of disability organizations are small, with limited resources. This often leads to insufficient and/or inconsistent quality of service delivery.
The above points have made it necessary to create a new and comprehensive approach to community development for disabled people in Uganda. This is a model that seeks to promote holistic development for disabled people by working with the whole family, including siblings and extended families. In addition, it also involves community and civil society stakeholders as key partners in the process of improving access to education, health, employment and care for disabled children.
Much of the disability research in the Global South takes place in urban settings with a focus on institutions, organizations and activities. This study is different because it explores the experiences of rural families with a member who has some form of disability and considers how their everyday lives interact with these broader policy contexts. In doing so, it attempts to capture the complexity of life with disability by describing one disability world. It aims to challenge the narratives of a “one size fits all” model. It is not a comprehensive account of the disability experience in Uganda but it is a snapshot of the complexities of daily life with disabilities in Uganda. The study also provides a glimpse into the ways that a disability perspective can enhance and deepen the understanding of these broader issues.