“We all should have an equal opportunity to make it in life”

Hi everyone, my name is Urban! I am a recent graduate of Business Administration from Kyambogo University. I joined Child’s i Foundation in December 2019 to do my internship, after which I stayed to volunteer and gain further experience.

Today, I work together with my colleagues in the Finance team as a Finance Officer.

Outside of my work I like to spend time relaxing with my friends and family. I am also a huge fan of gospel music and reading books. When I was at university, I played Goal Ball specifically for visually impaired people, but COVID-19 has put that on hold and I haven’t been training for a while.

Me with my Goal Ball team at university

I really enjoy the environment at Child’s i Foundation. I was born visually impaired and I like that I am treated in the same way as everyone else and given the tools I need to succeed. I am thankful that Child’s i provided me with a laptop and supported me to adjust the settings to be able to read the screen. This laptop is dedicated to me and I don’t have to worry about having to adjust the settings again and again every time I use it.

"In celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I would like to share my thoughts on growing up with a disability in Uganda and why I think that disability is not a hindrance in life, but a simple challenge, like any other".

I went to an inclusive school myself and I think that it is very important for children with disabilities to have access to inclusive education and learn together with children who are not disabled.

Whereas in special schools, a person with a visual impairment like myself would focus on learning Braille, in inclusive education, a wide range of options are available such as learning to read by bringing books or computer screens closer to your eyes or increasing the font size. This gives people a better opportunity to find a job in the future, as you are more able to adapt.

Inclusive schools give children the opportunity to interact with others as freely. Children with disabilities need to be seen as capable and equal to others.

Being able to interact with children with disabilities every day, gives an opportunity for a child who is not disabled to understand that disability is simply a challenge.

I remember when I started primary school, some children would not interact with me, they would fear me, but as time went on, they got to know me and accepted me for who I was. Building an understanding is a process, it doesn’t happen overnight.

Having a positive attitude is very important and I would find myself motivating others to keep trying and working hard. Inclusive schools enable children with disabilities to grow with a positive attitude to life.

"When you’re included in all parts of society from a very young age, you feel like you have all that it takes to make it in life. This raises your confidence and motivation".

And a person with a disability, you need confidence more than anything else. Provisions are not always available and you have to find a way to overcome the challenges.

When I was in my lower level primary school, I didn’t have any aids like magnifiers and telescopes to use to read things that were further away and so I would go with the teacher to the chalkboard and keep on copying whatever he would write or I would sit in the front seat and pay attention on whatever he would dictate. This experience only increased my confidence since I would perform better in exams and helped me grow my adaptability.

At university, I met many students who have gone to special schools and I could see they were facing multiple challenges everyday at university. Many young people with disabilities struggle to see themselves as capable. I saw many times my fellow students not applying for jobs because they felt like they could not compete with applicants who were not disabled. This is partly because many employers would see their disability first, and forget about the abilities the person has.

Going to an inclusive school allows you to integrate and adapt to your surroundings, and special schools don’t provide that experience.

Society’s perceptions need to change. People with disabilities are seen as not able to provide themselves and perceived as always reliant on someone else. But, in fact, most people with disabilities, if given a chance, they work just as hard and well as those who do not have disabilities.

Most children with disabilities still don’t get to go to school. Some parents, unfortunately, still see their children with disabilities as a burden, and they will always have to care for them, and that isn’t always true.

Perception remains the biggest challenge because parents see taking their children with disabilities to school as a waste of resources, as they don’t think that they’d be able to find a job anyway. If that’s the attitude you grow up with as a child, the rest of your life becomes ridden with self-doubt.

My parents didn’t have much money and there were times when they really struggled but they wanted education for their children. My dad would tell me every day: “If you don’t go to school, you might as well not do anything else”. He had the desire to educate his kids to give us a better opportunity. That motivation within them is the reason why I am here today. Also, the only sibling I have is my brother and the two of us would always test each other, so I can say I grew up with a good dose of healthy competition.

"I always knew that disability was going to be a challenge and I built up my courage from early on. I knew I was going to be persistent and keep at it, despite how difficult it might get. It hurts me to see people with disabilities being mistreated".

I know each person is in this world for a reason, and we all should have an equal opportunity to make it in life.

To change society’s perception of disability, we need to work together with parents of children with disabilities to change their thinking about the life prospects of someone who has a disability. Parents will be the ones making very important decisions for their children’s lives and it’s important that they are well informed.

Me attending team day with my colleagues at Child’s i Foundation

It is also important for workplaces to run more disability awareness programs on much deeper levels to give people a better understanding of different disabilities, and an opportunity to interact with and get to know people with disabilities.

People need to understand that it’s simply a challenge, an obstacle, like many other types of obstacles in life and that it doesn’t prevent you from achieving your goals in life.

"I hope the next generation of children with disabilities have a self-sustaining life and can compete in all areas of life equally and enjoy their lives as human beings. I want them to have the confidence to push through and believe in themselves".