John Steies

John Steies (Gulu Disabled Persons Union – GDPU): John received his Bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Minnesota State University. At the time of his fellowship John was pursuing a Master’s of Public Policy degree at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs where he also served as president of the student group Dialogues in International Security and Peace (DISP). After his fellowship, John wrote: "I can’t speak enough about the power of people from different backgrounds, and those thousands and thousands of miles away from one another, coming together to collaborate on such a wonderful and worthwhile cause."



A Work (Still) In Progress: Handicap Accessible Toilet Facility

29 Jun

A mural depicting what the bus park toilet facility should look like

Last summer, the GDPU along with the 2012 Peace Fellow Dane, undertook the ambitious task of constructing a handicap accessible toilet facility in the Gulu bus park. I am very familiar with this area, as I happen to live in the bus park during my time here in Gulu. This plan was admirable of the GDPU as the only handicap accessible toilet in the town of Gulu is located at the GDPU office, which is outside the downtown or city center making it difficult for people with disabilities to gain access to a dignified way to use the restroom. with disabilities to gain access to a dignified way to use the restroom.

Ramp leading into the toilet stalls

After receiving funding from outside donors for the project, it was simply a matter of finding a contractor that would do the work in Gulu. After interviewing a few prospective contractors, the GDPU decided on the Ladeka Company Construct to build this handicap accessible toilet for a fee of 6,000,000 shillings or, roughly $2,500. Hope was high as the GDPU and those individuals who would use this facility in the community eagerly awaited the grand opening ceremony which the GDPU now began planning. A process that should of proceeded smoothly culminating in a new toilet facility for people with disabilities, did not come to fruition however.

Bus park toilet stall in disarray

Construction began productively and the timetable was maintained. As the completion date drew near, concerns were raised by the GDPU regarding the concrete slabs that were to be placed over the drainage. Ladeka reassured GDPU that the work was sound and that the slabs would work great for the intended purpose.

Drainage at the bus park toilet site that needs to be covered by slabs so that wheelchairs can access the site

As you can see in the photos, slabs are needed to put over the drainage so that wheelchairs can even get into the toilet facility. The cement was poor and the slabs were already breaking by the time the grand opening ceremony was to be held. In addition, the rooms were built too narrow for those with the bicycle style wheelchairs (see my Straight Talk post for a picture of Billy Chris’ wheelchair) to even get into the stalls. Finally, the seat pans were too low so that if an individual in a wheelchair did get through the entrance, it would be very difficult to transition from their wheelchair to actually sit on the toilet seat to use the restroom.

Another shot of the poor state of the bus park toilet

To make matters worse, after the clear failure of Ladeka’s work was presented to them, they chose to not take responsibility for the poor work for which they were paid in full. However, we are now beginning the process of sourcing for new donors to help finish the project correctly. The new bill of quantity is 5,321,800 shillings or, $2,045. These new and past donors have been contacted to gauge their willingness to see through a project that would provide a sustainable facility right in the town’s center for people with disabilities to use the restroom in a dignified way. I have full confidence that through these sources, we will get the funding for this project and the long-awaited grand opening of the bus park toilet facility will happen very soon. In addition to myself, I know the disabled community here in Gulu certainly looks forward to the day their bus park toilet facility is in full use as the beautiful mural illustrates below.

Close up of the bus park toilet facility mural

Posted By John Steies

Posted Jun 29th, 2013

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