Dane Macri

Dane Macri (Gulu Disabled Persons Union - GDPU): Dane studied at the University of Windsor, where he received degrees in the Arts and Science and Education programs. Prior to his fellowship, Dane worked as a teacher and a support coordinator with the organization Community Living Windsor, working with adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. His passions for advocacy and justice have taken him to Haiti and Northern Uganda working in education and various development projects.



WHY YOU SHOULD GIVE A SH#T: ACCESSIBILITY ISSUES FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES IN NORTHERN UGANDA

13 Jul

Why You Should Give a Sh#t: Accessibility Issues for Persons With Disabilities in Northern Uganda

The Royal Throne, the John, the Loo, the Turd Room on the Left…

Whatever you call it, all of our daily routines involve a trip to the toilet because as the profound title of a potty training book for toddlers states, “Everybody Poops”. Our routines are so ingrained that we often do not think of how fortunate we are to be able to do our business in a comfortable and dignified place at almost any time. However our comfortable realities are not universal as anyone with a disability in northern Uganda can attest to.

To give you an idea of the extreme marginalization persons with disabilities (PWDs) face in northern Uganda consider that in the district of Gulu there are roughly 300,000 people and only ONE public accessible toilet for persons with disabilities. Policies such as the 2006 Persons with Disabilities Act and the Uganda National Action on Physical Disability do exist as Uganda is one of the leading countries in East Africa for recognizing disability civil rights through documented policy. However there are extensive and persistent gaps between idealism on paper and reality in inaccessible living conditions. Given that there is only one public accessible toilet in the region it is obvious that filling the gaps between policy and actuality is not number 1 or number 2 on the government’s list of priorities.

 

The ONLY accessible public toilet for PWDs in Gulu
The ONLY accessible public toilet for PWDs in Gulu

 

A typical public toilet in northern Uganda that is inaccessible for people with disabilities
A typical public toilet in northern Uganda that is inaccessible for people with disabilities

 

I would like you to imagine the following REAL scenarios brought about by the pervasive lack of accessibility as I believe our comprehension and compassion for this neglected issue can be greater understood through empathy.

Scenario 1

Like clockwork nature tends to call fairly regularly for you before and after work. For most of us this is hardly a second thought. However in your case there is only one washroom you can use and it is 4km away from your place of work. To answer your body’s calls you make these trips twice a day using a folding electric wheelchair in the form of a hand-pedaled tricycle over bumpy dirt roads. It takes roughly one hour to travel from the washroom to your workplace.

Geoffrey enjoying the game. Geoffrey like many other people with physical disabilities in northern Uganda use a hand-pedaled tricycle to get around
Geoffrey enjoying the game. Geoffrey like many other people with physical disabilities in northern Uganda use a hand-pedaled tricycle to get around

Geoffrey enjoying the game. Geoffrey like many other people with physical disabilities in northern Uganda uses a hand-pedaled tricycle to get around

Scenario 2

Living as a young child with cerebral palsy can provide many challenges for you and the person who cares for you. Your disability severely restricts your mobility to the point where you are completely dependent on your 80 year old great-grandmother for everything, from feeding you, bathing you, even to simply sitting upright. She is unable to afford a wheelchair for you and as a result she carries you on her back. Moreover there is no accessible toilet or accessible toileting device to assist you when you have to use the latrine. It is very difficult for your great-grandmother to carry you to the outhouse and hold you upright while you use the latrine. To reduce these arduous trips you are fed only once a day to reduce the amount you defecate.

Gracias hanging out with her Great Grandma. Gracias is a sweet little girl with cerebral palsy who is being taken care of by her 80 year old great grandmother because her parents viewed her as a curse and abandoned her. Despite everything she's been through Gracias is still a happy child with a infectious laugh that'll make your heart melt
Gracias hanging out with her Great Grandma. Gracias is a sweet little girl with cerebral palsy who is being taken care of by her 80 year old great grandmother because her parents viewed her as a curse and abandoned her. Despite everything she’s been through Gracias is still a happy child with a infectious laugh that’ll make your heart melt

Gracias hanging out with her Great Grandma. Gracias is a sweet little girl with cerebral palsy who is being taken care of by her 80 year old great grandmother because her parents viewed her as a curse and abandoned her. Despite everything she’s been through Gracias is still a happy child with a infectious laugh that’ll make your heart melt

Scenario 3

You are a young and ambitious ten year old who dreams of being a doctor when you grow up. You realize the only way to make these dreams come true is by working hard in school. You enjoy school but you are having difficulties concentrating due to discomfort when you have to use the bathroom. The problem is that the school does not have an accessible toilet to accommodate your needs as you have a physical disability and are unable to walk. The only way you can relieve yourself is by dragging your body out of your chair all the way to the latrine and physically placing yourself over a hole in the ground with your hands. Not only is this unhygienic and degrading but it is also very embarrassing to drag your body up the steps to the latrine in front of your friends and other students. Having to undergo this struggle everyday can become frustrating, sometimes it is just easier not to go to school.

Why you Should Give a Sh#t

Although I only shared three peoples’ scenarios the regrettable reality is that these stories are far too common among persons with disabilities in northern Uganda. They may have been hard to hear and evoked feelings of sympathy, empathy and moral outrage which I believe is indicative of the great injustice taking place. However, the purpose of sharing these stories was not to pity PWDs in northern Uganda. The purpose was to recognize the people behind the stories, their worth, their plight, and motivate us to work together for social change not out of pity, but because our liberation and humanity are bound together.

We all have stories just as we all have human dignity and worth. Unfortunately the platform which we have to share our stories and the corresponding value we attribute to these stories is not equal, as evident by the atrocious inequities and injustices faced by marginalized populations around the world, such as people with disabilities in Uganda. Thus, I urge you to be an advocate and share these stories. Give a voice to the voiceless. It is my hope these stories can serve as a moral laxative and help us to all truly give a shit.

Accessibility for All is an ideal that Denish and Richard hope become a reality one day
Accessibility for All is an ideal that Denish and Richard hope become a reality one day

Accessibility for All is an ideal that Denish and Richard hope become a reality one day

“Our humanity is so beautiful, but it needs to be transformed” ― Jean Vanier

Apwoyo matek and Peace,

Dane

Posted By Dane Macri

Posted Jul 13th, 2013

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