Persons with albinism (PWAs) have been categorised as persons with disabilities (PWDs), giving them the ticket to present contestants for the five special seats in Parliament. PWDs are entitled to five MP seats, but now for the first time, these will include PWAs.
Parliament passed the PWD Bill 2008 on Thursday after a heated debate on how the five representatives would be elected. Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi, the children and youth affairs state minister, hailed the passing of the Bill, saying it will ensure justice, equitable distribution of services and enhance the participation of PWDs in Uganda. Kiyingi said the Bill would see that people with albinism get some services free of charge from Mulago Hospital ensure lotions and sun screens to protect their skin from sunshine.
The Bill lists the disability categories as follows: sensory disabilities, which include the deaf with speech, deaf without speech, deaf blind, hard of hearing, total blindness, low vision (nose readers). The PWDs comprise persons with amputations of one arm, both arms, one leg and both legs. Another category are persons with deformities of the lower limb, upper limbs, shoulders, forearms and hand, club feet, spina bifida, spinal cord injuries, rheumatism and little persons.
The final category is that of albinism. Alex Ndeezi, the chairperson of the committee on gender, labour and social development, presented the report of the committee on the Bill. Ndeezi expressed displeasure with some members of the public who refer to persons who cannot speak as dumb.
“I have a problem with the word dumb. When you say someone is dumb, it means they have no brains. People who cannot speak are deaf, but they can communicate using sign language. I have never met a person who cannot speak but cannot communicate; they can make sounds,” he said.
Jacob Oulanyah, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament who chaired the House, explained that the word dumb was a technical word, legally provided for in law. Oulanyah, however, acknowledged Ndeezi’s concerns.
The Bill spells out the rights of PWDs to enjoy family life, where children with disabilities are not separated from their families unlawfully. The Bill seeks to protect a person with disability from any form of torture, cruel or degrading treatment and discrimination in health, education, sports, culture, employment and transport services.
A person who discriminates against PWDs commits an offence and is on conviction liable to a fine not exceeding sh300,000 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding three months or both. The Bill wants public buildings to be accessible by PWDs and TVs, websites and telecom companies to provide required services for PWDs.
Questions arose on how the representatives of PWDs would be elected. Safia Nalule Jjuuko (MP for Persons with Disabilities) proposed an amendment which was passed requiring the elections to be held through a college with five voters coming from each district countrywide. Oulanyah explained that with amendment, the candidates for PWDs have to be elected through a college at the national level. Edson Ngirabakunzi, the executive director of National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda, said the Bill would enable people exercise freedom of choice.