Many people with disabilities face barriers in accessing health services, which is why accessibility and inclusivity are at the centre of Sightsavers’ eye health programmes.
In Uganda, we work alongside organisations of people with disabilities to ensure that people with disabilities can access quality eye care. This includes increasing awareness of the services available and dismantling the barriers that can prevent people from accessing health care, such as inaccessible health facilities and a lack of knowledge from health care workers.
Here, three people share their stories about the impact that our inclusive eye health programme has had on their lives and work.
“I am a doctor and I have specialised in ophthalmology. I’m the only ophthalmologist in Karamoja sub-region in Uganda. Before I came, there was none. Karamoja has a population of around 1.2 million people and the catchment area is approximately for 2 million people. I have a lot of work so generally, I am everywhere!
“I’m the kind of person who really loves to work. And now I am very proud to be an ophthalmologist, and impact people’s lives.
“Sightsavers have really helped me learn. When I did the accessibility training, I must confess that I was really naïve in many areas. I didn’t even know what accessibility really meant. But during the training I realised that I was actually playing a big part in people not having accessibility, especially people who come to me.
“The accessibility training opened my eyes to many things and actually does make me a champion now. In my hospital, we have many new buildings being built but people did not understand why I was so interested in the size of the ramp, its height and the disability toilet. For a newly constructed ward, I was just very aggressive and like this ramp is so high, this is not going to fit a wheelchair. This reception table is so high, that kind of thing.
“I’m really knowledgeable about accessibility things now; I really enjoy talking and looking at the details. And it has not just stopped at the health facilities, as when I’m visiting my friends, I’m like, ‘Your home is not accessible.’”
Napelekori has a physical impairment that affects her mobility, and she moves around by crawling. Before she heard about Sightsavers’ inclusive eye health project, she also had cataracts in both eyes. This meant that she couldn’t see any unpleasant or dangerous objects on the ground. She needed support from other people to get food, to move around safely and to collect her social assistance grant for older citizens.
Listening to a local radio broadcast one day, Napelekori learned about the eye health project and went to have her eyes examined. She was diagnosed with cataracts and received surgery, which has greatly improved her independence.
Napelekori can now move around safely, socialise, cook, clean and collect her social assistance grant. She’s excited that she can see clearly to grow food in her garden.
Napelekori is overwhelmed to have her vision back: “I can say, I am alive again.”
“I’m studying ophthalmology on a scholarship supported by Sightsavers. I have been doing my masters for two years now, but before I started this training, I was working as a general doctor.
“I think there’s a really big gap when it comes to people with disabilities or people from marginalised groups accessing eye care. There are very few places you can find parking – even parking for people with disabilities. We now have ramps, but not all have rails. There is no braille on the eye drops we give to patients who are blind.
“So with low vision internationally and nationally, we still have a long way to go. I don’t know of any place of employment that has made adjustments for people with low vision to be able to work there. It’s really challenging. I think it’s something we are struggling with.
“People should not be limited by their disabilities, yet they are not given a chance at independence.
“Sightsavers said: ‘Let’s provide equipment and let’s find the doctors who can provide this care right.’ That’s the main goal of the project: to develop eye care in the country.”
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