- April 22, 2020

This is one story as part of the Voices of People with Disabilities during COVID19 Outbreak series

This is an evolving story and we will provide more updates when we receive them.

On 30 March, the President of Uganda declared a nationwide curfew from 7 pm to 6:30 am, which would run for 14 days to prevent the spread of the disease.

Oloya Willies, a 25-year-old deaf man was heading home on the 7th of April 2020 when he was confronted by the militarised local defense unit (LDU's, as they are popularly known in Uganda). They tried to stop and communicate with Oloya, but he was unable to understand nor respond to what was being said to him. They decided to open fire against him, shooting him several times, which resulted in his leg being badly injured. He was taken to the hospital and three days later, the doctor informed that his leg was to be amputated because the main muscle had been severely damaged. “I am not feeling well, the pain is too much to bear and so is the psychological trauma to cope with this new situation”, he says.

 This happened shortly after the curfew was declared in Uganda. Oloya lives in a remote area, in a typical village where access to information regardless of its nature, either radio or TV, is near to impossible. Oloya was unaware of this situation due to the lack of accessible official information regarding COVID-19. “l don't have a single information about COVID-19, I was not told about it”, he says. There are many other deaf persons in the region who do not receive the COVID-19 messages either. More often than not, information is not in accessible formats and lack sign language interpretation and subtitles. Oloya means of obtaining information involves the use of a radio and the help of an interpreter but this service is often lacking and unavailable. Currently, accessible information remains a challenge and non-existent in government dissemination plan.

After this incident, a campaign on Twitter under the hashtag “#DeafJusticeCampaign” was spontaneously launched, following the inhuman way in which Oloya Willis was treated. Oloya requests government assistance to clear hospital bills and obtain an artificial leg. He is also calls for help for his father, an illiterate man who has now become his primary caregiver. “I want the world to know that my rights and that of other persons with disabilities who live in rural areas are being violated every time and when that happens, getting justice remains a challenge”, he says.

16.5 percent of the total population of Uganda are Persons with Disabilities according to Uganda Functional Difficulties Survey report (2016), many of them living in rural areas. The disability community is pleading the government to consider including organisations of persons with disabilities on the different COVID-19 task forces to safeguard their rights and enable equal distribution of resources during the lockdown. “If the government wants to give us any information, they should use a channel through our organization of persons with disabilities. We understand each other better with the staff or are used to do so with local social trained community workers, they have knowledge of persons like me living in rural areas”, he says. National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU) in conjunction with Uganda National Association of the Deaf (UNAD) have called for a press statement to shed light on the plight and the situation of persons with disabilities in Uganda during the COVID-19 response.