An inspiration to youths with disabilities and able-bodied young people everywhere, the 22 year old Hindu, from Uganda, lost her hearing at the age of 3. Luyinda Hindu Gloria is passionate about societies recognizing the dignity of people with disabilities and allowing them the equal opportunities in employment, leadership, health and education to show their unique talents and competencies. She is making her contribution working with different organisations in diverse roles.
Question 1: We are curious, who is Hindu?
Answer: Am Luyinda Hindu Gloria . I am passionate about Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights. Studying new things enriches me and I love making friends. I am the Chairperson for Uganda National Deaf Youth Section. I work at WEtalk Series Uganda as the Head of Disability Inclusion and a Peer Educator at Reach a Hand Uganda. I graduated in August 2019 with a Diploma in Social Work & Social Administration from Makerere Institute for Social Development. For my primary education I went to Lira Integrated Nursery & Primary School then to Kibuli Demonstration School. Later I joined Kawempe Muslim Secondary School and on to Wakiso Secondary School for the Deaf for my O and A level education. I am upgrading if all goes well. I applied for a degree at Kyambogo University this year but due to the pandemic, I am still waiting for admissions.
Question 2: What are some of the different forms of disability out there and which one do you have?
Answer: There are several but some include vision impairment, deaf or hard of hearing, mental health conditions, intellectual disability, physical disability, albinism. I am deaf.
Question 3: Many of us assume people with disabilities are born this way. Are we correct in our thinking or are there other ways someone can become disabled?
Answer: you’re right but not all persons with disabilities are born that way. I wasn’t born deaf. At the age of 3, I lost my hearing when I was seriously ill from whooping cough. Some people are born deaf, some become deaf due to old age while others become disabled through accidents that unfortunately occur every day here and around the world to anyone.
Question 4: How easy or hard is it, living with a disability?
Answer: I don’t find that much of a problem living with deafness. My family probably has the highest number of deaf persons in Uganda. My mum is deaf too. Sign language and English are our go-to languages for communication at home. Most of my able-bodied relatives know sign language so they are able to communicate with the rest of us. There are deaf persons who find it challenging living with a disability. For some of them, their parents neglect them because they think a child who has a disability is of no importance to them. And they think a child who has disability can’t bring blessings to the family in the future. Most parents when they give birth to a child and find out that the child has a disability, they dump them. There are some children with disabilities who are not studying because parents think children with disabilities cannot read and write or they think they have no future. This is wrong, we the handicapped can do pretty much anything able-bodied people do and succeed. I can write, I can read.
Question 5: In your own view and experience, how common is it for someone with a disability to have close friends and intimate relationships with able-bodied people?
Answer: Intimate relationships are very rare. Friendships are common because persons with disabilities are very friendly. As for intimate relationships either it’s because the disabled person has something the able-bodied person can gain from such as being financially well-off or because this other person just wants to exploit and explore what it feels like to have intimacy with a disabled person. The person with a disability will usually interact and socialise most with family members and those with similar disabilities. This also reduces the chances of us pursuing intimate relationships with others as we are also conscious of how differently able-bodied people perceive us. In relationships, we are often taken for granted and in the long run, just used. There are very few able-bodied people who really mean to love us with no strings attached.
Question 6: What are some of the things people with disabilities wish the rest of the world knew?
Answer: The handicapped deserve to be seen as normal because they could do things like any other person. People with disabilities have faced hardships regarding jobs as they are rejected without being given a chance to prove themselves. The world should give handicapped people a chance to express themselves in accordance with their profession, skills, training and passion. Perhaps each government ministry and company could employ at least 3 handicapped people. The world should know that we have dreams and aspirations like any other person. They should learn to accept us the way we are. They should learn to love us the way they show love to those who are able-bodied. We are all one and came from one God.
Question 7: What are some of the most painful, rude, insensitive or ignorant things you or someone you know with a disability has or have experienced?
Answer: To me, the word kasiru (a Luganda word literally denoting stupidity or abnormality) which some hearing people (able-bodied people) refer to us the deaf. That word hurts a lot. It would be good to say deaf not kasiru. And for some parents dumping a child with a disability, this is wrong. Parents should learn to accept their children the way they are.
Question 8: What challenges and opportunities has the pandemic presented for people living with disabilities?
Answer: First of all the lockdown has affected us a lot, no work, no money. It is hard accessing information about COVID19, or relief. Many now lack formidable sources of income which has affected livelihoods. Children with disabilities can’t benefit from the learning sessions on television as there are no sign language interpreters nor other communication considerations for those with disability. On the bright side though, this period has helped us work from home and spend time with families. Some are spending time learning, reading and using technology which some were not aware of before. Some of us want to know what’s going on worldwide in regards to the pandemic but there are no sign language interpreters on Al Jazeera, BBC, or the CNN. In Uganda, the sign language interpreters are featured only when the president is addressing the nation.
Question 9: When it comes to issues of child abuse, gender-based violence and reproductive health, how are the communities, families and individuals with disability affected and who is most affected and why? Is it the women, children, men, the elderly or all?
Answer: I can’t tell who is the most affected but PWDs have challenges accessing Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights information and services. Communication is a challenge in health centres. Some health centres have no ramp, which would help a person with a physical disability in a wheelchair and there are no sign language interpreters. Some health service providers have a negative perception of people with disabilities. They also ignore the sexual needs of PWDs and deny us access to SRHR information and services. PWDs also face domestic violence in their homes and are rarely helped when they report the issues to the police or local councils.
Question 10: How would you suggest society and the rest of the world show more support and involvement in the care for and support for people with disabilities?
Answer: Employ persons with disabilities, they are ambitious and want to work. They should be given a chance to express themselves in accordance with their field of profession. People should change their attitudes towards PWDs, it should be positive, not negative. Promote social inclusion in schools where children should be taught to freely associate with those children who have disabilities. They shouldn’t laugh at them because of their disability. Promote sign language training in health centres and the police to ease communication for the deaf.
Question 11: What initiatives, projects, campaigns, institutions, and organisations exist currently to raise awareness on issues affecting people with disabilities?
Answer: There are many organisations like UNAD- Uganda National Association for the Deaf. UNAB- Uganda National Association for the Blind. UNAPD for people with physical disabilities. UAA for those with albinism. Every year we celebrate International Deaf Awareness Week to create awareness about the deaf community and our rights. Those with blindness, physical disability and albinism have their Awareness Day celebration. During this pandemic, LDU shot one deaf boy in Northern Uganda. He was moving at night during the curfew. An organisation called NUDIPU helped to create awareness about PWDs since we had been forgotten. Light for the World is an international disability and development organisation whose vision is an inclusive society where no one is left behind. It has a project that aims at bringing together key stakeholders to create enabling conditions for inclusive economic growth and allowing persons with disabilities to fully access the job market. They are triggering private sector and civil society actors to open employment opportunities to persons with disabilities. National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU) is an umbrella organisation with a vision of having dignity for every person with disability. It exists to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities in a unified voice for improved livelihoods. This is pursued through participation in policy planning, information sharing and optimising knowledge and skills inherent among stakeholders, capacity building, awareness enhancement and resource mobilisation.
Question 12: How have you positioned yourself to help those living with disabilities and the rest of society before and during the pandemic?
Answer: I joined a Peer Educators Academy in 2018, the academy is about training youth in Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights. I was one of the first disabled persons to join the academy sponsored by Light for the World. After the academy, I encouraged other youths with disabilities to join the academy which is every year in the month of January. I encourage them to join because I want them to get the knowledge and share with other youth with disabilities. Where I work, at WEtalk Series Uganda, as a Head of Disability Inclusion, my role is to make sure youth with disabilities are fully involved in the programs.
Question 13: Any outstanding person, team or organisation to applaud for how they have impacted you or what they have done or are doing for people with disabilities?
Answer: I am grateful to Light for the World for sponsoring me to join the Peer Educators Academy organised by Reach a Hand Uganda. I would also like to thank Reach a Hand Uganda. During their Peer Educators Academy, I learned a lot, built my confidence, learned to be free with able-bodied persons, became more knowledgeable about SRHR. At WEtalk Series Uganda I have been given the opportunity to work as part of an amazing team. Initially, I feared working with those without a disability, however, I have managed with time and grown comfortable around others.