Disability-Inclusive Education and Employment: Understanding the Experiences of Young Men and Women with Disabilities – UGANDA
- This research explored the lived experiences of young men and women with disabilities in Uganda through in-depth interviews with 32 young persons with disabilities, guided by a youth advisory committee of another 12 Ugandan youth with disabilities. The study included a mix of participants with various disabilities (including physical, visual, hearing, psychosocial, and intellectual impairments), aged between 15-35 years, based in urban and rural parts of Uganda. Participants were purposively selected to reflect varied access to education and vocational training, employment in the agricultural sector, and those with refugee status.
- The youth who attended school experienced a mix of mainstream and special needs education settings. Financial, environmental, and infrastructural barriers were widely reported as limiting access to education.
- Experiences of youth with disabilities during education were mainly shaped by inaccessibility and lack of accommodations that made it challenging for students with difficulties with mobility, seeing, and hearing. These difficulties were countered by support from families, peers, and to a lesser extent, some teachers.
- Most participants took part in informal or formal vocational skill training and apprenticeships. Vocational courses were hard to join due to high costs, and many were often not accessible. The youth narratives indicated low confidence in their abilities, to which some NGOs responded by providing employability and life skills trainings.
- Many participants struggled to find jobs despite having graduated from colleges and higher education. Lack of accessible workplaces and discrimination were cited as barriers in transitioning from education to employment, as well as the need for personal networks to get a job and need for assistive products and accommodations.
- Several participants who had completed or were not in education were engaged in different income-generating activities, including tailoring, small businesses, and in agriculture. Some had formal paid jobs, some were self-employed, while others did unpaid work to gain skills so that they could eventually apply for formal employment.
- In the agricultural sector, youth with physical and visual impairments were often perceived as unsuited to farm-based work. Difficulties in advancing in the agricultural sector included challenges accessing bank loans and owning land. Good practice examples in agriculture included schemes that provide training in basic agricultural skills, business skills, and opportunities to participate in innovation challenges.
- Experiences of refugee youth with disabilities were mostly shaped by discrimination and nondisability specific difficulties such as lacking necessary documentation, language barriers
(including sign language), and low knowledge of support services.
- Access to assistive products and to digital skills training were noted as facilitating factors in education and employment. Support from family members, friends, peers, and community members were also strong enablers of participation.
- Many youth participants had experienced stigma including negative attitudes and stereotypes, bullying, violence and abuse, and discrimination and exclusion in education and employment settings. Drivers of stigma included lack of awareness of the capabilities of youth with disabilities, and misconceptions around disability. The youth saw potential to reduce stigma by becoming role models to their communities. Older youth with disabilities played important and caregiving roles within their families and take up community leadership roles.
- This study also explored the intersectionality of other factors with disability in shaping youth experiences. Youth with more severe impairments experience disproportionate discrimination, and more barriers to education and work. Similarly, the visibility of a person’s impairment can influence how they are perceived and treated by the community. Women with disabilities experience compounded discrimination as both disability and gender carry forms of marginalisation and stigma. Young women with disabilities reported gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health concerns, and socio-cultural expectations.
- The data indicated a gap between young people’s aspirations and opportunities available to them. These were most often financial barriers.
- Recommendations included stronger policy implementation and enactment of laws to increase inclusiveness of persons with disabilities; infrastructural changes and improvement to facilitate reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities; more efforts to create awareness and sensitise communities to address drivers of stigma; and wider range of interventions and financial support options to match the aspirations of young people with disabilities and opportunities
About the Series:
“Disability-Inclusive Education and Employment”
Recognizing that meaningful inclusion for young people with disabilities starts with listening and learning, the Mastercard Foundation developed a research program to map the policy landscape and to hear directly from young people with disabilities.
This research was carried out in partnership with the International Centre for Evidence in Disability at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), the University of Abuja, the University of Ghana, Lifetime Consulting Ltd, Addis Ababa University, University of Nairobi, Global Advocacy and Research Group and MRC/UVRI & LSHTM Uganda Research Group.
Two report series have been developed, covering the Mastercard Foundation’s seven countries of focus – the first on the context, the second elevating youth voices.
Briefs summarizing the key findings of each report have been prepared by Dr. Xanthe Hunt in collaboration with LSHTM and the Mastercard Foundation’s research team.