In a bid to professionalise the care given to persons with disability, Kyambogo University in partnership with Light for the World Uganda passed out Certified Professional Personal Assistants to Persons Living with Disabilities (PWDs) on Thursday 10th March 2022. The Certificate in Personal Assistant Services for Persons with Disability course which was introduced last year has since seen 15 students graduate.
Speaking at the graduation held at the university, Dr. Okwaput Stalus, who represented the Dean of Faculty of Special Needs and Rehabilitation, stated that according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (2016), about 4.5 million people in Uganda live with some form of disability and as a university, they are filling the gap that has been existing in the support needs for people with disabilities. “I also applaud Light for the World and Kyambogo University team for designing this course, especially for the emphasis of understanding disability by the students,” Stalus said.
Dr. Niyisabwa Odette Tumwesigye, the Head of the Department of Visual Impairment Studies in the Faculty of Special Needs and Rehabilitation, noted that there was the need for this course because many people with disabilities are using relatives to guide them yet the majority of these do not have specialized skills in the various disability spheres. “There was that gap for example; a person with visual impairment to be guided, one would be pulled like an animal and also wheelchair users were just being dragged yet there are some techniques which are specifically for this,” Tumwesigye said. “Personal Assistance Services go beyond mobility. They need additional skills for example; for a person with visual impairment, the assistant should know some skills in braille. If they don’t, then it becomes a challenge,” she added.
While officiating at the function, Silvester Kasozi, the Country Director, Light for the World, said Personal Assistants (PAs) are part of the daily and professional lives of many people with disabilities.“In Uganda, personal assistants tend to be friends or family of the person with a disability and more often, have limited knowledge of the extent of their role as PAs or their rights and entitlements,” Kasozi said.“The challenge with the current system is multifaceted and affects users of these services, and providers of care alike. For users of personal assistant (PAs) services, professionalization is needed because PAs are often trusted with personal information and there are currently no industry standards to ensure that service users are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.” he added.
In 2019, Light for the World Uganda ran the Disability Inclusion Challenge, “that aimed at triggering individuals both with and without disabilities, NGOs, social enterprises, disability networks, universities, and student groups to bring forward realistic and innovative solutions that stood a chance at promoting inclusion and improving the lives of people with disabilities in Uganda.” Through this challenge, Musa Mwambu, the course vision bearer and the Personal Assistant, Course and Disability Inclusion Advisor at Light for the World proposed a concept involving the creation of a professional industry out of the Personal Assistant service, coupled with a university course and certification done by one of the most reputable universities in the country. Mwambu later partnered with Kyambogo University to launch the certificate in Personal Assistant Services for PWDs. “I have come across personal assistants who lacked the professionalism to provide people with disabilities high-quality support. There is more to it than just pushing a wheelchair or walking with a visually impaired person. I had also heard stories about the rights of assistants being violated and was concerned that they did not have access to information about their rights,” he said.