Accessibility and adaptations in farming

Stigma, social exclusion and accessibility are everyday challenges for many people living with disabilities in Northern Uganda, but it is changing, writes Amanda Crookes, Gender and Social Inclusion Coordinator.

Alongside the National Union of Women with Disabilities Uganda, we are working on project ADIMAP to empower 1,800 people in the region with and without disabilities.

This International Day of Persons with Disabilities we wanted to shine a light on how to bring people living with disabilities into the agriculture sector -the largest source of income across rural Uganda. From integrated training in nutrition and agriculture and uprooting prejudices, this blog looks at disability inclusion in a new light and eliminating accessibility barriers is a key starting point.

Addressing accessibility on the land

Everybody is different and therefore every body has different accessibility needs. Providing technical support, the project encourages farmers to come up with their own tailor-made solutions and farmer Francis has done just that.

As a wheelchair user, the traditional farming layout meant Francis thought he’d never be able to participate in farming.

“‘I used to think it was not possible. But through ADIMAP, I have learnt how to make my garden accessible.’”

Francis Nyeko Uganda

Designing the adaptations himself, Francis has set out his gardens with pathways large enough to fit his wheelchair and raised his crops beds so are easily within reach for weeding and harvesting.

Farmers across the project have adapted their tools for weeding and planting, added rams to water points to allow for wheelchair access and brought family members to meetings to act as translators.

“It’s really nice to see people with disabilities and those without working together.”

Francis Nyeko Uganda

With future hopes to keep his children in school, Francis’s active participation has given him a new-found confidence. He’s now the caretaker of the local water point and treasurer at his Self–Help Group, spreading knowledge of farming adaptations to others living with disabilities and encouraging them advocate for attitude change.

Life-changing adaptations in the home

On a recent trip to the Olet Valley in Northern Uganda, the ADIMAP team met wheelchair user Rose, the Vice Chairperson of her local Self–Help Group.

Tangible adaptations made to homes and farms are just the start; with accessibility comes increased confidence and a raised profile in the community. Though, as Rose’s father mentions, she sometimes suffers verbal abuse around the village as there is still a lot of work to tackle stigma and superstition.

Rose’s land is in sight of the house, the door has been widened to allow for wheelchair access and her father accompanies her to trainings. Whilst her neighbour Yolanda has tailor-made stools for her specific needs. Living side-by-side, their distinctive adaptations are an example of the importance of customisation for individual needs.

Another organisation under the National Community Lottery Fund, Light for the World notes, accessibility requirements should to be challenged more generally, as a stepping stone in changing perceptions about what a person with a disability is able to do. Only with these shifts in attitude and representation of people living with disabilities in leadership positions, will communities see growth in group confidence and improved livelihoods.