THE New Vision article of September 6, and one radio talk show on the same day focussed on the issue of empowering people with disabilities (PWDs) to fully enjoy their rights as human beings.
Issues of PWDs are no longer articulated like when the UN Convention had just been adopted by the General Assembly.
In addition, in the 7th Parliament, PWDs MPs did a commendable job in making sure the PWDs' issues are discussed and put at the forefront in the country's development process.
The New Vision article clearly stated that "as work on the EAC integration progresses, it is imperative that we take stock of the number of persons with disabilities in order to pro-actively protect and promote their rights."
This should be done across all economic sectors in the region. For instance, it has been said that NAADS does not take care of the interests of PWDs in advancing the development of the agriculture sector.
It is now or never for policy makers in the EAC to take the promotion of PWDs' interests with an affirmative action model similar to the strategy used for empowering the youth and women in Uganda in the 1990s.
It is estimated that PWDs make up between 12-15% of the country's population. Some commentators say this percentage is an underestimation.
It may arise that today many countries in Africa have not fully taken the issues of PWDs seriously in terms of resource allocation and policy formulation because they are such a small constituency of the people who make up the voting blocs for their parties.
During the said talk show, the panelists were in agreement that Uganda needs to carry out a needs assessment to determine how many PWDs do exist in the country and what percentage is engaged in any income generating activity or employed in the formal sector for planning purposes.
Reports have, in the past, highlighted that PWDs in most western countries now enjoy almost all privileges as any other person but here society still views them as people with no substance.
Therefore, within the realms of the Commonwealth values, PWDs enjoy the same rights as any other citizen and this calls for new strategic direction within the EAC to see to it that PWDs are part of the national development frameworks and that there is need to harmonise the laws in line with the UN Convention.
The writer is the executive director, the Commonwealth Association, Uganda