SoL to Establish a Disability Support Centre

The School of Law is in the process of establishing a Disability Support Centre that will address challenges of students with disabilities as they pursue their studies in Law School and Makerere University as a whole.

While addressing participants at the close of a training for staff of School of Law and partners held in Entebbe, Dr. Damalie Naggita Musoke said the School of Law has been at the forefront of teaching students with Disabilities and is set to move a step further by creating awareness about the challenges faced by the students with Disabilities in their academic pursuit.

She said the School of Law has initiated a process of mainstreaming Disability issues in the teaching and learning of law and that this was one of the reasons why the training of the staff both Academic and administrative was conducted to enable them appreciate disability issues relevant to the respective courses they teach and the day to day administration at the School of law.

Dr. Naggita who is also the coordinator of the project entitled’ Promoting Disability Rights through Legal Education’ said plans are underway to step up an awareness drive beginning with a Conference on Disability targeting the Academia and other stakeholders in order to generate discourse and seek for solutions for students with Disabilities and the teachers that teach them.

She noted that Makerere University has a Disability Policy but the extent to which it has been implemented is yet to be established.  The University as a service providing entity needs to improve the infrastructure and other services, despite the fact that this is a very complicated field that ought to begin by changing the mindsets of the individuals and the institution as a whole, she said.

Dr. Christopher Mbazira the Coordinator PILAC, through which the project is being implemented said for some time now the School of Law has been serving as a model in handling students with disabilities in the University and some of the products like Muhumuza Boaz have become professionals in the field. He said such students with disabilities that went through the School of Law served as a learning experience leading to the realization that there was an apparent gap in the learning environment in as far as the teaching of students with disabilities is concerned.

Consequently, efforts are being made to address the structural and other challenges with visible efforts like the ramps and wide doors now established in the School of Law. He said the School of law also acquired the JAWs program to assist students with Visual imapirment sit for their exams with support from the said project. The review of the curriculum that is ongoing in the School of Law, he said, is an effort geared towards entrenching the teaching of students with disabilities with stand-alone programs to be taken on by teachers interested in Disability issues but also mainstreamed in all other Law courses.

 The project,“Promoting Disability Rights through Legal Education’ is implemented under the Public Interest Law Clinic (PILAC)funded by Open Society fund is designed to promote disability law and rights in the School of Law, Makerere University. It came up with the realization that although the School of Law, Makerere University is the oldest Law School in Uganda, it had until the commencement of the Project, not taken any steps to incorporate disability law and rights into its curriculum, but focused on modules that prepare students for commercial legal practice.

It was hoped that this would result into changes that will see a legal profession and eventually a judicial system that is schooled and skilled to address the legal and human rights challenges Persons with Disabilities face.  The outcome of the Project was the adoption by the School of a Curriculum on Disability Law and Rights as part of the revised School of Law Curriculum.

Academic staff at the School of Law will be supported to develop papers on disability law and rights and to undertake research on disability law and rights issues.The target for this activity are subject teachers at the School of law interested in conducting research on disability related issues in their respective modules.The outcome will be academic papers that address disability law and rights issues and one that can be used both for academic research and teaching. It is intended that the papers will be of publishable quality, with chances of having them as papers of a special issue of the East African Journal on Peace & Human Rights on Disability Law andRights.

The areas the research covers include are but not limited to the following: Disability rights and judicial processes; Disability rights in health and the law; Corporate/Business Law and disability; Human rights aspects of disability in Uganda; Employment, labour and disability; Persons with disabilities in the criminal justice system; Family law (marriage, succession) the rights of persons with disabilities.