George Okudi has been worked jointly with DSi and Inclusion International (II) for four months on the ‘Listen Include Respect’ project. The project is partially funded by Inclusive Futures, a UK Aid-funded consortium of 16 disability and development organizations led by Sightsavers working to create a future that is inclusive of people with disabilities.

What George says -

My name is Okudi George Basil age 49, born to a family of 10 children and the only one with Down syndrome.

I am a self-advocate from Uganda, a member of DSi’s National Representative Committee and a board member of the Uganda Down Syndrome Association (TUDSA).

I have been working as a fellow for DSi and II in Uganda from October 2020 up to February 2021. We were working on the "Listen Include Respect" project. The aim of the project is to create guidelines for organisations to include people with intellectual disabilities in their work

The work involved research being carried out with people with intellectual disabilities, their parents/family, friends, workmates and colleagues to understand about the barriers people with intellectual disabilities face in working with organisations and what the solutions are.

I was also involved in setting up and facilitating consultation meetings in Uganda. It was research to get individual opinions from people with intellectual disabilities and their supporters. It was a direct question and answer, free and fair to all. An opportunity for everyone to say something to the questions asked without any duress.

There are a lot of barriers in Uganda for people with intellectual disabilities to work with organisations. The consultation meetings raised issues that need to be addressed.

We collectively believe that creating mass awareness about us and our condition to the general public and the employers will greatly help reduce discrimination at all levels.

The derogatory and offensive laws in Uganda such as the Evidence Act of 2006 need to be reformed in line with the CRPD.

Teachers need to be trained on how to handle persons with intellectual disabilities.  The training of teachers at college on few skills on how to handle learners with intellectual disabilities is very vital as it creates teachers who will help learners with intellectual disabilities take part in education inclusively.

Organizations of persons with intellectual disabilities should recommend persons with intellectual disabilities for jobs. Since most organizations and the public has bias and negative attitude towards persons with intellectual disabilities, giving recommendations to as by organizations that work for us will help give additional information about our abilities and competences despite our disabilities.

Provision of subsidies by the government will help facilitate persons with intellectual disabilities start up their own small-scale jobs which will help demonstrate the capabilities of persons with intellectual disabilities. This will in turn motivate other employers and organizations to employ us.

Early intervention by government and other stakeholders is very paramount because it helps facilitate early planning on how persons with intellectual disabilities can be integrated in the society without much difficulty and this reduces discrimination.

One self-advocate in the consultation meeting said ‘in meetings or workshops people always regard our views as useless and without meaning just because they do not give us enough time to develop our arguments’ this implies that organizers of meetings/workshops should insist on allowing persons with intellectual disabilities enough time to say out that which they want to share with the rest of the participants.

It is our plea that the instructions be made either audio or video in nature where we can watch or hear at any time to be able to understand the tasks of the day as opposed to written or speaking at a fast rate.

The meetings showed that some persons were treated badly, roughly by their own family members, others fairly and others well. Others talked how society undermines them, minimized for any kind of work. How society looks at them as people who cannot do anything. Which often makes them unable to work with organisations and earn a living.

My personal observation too is that there is still too much to be done to bridge the gap in the society about people with intellectual disability by continued awareness raising right from the family to the greater society/community to understand and accept people with Down syndrome and believe in them.

It has also been another learning ground for me because it has taught me how to handle people of families like a counsellor where children are accusing them in front of others and educating and teaching families together. Having to understand both sides and settle issues, teaching about rights and respect. The consultation was very productive and educative in many aspects. 

I want to thank Down Syndrome International and the "Listen Include Respect" team for employing me for this project as I have also benefited from the payments I have been receiving. It has been helpful as additional income. 

In this video George and Dominic talk about the 'Listen, Include, Respect' project in an update for the WDSD at United Nations event.

Learn more about our 'Listen, Include, Respect' project:

Listen, Include, Respect