In this week’s PFP-IDE blog, Allan Kabaale from Uganda reflects on his experience as a Professional Fellow in Oklahoma so far.
1. What notable cultural experiences did you have over the past week, and in what ways have they impacted you?
I come from Uganda, where we mainly eat warm natural foods like bananas, cassava, sweet potatoes, beans, and ground nuts among others. Adjusting to the food habits of the USA is a big challenge, although I have been able to overcome it by being open minded to tasting new foods. In this bid to adventure, I have actually found some foods that are good for me and feel like having them often.
Second, I have seen that there are a number of festivities here, especially for children. Parents are very supportive and participatory in raising their children at a higher level than parents in my mother country Uganda. Additionally, parents show a lot of permissiveness to their kids, which is not the case in my country. Back home, kids are often restricted in ways that suffocate their abilities and talents and consequently expose them to regrettable mistakes as they pursue their own initiatives in life.
2. What progress have you made over the past weeks in terms of refining your action plan and outlining a follow-on effort?
I realized that I need to do some interviews and meetings with selected employers and other identified individuals or institutions when I return to Uganda. I plan to do this by organizing seminars and workshops which will engage them. These will cover many subjects, including promoting reasonable accommodations.
I will organize a workshop for employers and persons with disabilities respectively where each will be sensitized on their roles and expectations from different key stakeholders (employers and persons with disabilities). It will be a great opportunity to establish a formidable network on which we shall build other networks and future platforms for promoting inclusive employment of persons with disabilities.
Also, before now I had not thought of the mechanisms or strategies for monitoring and evaluating the outcomes and outputs of my follow-along project. However I strongly believe that I will need an external force in monitoring and evaluation as a strategy to create checks and balances.
3. What things did you learn in your Fellowship over the past weeks that you wanted/intended to learn?
I learned about the managed wellness institute in Oklahoma. This is a program funded by the state to help persons with disabilities access and acquire the relevant assistive devices that are tailored to their disability needs. This fits well in my follow on project, whose key objectives include promoting reasonable accommodations that enable employment of persons with disabilities.
4. What things did you learn in your Fellowship over the past weeks that you hadn’t considered before?
I learned about the terminology of developmental disabilities, which is sometimes generally referred to as mental and intellectual disabilities. I understood the latter term before, but have appreciate the definition of developmental disabilities and different categories better.
I also learned about a program called Sibshop during my site visits in Oklahoma. This program targets siblings of persons with disabilities. This has been very enlightening since in my experience, in most cases we focus on the persons with disabilities directly and/or their parents, especially mothers. However, we tend to neglect the needs and the importance of persons with disabilities’ siblings, with whom they spend most of their time and who can be empowering forces in their lives.
Allan learns about software for visual & hearing impairments in Oklahoma.
I learned about the different software that can be used by those with hearing impairments and those with visual impairments, I was not knowledgeable about the software for sign language interpretation. I also did not know that a laptop or computer can be used to type in Braille.
5. What new connections with people or organizations have you been able to make over the past week, and how will these connections help you advance your Fellowship project and/or work back home?
I thank my host and mentor, Dr. Megan Peters. She ensures that I learn as much as I can by taking me to different institutions, individuals departments and places. She’s always concerned about my comfort, worries and general well-being. She and her husband have devoted their time to ensure that I have a comfortable and joyous experience.