My name is Joel Kawanguzi, and I was a visiting PFP-IDE Fellow from Uganda. I was hosted at the University of Illinois Chicago Institute on Disability and Human Development (UIC IDHD), where I was under the mentorship of Dr. Robert Gould and Dr. Tamar Heller.
Thanks to my hosts Dr. Gould, Dr. Heller and Kaitlin Stober (and Dr. Heller’s family) for helping me get to know how to move around in Chicago through public transport and providing me with warm jackets. Dr. Rob and Kaitlin supported me in developing my Fellowship project and designing strategies to ensure that my stay was fruitful.
I started my Fellowship in Chicago with an interesting lecture on Disability and World Culture by Dr. Gould, which opened up practical solutions on how to address disability community challenges in countries around the world. I was especially interested by the “Twin Track Approach”, which involves looking at your mainstream and special investments to ensure that they are inclusive and do not discriminate.
I also had the honor to serve on a panel with two esteemed disability advocates from different countries – Mizanur Rahman (from Bangladesh) and Kudzai Shaha (from Zimbabwe). Our discussion with Dr. Gould’s colleagues and students in Chicago focused on what it takes to be a disability advocate, the impact of our work, challenges, and how to engage people who are unfamiliar with disability policy to move advocacy forward.
I also visited the Artfully Gifted Foundation, a rehabilitation center and vocational institute that supports young people with disabilities seeking to become entrepreneurs in Chicago. Artfully Gifted was created by Aggie and Therese Manderino. Professor Aggie Manderino is 92 years old and she continues to call upon youth to do what they can to cause impact. She is very passionate about supporting people with disabilities.
I was also privileged to meet Anne Gallerano and Rachel Weisberg, important lawyers at Equip for Equality, an organization that provides legal services, promotes equal access to justice, and sensitizes the public about disability rights. Like in Uganda, in Chicago there is violation of rights of PWDs at work and in the community. There has also been great work to mobilize the police, courts of law and policy makers to support the inclusion of persons with disabilities.
I thank my employer, the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU) for allowing me to participate in this Fellowship, and the Institute on Disability and Human Development – University of Illinois in Chicago for hosting me. I also thank the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) for administering this exchange program and the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which funds the program.