Esther Allen Nakamwa will be mentored at the Institute on Disability and Human Development (IDHD) hosted at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) as she works toward developing a project to change employer perceptions of people with disabilities. 

Esther lives in Kampala, Uganda, and has a deep understanding of discrimination against people with disabilities that originates from her own experience. Esther, who has a deformed left leg that limits her walking ability, uses her experiences in life to advocate for increasing opportunities for those like her. She currently works as the principal of Heritage Kindergarten and Daycare and interacting with some of the youngest members of Ugandan society allows her to remain hopeful about the possibility of change and progress. During her time as principal, she has worked to establish a No Discrimination Policy in the workplace, something she also did in an earlier position as Human Resources Manager at Power Trust Uganda, a solar energy service company. Prior to that, she served as a youth coordinator/volunteer at Scripture Union Uganda, one of the country’s leading ministries to children and families.

Esther overcame a lot of adversity from a young age. She was orphaned and forced to become self-reliant far younger than most. Despite these obstacles, she went on to earn a postgraduate diploma in Special Needs Education. She applied this degree to her work as teacher in the special needs department of Scripture Union of Uganda, as well as to her current position as principal of Heritage Kindergarten and Daycare.

Esther identifies the greatest problem in inclusive employment as employers’ reluctance to hire people with disabilities due to the incorrect yet pervasive opinion that they are less competent. Her follow-on project seeks to address this problem by working as a job broker between potential employees with disabilities and the employers who are often hesitant to hire them. Her expertise in the field and strong interpersonal skills will be very useful in working to mitigate the ableist nature of the common workplace.