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2 million visually impaired Ugandans to navigate budget guide in braille

The braille and audiovisual versions of the Citizen’s Guide to the Budget were unveiled

The braille and audiovisual versions of the Citizen’s Guide to the Budget were unveiled

At least two million visually impaired individuals are poised to access the braille and audiovisual versions of the Citizen’s Guide to the Budget, the Uganda National Association of the Blind has announced.

Unveiled last week at the ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development in collaboration with UNICEF, the braille and audiovisual versions of the Citizen’s Guide to the Budget aim to ensure citizens comprehend and engage with the annual national budget, fostering participation in subsequent budget cycles at both national and local levels.

Over the years, individuals with disabilities have encountered barriers to accessing information and services, resulting in marginalization and social exclusion. The absence of accessible formats has compounded these challenges, particularly hindering civic engagement.

According to the 2023 auditor general’s report, Uganda has a disability prevalence of 16 per cent among children, yet school enrollment remains notably low, with only 1.97 per cent of total primary school enrollment in 2023 comprising children with disabilities. Uganda currently has two qualified braille mathematics lecturers at Kyambogo University, along with 24 schools for the blind nationwide and 11 secondary schools for the visually impaired, each equipped with only one braille mathematics teacher for both primary and secondary levels.

Moses Muse Sichei, chief social policy officer at UNICEF, commended Uganda’s steadfast commitment to ensuring equal access to critical information for all citizens, irrespective of abilities or disabilities, through the development of the first audiovisual version of the Citizen’s Guide to the Budget and the consistent publication of the braille version since the previous financial year.

“To promote transparency and accountability in governance, it is imperative to provide clear information through accessible channels and formats regarding the collection and expenditure of national resources. Equipped with accurate and relevant information, citizens can pose critical questions, facilitating and strengthening resource allocation processes across all levels and sectors,” he emphasized.

He stressed the urgent need for action to address challenges faced by visually and hearing-impaired individuals, particularly children, in accessing essential social services like healthcare and education.

He underscored the importance of adequate staffing with the requisite skills and the creation of inclusive learning environments to accommodate learners with disabilities.

Paul Mwanja, commissioner in charge of Infrastructure and Social Services at the ministry of Finance, highlighted the government’s prioritization of the audiovisual and braille versions to cater to stakeholders with hearing impairments, emphasizing their applicability to individuals with visual impairments as well.

“Based on feedback from demonstrations, we recognize the value of this innovation, and indeed, its objectives have been achieved. This initiative goes beyond merely providing information; it empowers individuals to actively participate in shaping their future and that of their communities,” he remarked.

Katalemwa Brenda, a braille proofreader at the Uganda National Association of the Blind, noted the country’s over two million visually impaired individuals and emphasized the significance of inclusivity in providing access to information. She pledged commitment to producing quality braille materials for supported documents and facilitating dissemination to ensure maximum benefit for the intended beneficiaries.

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