Diversity Ability Support Network System (Dasuns) is a new web-based app in Uganda designed to promote social and inclusive development through facilitating access to professional assistive support services and technologies to advance rights, choices, and opportunities for persons with disabilities.
Over 6 million people in Uganda are persons with disabilities, and approximately 12 million people constitute their spouses, children, and caretakers. The 2016/17 Uganda National Household Survey (UNHS) report indicated that 75% of persons with disabilities aged 14 – 64 experience difficulties in finding employment and accessing other social services in communities. To some extent, this is attributed to the absence of an effective professional assistive support system, rendering persons with disabilities unable to effectively participate in community life on an equal basis with others.
Persons with disabilities with mobility, communication, or self-care challenges are more likely to be less active in community life if not accompanied by a support person. ‘Support Person’ literally means any person whether a paid professional, volunteer, family member, or friend who accompanies a person with a disability in order to support them with communications, mobility, personal care, or access to goods or services.
Traditionally, persons with disabilities relied on family members to provide support to navigate built environments, or to overcome communication barriers. Whereas this has been promoted with several advantages, it has been largely criticized for a number of reasons. There is no set standard of support that a person with a disability receives from a family member, and the autonomy of a person with a disability is usually reduced as they tend to have no choice and control over the assistance, they require to pursue their life plans, and questions of over protection and conflict of interest often arise.
Furthermore, risk‑avoidance practices of family members often hinder choice and control over cultural and leisure activities for persons with disabilities. Poorer families are subject to intense pressure as unpaid family support affects income levels, social relationships, and the overall well-being of households. It Is also associated with widening the gender pay gap, in situations where women and girls are the main providers of support within households; hence, reducing their freedom and choices to pursue their own life plans.
On the other hand, the involvement of a person with a disability in community life is greatly dependent on the professionalism of their support person. In matters related to employment, for example, a support person must adhere to a specific code of conduct, or possess such skills that promote the effectiveness and efficiency of the person with a disability at work, and to build a sustainable relationship with their employer. These particular skills, however, are never possessed by family members offering support, because they are usually not professionally trained for that.
Several attempts by organizations of persons with disabilities, academic institutions including Kyambogo University, and other stakeholders to build and promote networks of professional assistance support providers have not been so fruitful over the years. Hundreds of qualified support persons such as sign language interpreters are disproportionately distributed in the labor market. Many agencies willing to serve persons with disabilities are disappointed as they are not able to readily identify professionals to enable them to extend their services to the intended beneficiaries with disabilities. Stakeholders have thus, invented a web-based system (Dasuns) to close this gap.
Dasuns aims at facilitating access to professional assistive support services for persons with disabilities through a digitized system that links persons with disabilities (users) to professional support assistants (service providers). Users may also include public or private entities seeking to recruit professional support for their clients/staff with disabilities.
Service users only need to sign up for an account once, log in to the system, and request preferred support service from available professional service providers within reach. Services available currently on the system include international and Ugandan sign-language interpretation, captioning, mobility guide, tactile services, among others. The system provides adequate information about the two parties involved including brief bio-data to enable the two parties to connect.
The development of Dasuns is supported by the United States Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in conjunction with the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI), and Humanity & Inclusion (HI).