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Ugandan disabled uses craft skills to earn a living


After completing his studies at a special needs school in Uganda, Simon Peter Lutaaya started making crafts at his family home in Kampala in 2009, and sells to customers.

Lutaaya became disabled when he was a baby after suffering from polio which left his limbs with limited movement.

He says most disabled people find it difficult to get employment in the country, so he decided to use his skills to earn a living running his business.

“I do this art so that I can get money to help myself and my mother, and buy anything which I want,” he said.

Lutaaya makes wall hangings that carry different messages. He often gets commissioned to do custom made crafts for customers as well.

The 27 year old says he has mastered how to sew the nylon mats using coloured threads to create different designs and messages.

When done he takes pictures of his work and uploads the images on social media where clients can place their orders.

The mats sell for between 5 to 12 dollars depending on the work done.

“If you have hands thank God, some parents who have children like me don’t keep them inside and then say my daughter’s hands cannot do anything. No! You can teach them to do anything. Don’t be tough to those children, they can work, they can help you because disability is not inability,” said Lutaaya.

About 2 million Ugandans live with disability according to the country’s ministry of health.

Most physically disabled people also have limited access to education, healthcare and employment and live in poverty as a result.

Lutaaya lives with his mother and other relatives who also help him market his crafts.

“He gets inspiration from God, connected to his work, most of the mottos he does, they are linked with God, with God, with God – tomorrow will be better, he wants to be better each and every day. He is so inspiring, I myself, he inspires me because whenever I look at him, even if I have a problem I am like, it will be solved,” said Norah Nakawungu, Lutaaya’s cousin.

Edson Ngirabakunzi, is the executive director, of the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda.

He says that employers are not doing enough to recruit and retain employees with disabilities in the country.

“Some employers think actually employing a person with disability is more expensive because then you have to buy him a wheelchair, you have to buy him a white cane, you have to buy him this and that but they forget what is critical is whether this guy is delivering the targets they need and doing the job and is productive that is the most important thing. Disability should be secondary in these matters,” he said.

Lutaaya says he wants to inspire other people with disabilities, so that they too can use their creative skills to run businesses in future as well as express themselves through art.


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