Dealing with a disability: one woman's story about healthcare in rural Uganda
Vicky Acora is a married mother of two. She faces all the usual challenges that women face when it comes to getting sexual and reproductive health services but Vicky’s life is further complicated because she is deaf.
She says the biggest challenge in accessing services is communication.
“For example I come to the health centre, I meet a nurse but how will I communicate with her?
“They speak to me in English but I know Acholi and then there’s sign language which they don’t know. Many times interpreters want money if you are to come with them,” explains Acora.
Vicky stopped education in primary school after both of her parents died at the peak of the 20-year insurgency in Northern Uganda.
Vicky learnt sign language through Gulu's Disable Person’s Union where she is a board member representing Deaf Women. She also went through the Gulu Deaf Association where she learnt how to communicate in sign language.
Acora, first came to know about Reproductive Health Uganda in January this year when she was invited to volunteer to cook for participants at a training session. Then in June, she returned to the clinic to test for HIV.
She says she had previously had a bad experience at a hospital in Gulu when she was seeking antenatal services when she was pregnant.
“When I was pregnant, I entered the hospital, I sat in a queue, and the nurse asked me how can I help you? It was very hard for me to explain. I didn’t know what she was asking. And then the nurse asked what the problem with this woman was."
Her experience at Gulu Clinic, however, was very different.
“They are really most welcoming and they try to communicate even in the little sign language they know. They are really very warm.”
She says she has since been advising other deaf people to seek services with Reproductive Health Uganda.
Through her interpreter Acora said: “I also encourage disabled people who use wheelchairs to come and access services here – not just deaf people.”
Follow a day in the life of our team and clients in Gulu, Uganda
7am: The team prepare for the long day ahead
"Every year tens of thousands of Ugandans come to our clinic. Everyone is welcome. Here are just a few of the people that we served in one day last month."
8am: Nancy, 19, becomes a volunteer
"I was suffering but when I came here, I was treated and I got better. Now I'm inspired to volunteer here"
9am: Monica, 25, a sex worker's story
"I am sex working. I came here for Hepatitis B testing and also counselling. I have so many personal problems, but here….they’re so caring."
10am: Jane, 23, saved by family planning
"After multiple miscarriages, family planning here has helped me a lot. I'm glad we've been able to space the number of children we've had. I am not growing old, I am fresh."
11am: Vicky, handling disabilities
"I'm deaf so accessing services is hard, but here they really try to speak in sign language."
12pm: Dorcus, first time patient
"This is the first time I've ever come here, I like the service. They give good counselling so I recommend coming."
1pm: Christine, 45, a grandmother's tale of living with HIV
"I am living with HIV and had HPV. They treated me and now I'm free of cervical cancer."
2pm: Lilian, struggling mother of six with sickle cell
" I have sickle cell disease and so do all my children. I want to have my tube removed so that I don't get pregnant again but I don't know if my husband will allow it."
3pm: Brenda and Francis get fertility treatments
"Fertility treatment is a sensitive issue in Uganda but they help us a lot and we get proper treatment."
4pm: Joyce, 25, repected regardless of her disability
"I realised that at this place they don't segregate. Us people with disabilities have challenges at the main hospitals. You go there, people around look at you as if you are not a human being and you don't fall sick."
5pm: Mobile clinic provides outreach services to remote villages
"Our outreach to remote communities is a 'one-stop-centre'. We give family planning, vaccines for HPV, malaria, and Hepatitis B, HIV testing and more."
22pm: Still giving the last client our very best
"Together, we have great teamwork. Sometimes we're still working up to 10pm because we never chase out our clients. We’ll never close the place when we have a client inside. People come when they have no hope."