The Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) was established in 1979. Following the fall of Idi Amin, GDPU began working to assist people with disabilities access relief aid since they were routinely discriminated against and neglected during this time. After the state of emergency ended, GDPU focused less on access to relief services and developed into a cooperative acting on behalf of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in the district of Gulu. However, their work was disrupted during the emergence of a new conflict in northern Uganda. First led by the Holy Spirit Movement (HSM) and continuing under Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the consistent conflict in northern Uganda worsened the situation for PWDs.
By January of 2015, the leaders of the LRA were arrested, tried for crimes against humanity, and convicted; bringing long awaited peace to the region and allowed for GDPU to resume work with PWDs.
The startup was relaunched in 2015 on behalf of students with a disability for a reason. According to the 2011 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey, nearly 12 percent of all students under the age of 19 had some form of disability. Attitudes towards disability in Gulu can range from indifference to hostility. Patrick from GDPU has said that the Acholi culture can be “hostile” towards disability: “Parents with a disabled child will sometimes pray for the child to die.” Even the local language about disability is seen as insensitive by some people with special needs.