Quest for access to technology for disabled Kenyans.

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According to the “World report on disability-2011” by the World Bank and the World Health Organisation, there are 1 billion persons with disabilities worldwide,
who constitutes 15% of the total global population. Of them, 80% live in developing countries and almost the same percentage live in extreme poverty conditions.
Persons with disability (PWDs) exhibit the lowest health, education and economic outcomes. Our own home Kenya isn’t far behind with over 1.5 million persons
with disability according to Kenya population census 2009.
Of which is a disputed figure by the Kenyan disability movement who claim it should be 6 million.
With poor implementation of Kenyan Government policy and little access to affordable assistive technology solutions,
disability has grown to be a largely unaddressed social challenge in Kenya.

One of the main facets of an inclusive society is equality of opportunity for all citizens – access to the same public resources and similar facilities.
However, in the case of persons with disabilities in Kenya, achieving this equality is a road paved with challenges.
Accessibility in general refers to the ability
of people with disabilities (PWD) to access products, services, environments etc. in their day to day life. With the global shift to “digital”, this accessibility
gap has further widened. Technology can be a powerful enabler for them to overcome their physical limitations. Over the last few years, technology solutions
like screen reading software, wheelchairs, walking aids etc. have helped assist PWDs in leading an independent life and aided their livelihood opportunities.
While technology advancements continue to be beneficial most such innovations originate in the western world and have not developed with affordability as a critical factor.

In recent years there has been a lot of momentum in this sector with organizations working towards both technological solutions and grass-root implementation.
It is heartening to see them bring such energy and passion instead of the neglect it has faced for decades. In Kenya too, there is growing awareness towards
the rights of persons with disability. Recognizing the fact that inclusion of persons with disability can be the cornerstone of a truly inclusive Kenya,
And then, well, there are those other people. People who don’t know, don’t care, or know but don’t want to care, or don’t know and don’t want to know,
at all.

Maybe it’s because I am not a developer but I just don’t get it. I don’t understand why some refuse to take accessibility seriously or even want to tackle
it. I’m just a Policy strategist and inclusive practisioner so maybe I just don’t get how hard it is to sit in a chair and write code additions or substitutions or listen to feedback
or anything.

The thing is, though. That goes both ways. I don’t understand what they go through but they also don’t have a clue what access means to me, either.

Sighted developers don’t have to think about if an application is accessible to them. They don’t have to wonder if they can use all parts of the website
or software. They can interact with everything on the screen and can use anything and everything. To them, the possibilities are limitless.

The thing is though; people should take accessibility and access design more seriously. Blind people will try your application and website. In most cases
if they can’t use it they will instantly remove it and warn other screen reader users of the application and then many more will avoid it. There are those
cases though where friends of ours use these apps or companies use them and we’re in this company. What then?

Most try and write to the developers politely. Despite what everybody thinks blind people do have lives and even technology related jobs now. The internet
has changed the employment landscape for us.

Most of the time, however, we get a general, oh sure. We are totally working on it, but can you please go the hell away and never bother us with this “feature”
It happens all the time. it continues to happen. It still confuses me… it confuses me that people think access is a feature, like picking a shoe color
or a type of laptop. I don’t get it. Then again, I am not sighted.
No wonder many Kenyan government and private sector websites are not accessible and when they request for job application they do not even recognize braille as a means of communication.
This sighted world should understand most are heading to be Blind!

my Dream is that the Kenyan government will one day launch the Accessible Kenya Campaign through the ministry of information and technology.
Ask us and we shall show you!
Paul Mugambi is a senior policy consultant and commentator on social public discoes.