According to world health organization 2019 2.2 billion people, which represents 25% of the world’s population, have some form of vision impairment. Half of them do not yet have access to services,
80% in Africa alone
It’s estimated that about one and a half million Kenyans are either blind or vision impaired.
Furthermore, Many places within the City of Nairobi and other major towns in Kenya remain virtually and visually inaccessible to disabled persons.
These include restaurants, offices, entertainment joints, offices and health facilities among others.
Such public places; buildings, social amenities and facilities lack disability accessible infrastructure like lifts, ramps and designated parking.
Most entertainment joints in the city and major towns are nowadays located in back streets buildings. This makes their accessibility by the blind a nightmare, more so without the assistance of sensitive well-wishers.
The blind, vision Impaired and other disabled citizens in Kenyas’ fight for their rights has been met with hard resistance, ironically by the very systems that have put in place by the government and non state actors to uphold their rights.
In fact, these systems have disenfranchised the public participation in decision making processes like law making, putting the blind, vision impaired and other disabled at risk of serious injuries in busy public facilities, It’s terrifying, to say the least.
Unfortunately, The blind and visually impaired take risk move around every day in the shared spaces, some being so unlucky to have sustained injuries or killed all together.
It is hazardous even around car packs and buildings entrances.
As a blind person navigating such spaces, you are surrounded by loud noises, and large objects moving around you, always living in fear of getting crushed.
Sometimes you fear that you will get killed on road or car park with people in shared spaces never watching out for disabled persons, especially the blind and vision impaired.
I remember recently, a rogue driver crushed my white-cane; how far do you think the car was, from me?
Additionally, The County of Nairobi designed accessible traffic lights project which hardly meet the universally accepted accessibility measures, the project is a disappointed to the blind and the visually impaired.
Evidently, I tried to engage persons manning one of the trial traffic lights which proved to be futile, owing to the signature bureaucracy perpetuated in the management of county disability affairs in Kenya.
Disabled persons organizations and other stakeholders need to petition the Nairobi county government to ensure absolute access of the by the blind and the vision impaired to exact drop off points.
This will be reduce or avoid all together calamities associated with inaccessibility, and save the blind and visually impaired on the cost incurred in mitigation of the inaccessibility.
It is absolutely sad to note that the Nairobi county government banned the use of motorcycles within the city without providing an alternative for the vulnerable persons, which again boils down to exclusion of the blind in decision making.
This whole state of affair results to most blind and vision impaired persons having additional psychosocial disability, making them feel like second-class citizens.
The Kenya union of the Blind which is supposed to be the chief advocate for the blind and visually impaired persons is now busy creating and promoting “a blind and visually impaired drinking nation”
In the union’s Embakasi headquarters area, they have invested on butchery and a bar.
I won’t be surprised the Kenya society for the blind joining in the same breath since already they have commercialized its premises with garages and restaurants.
the Kenya union of the blind and the Kenya society of the blind have absconded their advocacy role in favor of investment.
The blind and the visually impaired persons in Kenya have been discriminated for far too long. Time is now that they ought to arise and claim their place in the public space.
The blind and visually impaired persons need to lobby policy makers and other community leaders to ensure accessibility for disabled persons is achieved.
The society and policy makers need to understand blindness is also a mobility disability.
The Persons with Disabilities Act 2003 partly states that persons with disabilities are entitled to a barrier free and disability-friendly environment.
The proprietors of public buildings and transport must endeavor to comply with this law, and the relevant authorities need to enforce compliance fairly and objectively.
When shall we ever move from theory to practice?
The views expressed here are those of the author, they do not represent any agency or organization.
Mugambi Paul is a public policy, diversity and inclusion expert.