My way or your way!
Poem
Mugambi Paul
As You Travel Through Life…
As you travel through life there are always those times
When decisions just have to be made,
When the choices are hard, and solutions seem scarce,
And the rain seems to soak your parade.
There are some situations where all you can do
Is simply let go and move on,
Gather your courage and choose a direction
That carries you toward a new dawn.
So pack up your troubles and take a step forward –
The process of change can be tough,
But think about all the excitement ahead
If you can be stalwart enough!
There might be adventures you never imagined
Just waiting around the next bend,
And wishes and dreams just about to come true
In ways you can’t yet comprehend!
Perhaps you’ll find friendships that spring from new things
As you challenge your status quo,
And learn there are so many options in life,
And so many ways you can grow!
Perhaps you’ll go places you never expected
And see things that you’ve never seen,
Or travel to fabulous, faraway worlds
And wonderful spots in between!
Perhaps you’ll find warmth and affection and caring
And somebody special who’s there
To help you stay centered and listen with interest
To stories and feelings you share.
Perhaps you’ll find comfort in knowing your friends
Are supportive of all that you do,
And believe that whatever decisions you make,
They’ll be the right choices for you.
So keep putting one foot in front of the other,
And taking your life day by day…
There’s a brighter tomorrow that’s just down the road –
Don’t look back!
You’re not going that way!
KGT its my home!

People with severe mental illness left behind in Disability sector in Kenya Author Mugambi Paul

According to the WHO 15 % of a population are persons with disabilities.
Yet many persons with severe mental illness are not yet recognized by different government service providers in Kenya.
Many persons with severe mental illness are treated us outcast and negative perceptions compound this group. While significant advances have been made in Kenya over the past 5 years to address the stigma associated with high prevalence mental disorders
such as depression and anxiety, people living with complex mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder still report experiencing high levels
of stigma and discrimination.
According to bloggers with severe mental illness and concerne advocates many are sent away when seeking to be registered or acquire government documentation.

Lots needs to be done in order to ensure persons with invisible disabilities are registered and not denied opportunities.
disabilities
the disability persons organization and stakeholders working on the mental illness need to streamline the registration assessment processes.
This is needed to prevent thousands of people with psychosocial disability
– those with a functional impairment stemming from serious mental illness – being left without appropriate support.
More commitments need to be made by the Kenyan government especially by having an updated
Mental health act and development of regulations.
Both county and national government need to commit that that no one will be left behind. People with severe mental illness and their families who are yet to be registered
need some assurance, sooner rather than later that they will have opportunities to participate in the disability related services.
As a public policy scholar, I o opine that There have been long-held concerns that people with severe mental health issues were falling through the gaps of the disability sector. Moreover, the psychosocial organization need to take lead and ensure malpractices are waded out. This is by way of helping in developing eligibility requirements for registration etc.
This can be done by empowerment of county organizations and the self help community groups.

The mental illness organization need to enhance their advocacy role.
This is by taking the advantage of the international disability agreements like the UNCRPD and closer the African protocol on persons with psychosocial disabilities.

All in all Of course, reducing stigma and discrimination is only one step towards ensuring that all Kenyans experiencing mental health issues have the opportunity

for a long and fulfilling life.
Mugambi Paul is a public policy and diversity and inclusion expert.

Joy and pain of raising a child with cerebral palsy By a Guest author: SIMON MBURU

When Susan Nyambura’s son was diagnosed with a developmental disorder immediately after birth, her husband abandoned them. Six years later, she soldiers
on.

“My name is Suzan Nyambura. I am a mother of a six-and a half-year-old boy. I still remember how my then-husband and I had eagerly waited for the birth
of our son, Gabriel Kamonzo.

In fact, the sheer ecstasy that overwhelmed me when I first took a pregnancy test and got positive results in early 2012 is still deeply etched in my mind.

I had a smooth pregnancy up until I went into labour that September. I checked in at a private hospital in Mombasa for delivery.

By then, my water had already broken. I was immediately admitted to the hospital’s maternity wing. Over the next two days, I underwent an extensive and
excruciating labour process.

WORRY, PANIC

The doctors examined my birth canal and concluded that I had not dilated enough. At some point, I requested for a caesarean delivery. But my request was
turned down. The doctors said I was not an emergency case.

I seemed stuck in labour. Painful but unfruitful contractions kept coming and going. But eventually, on September 12, I gave birth to a bouncing baby boy.

Seeing my baby pop out erased all the pain, struggle and shame that the labour and delivery process had bestowed on me. Tears ran freely down my cheeks.
At long last, here was my beautiful God-given son!

This joy, though, did not last. In fact, it ended as soon as the doctors started to examine my son moments after birth.

Instead of a sigh of relief and congratulatory glances, I saw worry and panic on their faces. Their facial expressions betrayed their concern that something
had gone wrong.

EXAMINATION

Then it hit me like a thunderbolt. My son had not cried upon birth! Although I was a new mother, I had heard that newborns were supposed to cry once they
popped out.

Failing to cry was an indicator of a defective birth process. I desperately tried to inquire what was wrong. But I was reassured that all was well.

I was told to stay put and wait for my episiotomy stitches. This was really the least of my concerns.

Later on when I left the delivery room, I was informed that the doctors had taken my son to the nursery, where they were examining him.

They found out that Gabriel’s neck was abnormally weaker. This was compounded by his failure to breastfeed when they brought him to me.

Over the next one week, I fed him on glucose and warm water while the doctors sought for a diagnosis to his problem.

DIAGNOSIS

On October 7, 2012, I was transferred to Coast General Hospital. By then Gabriel was 10 days old.

The doctors recommended that we observe him over the next three months and see if his neck would firm up. But it didn’t.

By the third month, I took him to Kenyatta National Hospital, where he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. This is a medical condition that affects a child’s
muscle tone, movement or posture.

It is caused by brain damage that occurs before or during a baby’s birth, or during the first three to five years of a baby’s life. This diagnosis left
me utterly terrified and confused.

My baby was so tiny and helpless! Yet, the more I inquired about his condition the more scared for his life I became.

I was afraid that he would develop breathing problems, have no control of his bladder and bowel movement, and drool throughout the rest of his life.

ABANDONED

Perhaps I would not have worried too much if someone had held my hand and told me that it was all going to be okay.

But there was no such person I could have leaned on! Friends kept away, and some of those who reached out claimed that my baby was cursed, and that I needed
to take special prayers and cleansing to cast out whatever spell had befallen him.

The most disheartening of all was the abandonment by my baby daddy. He said Gabriel was not his son.

Although I had named my son after his father, he completely rejected him after the diagnosis.

He claimed that he could not have fathered a child with such a disability. Over the next few years, I tried to reach out to him because I wanted my son
to have a father in his life. But he shut us out completely.

#TOUGH TIMES

It is now six years since my son came into this world. We are still on the recovery journey, but raising him has not been easy at all.

There are some days when his condition becomes too overwhelming for me, especially when he is unwell.

I cry a lot and at times question God on why my little boy has had to suffer so much. It really breaks my heart when I see him struggle to meet basic development
milestones.

His growth is very slow. Today, he can’t sit on his own and relies on a wheelchair. He also can’t talk or even walk.

But perhaps the hardest and most tormenting moment is when I am unable to provide food because I am joblessness.

I remember that I had to start working as mama fua (laundry and cleaning lady) in order to fend for him a few weeks after his birth.

#HEALTHCARE

It was not easy. I was forced to go knocking door-to-door asking for home cleaning jobs with my ailing son strapped on my back.

A few weeks ago, I left my son behind in Nairobi and travelled to Mombasa, where I am currently looking for a job as a bouncer.

I have pegged my hope in God that something will show up and give me the much needed income so that I can sufficiently care for my child.

He is currently not undergoing any medication or therapy, and I would wish to enrol him in a corrective physical, occupational and speech therapies that
will help improve his life.

Above all, I have learnt to keep my head above the water by constantly reminding myself that this is my son, and God had a good purpose for giving him
to me.
Every day, I pray for him. I hope one day he will realise just how much I love him, and how much he means to me.”

What James Macharia and the building industry need to know about housing for all Author Mugambi Paul

What James Macharia
and the building industry need to know about housing for all

When CS of transport and infrastructure James Macharia grabbed headlines, last week claiming to implement the 1.5 % housing levy. Several questions came to my mind as a public policy expert on diversity and inclusion.
Will the housing plans be accessible, how many persons with disabilities will benefit from the scheme? No regulations regarding accessible housing have been put across.

, it showed a clear lack of awareness about the situation facing people who need accessible housing.
A quick and random call among persons with disabilities soon clarified that accessible housing is a rare commodity in Kenya.
Housing finance and real estates in Kenya have not taken any concrete measure to ensure even at list wheelchair accessible houses.
A negligible
Number of persons with disabilities have modified and customise an existing home if they need accessibility features.
Homes in the area are often high-set, or have stairs to the entries, or might have a feature like a sunken lounge.
I opine that It’s all about the space inside, and whether it is possible to navigate it easily.
When policy implementors put in mind the accessible needs, they aren’t doing for persons with disabilities but it’s for all. this is because the accessibility features will help in future. policy implementors need to plan for mobility-friendly home for
present and future occurrences. Some suggestions include:

As well as a level path to the entry, step-free entry and wide doorway, they look for features like a place under cover outside or inside near the front door to park and charge an electric mobility scooter. This is also not always easy to find in homes on the market.
Sadly, the situation in Dickson is not abnormal
But Nairobi is not unusual in having a dearth of dwellings suitable for those with accessibility requirements such as disability, age-related health issues, being on crutches following injury or grappling with infernal contraptions for conveying small children in and out of their property.
Nairobi is typical – and that is a major problem.
There are some moves afoot to change the way new homes are built – and more on that shortly – because the bottom line is that more inclusive and user-friendly housing that incorporates basic universal design would ensure homes work for just about anyone.
For people with disability, the lack of dwellings that meet basic Livable Housing Design Guidelines can compromise full participation in both economic and social life.
Importantly, the Kenyan disability sector has been silent on this critical concern. Notability, housing it’s one of the big 4 agenda by the president.
This shows how the disability stakeholders have not engaged sufficiency with the government and the building stakeholders.
There is lack of existing data on accessible housing and also ownership of homes by persons with disabilities.
Moreover, there are no guidelines or regulations on accessible housing nor available information on the current Kenya disability strategy.
The challenge is to policy makers to rise to the occasion and guarantee basic and accessible housing for all.
Additionally, there are specific difficulties and barriers created by the lack of affordable and appropriate housing near employment.
A lack of affordable, accessible housing directly affects employment opportunities including where a person can work, hours that they can work, access to training and promotion as well as all the social activities that come with being part of a workplace.
According to the United Nations, over three quarters of Africa’s population is under 35. Kenyan youth is over 20 per cent of the population — higher than
the world (15.8 per cent) and Africa (19.2 per cent) averages.

Kenya has the highest youth unemployment rate in East Africa. Youth inclusion into construction is imperative not only to employment security, but also to curb
the increasing social spiral into crime that unproductive and disenfranchised youth are vulnerable to.
It is prudent for policy makers and stakeholders realize that People with disability, like everyone else, need to have easy access and proximity to their places of employment.
“This includes ensuring there are strong and well-planned links between accessible housing, accessible public transport and an accessible built environment such as footpaths, premises and availability of accessible facilities such as toilets.
This is a challenge to the legislatures in both national and county governments to take the bull by its horn and ensure accessible housing policies are being developed and executed.
There are even barriers to engaging with the property market.
“Where employed or not, whether housing is being sought for purchase or in the private rental market, people with disability face numerous barriers to have our housing needs met.
“It is extremely difficult to find rental properties that are both accessible and affordable.” A blind client
Informed us. The county governments need to zero rate taxes for persons with disabilities in order to uptake ownership of property and building houses.

This is because It is also difficult to access funding and/or approval to make the necessary modifications to rental properties.
“The appalling experience by the Blind client is sadly a common experience for many people with disability.
“Many of us face difficulties in finding accessible housing in close proximity to our work and we often face highly restricted choices in where we can live. The experience also highlights the poor attitudes and a lack of understanding that still exists within the community as we navigate and negotiate our way around a largely inaccessible environment.”
How far off is industry on delivering accessible housing for all?
This is still a pipedream to attain the 500.000 houses by 2022.
I believe if the government and policy makers can have a consensus from government, property developers, and advocates for older people and people with disability for basic access features to be rolled out in all new homes by 2025.
We are likely we will get there.
The basic design features for minimum universal design features such as a level point of entry to the dwelling; step-free showers that allow for seated use and toilets in a ground floor bathroom with room to manoeuvre; wider doorways and corridor widths should have a focus of establishing a Kenyan Building Codes Board.
The board should pursue research and endeavour to produce quarterly reports on accessible housing for all.
While wheelchair users as a specific group of people with disability are a small proportion of the population, I affirm that the accessibility features are also important for people to age in place.
Social housing is not the answer for all people with disability, as there are those who have well-paid jobs. Parliamentarians with disabilities, for example, are often in full-time employment and earning incomes that allow them full independence. There are also many livings with other family members in a family home
All in all, the house building industry has not “come to the party” of its own volition on delivering universal design features as a standard product.
Hence the need for changes to the construction code to make it happen.
Real estate is generally resistant
Private Real estate are reluctant to include access features even when asked.
“If you engage an architect for a custom build then yes, you can get level access to the alfresco,” she says.
The reality is accessible housing ready to move into simply isn’t easy to find – and even when a home is accessible, there is no easy way for buyers to identify those properties.
I also take note that Many builders also see providing disability-friendly housing as a Kenyan government responsibility.
There are also an attitude older people should be moving into specifically back to the rural places not expecting the mass market to cater for their changing needs.
However, with the statistics showing that around 35 per cent of households include a person with a disability, this is a mass market need.
“That’s a big chunk of the population.”
The lack of accessible housing also impacts who can visit a dwelling. many people “just put up with it” when they realise a family member or friend cannot visit their home due to an un-navigable entry or internal features.
The lack of interest in delivering accessible housing also means there are few putting thought into design for accessibility.
Good design doesn’t mean there will be “ugly” grab bars everywhere as many people think.
“It doesn’t need to look like a person with a disability lives there.”
The reluctance to make accessible design a basic and universal part of dwellings is not an outrageous demand on the industry.
I observe that We already have so many universal features such as walls, roof and windows.
It is not a stretch from these types of universal features to making accessibility standard so that more homes are useable by more people across their lifespan.
“It’s not rocket science. [These features] are already included in many high-class homes in Kenyan surbabs. technical problems have already been overcome.”
As to the argument the accessibility features will cost more – which was a feature of the builders–Any added cost is due to the need for subtrades to change the standard practices, and in going back and undertaking re-work where they have done things in the usual “cookie cutter” fashion and failed to deliver specified universal design features.
I call it the “hump cost” – the initial adjustment required to get the industry onboard with doing things slightly differently.
Ultimately, accessibility in housing is just about “thoughtful design and useability for the maximum number of people.
The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.
Mugambi Paul is a public policy and diversity and inclusion expert.

organization.
Mugambi Paul is a public policy and diversity and inclusion expert.

a great lesson from Jeff Bishop, a Blind Program Manager, Microsoft Corporation

You may not think that one person can be both a computer nerd and popular—but it’s possible!

In reflecting on his own growth and development as a programmer, Jeff Bishop describes himself as a seventh-grade nerd at the Arizona School for the Blind, writing programs and figuring out how things worked. In contrast to the socially awkward, unstylish stereotype that you might think of when you hear the word “nerd,” however, Jeff Bishop has an irresistibly warm and open spirit that draws others to him. His gratitude for where life has led him is profound. When he talks about computers, he sounds like a friend describing something wonderful, and you want to know more.

Today, Jeff Bishop is a program manager on the Windows Accessibility team at Microsoft. The idea for this AccessWorld article was sparked by an Internet presentation Bishop gave on improvements that had been made to the Windows Narrator screen reader. If there is one tiresome statistic that everyone connected with blindness and low vision has heard all too often, it is the 70-percent unemployment rate for people with visual impairments. What is it, I wondered, that leads one person who is blind to a job he loves, a job where his talent is clearly respected and where he has the joy of knowing he is contributing to a product’s usability for his peers? Why does he continue to be employed while other people with visual impairments do not? What are the steps that lead to success—and how can currently unemployed people with visual impairments learn from someone who has taken them?

Early Life and Attitudes

Jeff Bishop has always worked. He has always expected to have a career and earn a paycheck. His perception of the origins of his success are clear.

First, growing up as a blind child, his parents encouraged him to do everything he possibly could. He rode bikes. He roller skated. He played hard and worked hard in school.

His parents, he says, were absolutely involved in everything he did and encouraged him to reach higher. When a serious bout with spinal meningitis put him behind in school, requiring that he repeat the first grade, he struggled initially to learn braille. His mom worked with him every night at the kitchen table, learning enough braille herself to be a valuable coach.

His mom’s determination that he learn to read and write braille was critical, he says, as braille has had a tremendous impact on his career. In high school and college, before we had electronic braille, he lugged around multiple oversized volumes of braille books. Math, in particular, he says, would be impossible without braille. Later, as braille displays emerged, he has always used them in his work. From using that first 20-cell Versabraille II, to displays boasting 80 cells or as few as 14, braille has been essential to Bishop’s professional success.

Both parents grasped every opportunity to encourage him to stretch mentally and physically. At the grocery store, his mom told him the prices of things and he added them mentally for her, using the math tricks his dad had taught him.

One day his dad told him they were going camping. When they arrived, it turned out that the core plan was to teach Jeff to water ski. He revels in the memory, describing it as a perfect example of how his parents never treated his blindness as an dead end, but rather a prompt for finding a detour. They dug in to find workarounds for anything that he wanted to do.

When he became interested in amateur radio, his dad studied theory with him. And when he became interested in computers, it was his dad who researched and found which product in the exploding field of home consumer electronics might be most accessible to a kid who couldn’t see the screen.

“Braille makes it possible to see layout and design in a way that I can’t imagine would be possible for a blind person otherwise,” Bishop says. “I see it as an absolutely essential tool to do my job.”

For Those Before Us

Bishop attributes success to those who built the platforms he depends upon in his work. Louis Braille, of course, who invented the tactile reading system, and Dr. Abraham Nemeth, who invented a system for reading and writing mathematics in braille, are at the top of his list. He also has a long list of computer professionals, blind and sighted, who forged paths for him to follow.

“I owe my job today to all the many giants who came before me,” he says, rattling off names like Ted Henter (creator of the original JAWS screen-reading software for DOS and founder of the company that is now Vispero), Doug Geoffray (formerly of GW Micro), Glenn Gordon and Eric Damery (Henter-Joyce), Clarence Waley (GW Micro), and 1980s tech support people like Randy Knapp and Christopher Gray (Artic and Telesensory Corp. respectively).

Finally, Jeff attributes his ongoing success to the colleagues and supervisors he has had on every job who have believed in his abilities and provided reinforcement for his efforts.

“They say it takes a village,” Jeff says, “and in my case that has been true. … I have always had the support and collaboration of those around me.”

He cites examples of colleagues getting onboard with innovating and discovering alternative methods for him to approach what could have been inaccessible computing environments.

Career Path

Jeff Bishop’s first computer was a Commodore 64 where Jeff cut his teeth in basic programming and assembly language and enjoyed old-style Infocom games when he wasn’t studying for school. Jeff continued to study programming in high school and even partnered with schoolmates to develop a way of getting computer code output using Morse code. “There were short beeps and longer beeps,” he says, poking a little fun at those rudimentary beginnings. (It worked well enough that he got an A in the class.) Bishop also received assistance from others to read the computer screen, which laid the groundwork for his future career.

He studied computers in college, both at Pima Community College and the University of Arizona, but went to work before graduating. He had married, was beginning a family, and was offered an opportunity to work as a technical writer for Interactive Information Systems. On a 20-cell braille display in Tucson, he worked on mainframes that were on the east coast. It was the beginning of a long and happy career working out accessibility wrinkles with the support of fellow workers.

Next, Bishop had an opportunity to move to California to work for Disney’s Imagineering. He would be writing the software that was used by developers to track the building of thrill-seeker rides like Space Mountain.

Always moving forward, he worked for the coding industry, the automotive industry, on software used to screen new employees, and more. When Microsoft opened a call center in Arizona in 1995, he went to work for his favorite company for the first time. Until then he had been using Artic Business Vision, JAWS for DOS, and an 80-cell braille display that made layout entirely feasible for a blind person. Windows was introduced shortly before his 1995 job with Microsoft began, so he was excited to learn Windows and the program he supported, Microsoft Access. Coworkers and supervisors were quick to help him innovate and problem solve, always working around accessibility issues. Sometimes, he recalls, he was able to perform necessary tasks in Access faster than the sighted customer he was coaching.

In 2001, he had an opportunity to go to work for the university of Arizona, a job that would hold him longer than any previous rung on his career ladder.

At the University of Arizona, Bishop became an IT analyst, working on student information systems and learning management systems. Most tools were fully accessible. When technological barriers meant his career was temporarily thrown into disruption, he was moved to work on a fully accessible platform called Desire to Learn.

Even beyond the work environment, Bishop has found generous support. As professional and advocacy opportunities required that he do more public speaking, he enrolled in Toastmasters to polish his skills. Like most people blind from birth, gestures and facial expressions were not instinctive for him. “Sighted people do things with their hands, their eyes, their faces to help communicate ideas,” he says, “that we as blind people aren’t always aware of.” Toward the goal of learning those visual nuances, he recalls a time when a fellow toastmaster stood behind him while he delivered a speech, in order to coach him through newly learned gestures.

Moving to Washington

Bishop says that his 16 years at the University of Arizona were great years, but in 2017, he was offered the opportunity to work for what many in his field might see as a career pinnacle, Microsoft. He and his wife moved to Kirkland, Washington in July of 2017. Bishop is totally blind, has always worked, and is currently at the top of his game. In his new role as a program manager on the Microsoft Windows accessibility team, he is exploring and innovating ideas that benefit blind and low vision computer users everywhere.

He attributes his success to 1) parents who believed in his abilities, 2) learning to read and write braille, and 3) always being surrounded by people who are supportive of his work and willing to innovate and collaborate when workarounds are needed. And how has he managed to tap into such supportive environments? He is thoughtful for a moment and then explains: “When something doesn’t work for me—a form isn’t accessible, for example—I explain that to others. I try to do it gently and clearly, and the result is that I am teaching them something and they are usually teaching me as well. Sharing that needed approach to make something accessible to me makes me more effective, but it makes other members of my team more effective as well. It’s important to be careful and to be kind.”

Bishop is effusive with gratitude, for the mentors and “giants” who paved the way, as well as for sighted coworkers who work alongside him. “I have always been so lucky to work with tremendous, amazing people. I am so thankful for that.”

Author Guest writter.What he doesn’t say is that his own nature goes a long way toward enlisting that appreciated support from others. He clearly learned at an early age to give as well as take, to teach and encourage others to innovate with him rather than demand. He is generous with his time, giving back by advocating for other blind people in his role as a board member of the American Council of the Blind or making online presentations to share information that might enhance the lives of other blind people. His easy manner and affability are a winning combination that entices others to engage in problem solving with him, and are qualities that aspiring blind professionals in any field would do well to emulate. Bishop loves his job, and the rest of us will undoubtedly benefit from the talent he brings to enhancing computer accessibility.

Living with low vision Advocacy Story

At a recent low vision group meeting I attended a woman came and spoke with us about self advocacy. What made her talk so interesting and unique is that
instead of providing specific tips or talking legalese she told her story. As she talked it occurred to me that we all have an advocacy story of our own
to tell. Here’s mine.

I learned how to advocate from my parents. When they were told that I would be taught Braille because I am blind my Mom and Dad insisted that it was
important for me to learn how to read print first. Because of their persistence I am able to read large print today. That was the right choice at the
time however, I will say this, if my parents had encouraged me I might have decided to try reading Braille at an earlier age.

I wish I could say that as I grew into a teenager I was less stubborn and more thoughtful regarding my needs and wants. But sometimes what we want isn’t
what we need. When I turned 13 my mobility instructor decided it was time for me to acquire my first cane. I hated it. I didn’t want my friends to see
me using it and I didn’t think my vision was bad enough to need it. Of course this meant I began advocating to the detriment of myself. My instructor realizing
this knew there was only one solution. Let me learn the hard way. So she scheduled a night lesson and told me I could decide whether or not to bring
my cane. Of course I chose not to. The lesson did not go well and my instructor was impatient and angry. But it was because of that night I was able
to grudgingly accept using that cane for travel after dark.

When I graduated from High School I really wanted to attend college and become a teacher or journalist. The state of PA had other ideas. They wanted
to fit me into their little mold which at that time meant I’d either work in a sheltered workshop or I’d be sent away to become a vending stand operator.
Those were the only options I was given. Not being satisfied and expressing my displeasure I began my own crusade to find work. Because I didn’t let
those in charge of the money tell me how they wanted me to live my life I was able to work in a variety of jobs within the disability community. Most
of these jobs involved me teaching or writing in some form or other. I was even fortunate enough to provide peer support to some individuals along the
way.

When most people hear the word advocacy they probably think about demonstrating or trying to be heard above everyone else. Self advocacy isn’t always
that way. Sometimes it’s assessing the situation you find yourself in, learning all you can about your various options, then making a decision and sticking
to it as I did regarding employment.

Now I face my greatest challenge yet. Since I have a hidden disability it is more important than ever that I self advocate. People don’t understand my
sensory over load issues and attempting to explain them is sometimes interesting. For instance when I tell someone that the fire siren or vacuum cleaner
is too loud they always want to point out that I must have more sensitive hearing because I am blind and that they understand it must be louder for me
then for them. What they don’t realize is that it isn’t the volume, tone, or pitch of the sound it is how my brain is processing it. It is the same with
my other senses. I’m learning to speak up in a new way. I have to alert people when I need to change my environment to accommodate my needs.

When I’m faced with a major life decision I do a lot of research to determine all of my options. Then make a pro and con list to help decide which option
is best. I stick to my decision. Family and friends mean well but I am the one who has to live with the results of my choices. I speak up if I need
help. I don’t assume those around me will know what my needs are.

I hope sharing my story and strategies will inspire you to advocate for something you may need or want in your life.
by Guest
Donna Williams.

Why the Kenyan Disability sector is yet to celebrate Uhuru in 2019: Author Mugambi M. Paul.

Why the Kenyan Disability sector is yet to CELEBRATE Uhuru in 2019:
Author Mugambi M. Paul.

The third eye on Disability policy implementation in Kenya 2019
In recent past, Kenya has been a global leader in developing and advocating for better disability policy framework. This is well articulated on the contributions made to the African disability policy framework, UNCRPD resolutions etc
Yet much is to be achieved in local policy development and implementation.
background:

In a chronology of events demonstrates that it has not been an easy ride for Kenyans with disabilities.
This is because the enactment of the
persons with disability act 2003 took place after the 3rd president was involved in a grisly road accident and took oath of office on a wheelchair.
Furthermore, the Kenyan disability policy has ever remained in draft formats.

All these indicators show It has been a tumultuous journey to have a repeal of the act or even actually develop a strategy of ensuring the realization of the rights of disabled persons in Kenya.

Actually, more than 20 versions of the amendment bills have been put across for the last 14 years.
This is not to say some sort of change has not taken place though it’s a snail pace.
, some piecemeal amendments have been achieved.
For instance, the sign language recognition.
With this notwithstanding, several questions policy makers have to ask themselves.
Who will actualize the implementation of beautiful disability global policies in Kenya?
When will persons with disabilities in Kenya receive and access services without overburdening them? when will the Wanjiku with disabilities stop facing surmountable of challenges in accessing services?

Short term reforms
Some of the actions taken after advocacy include:
Development of
action plan on accessibility 2015
gazettement of adjustment orders, participation on Kenya report on the implementation of UNCRPD 2015etc.
Additionally, in 2018 the ministry of labour has an interagency implementation of the resolution of the global summit held in London 2018

All these actions by the different policy makers are aimed at creating a more inclusive society that enables Kenyans with disability to fulfil their potential as equal citizens.
It is also the main way Kenya implements the United Nations
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Kenya, making sure people with disability can participate in all areas of Kenyan life.
As a public scholar I suggest the interagency organ of the ministry of labour develops a strategy which can address the existing gaps for policy implementation and enactment of 2020 disability act. It will be a great relive for many persons with disabilities.
If the interagency is offered the necessary resources and support, it can have development of a long-term strategic plan which can become a shared commitment by national and county government to work together to improve the lives of Kenyans with disability.
The interagency can guide governments and
other organisations to build the wellbeing of people with disability and their care givers.
Through this process the Ministry of labour and parliamentary committee can ensure the budgeting processes are disability inclusive.

There has been a lot of change to disability policy and service delivery since the enactment of 2003 act.
Some findings from disability researchers, bloggers and experience faced by persons with disabilities have established that the current act has lots of gravy areas.
This is because of systemic failures, lack of execution and resource allocation.
It’s prudent that ministry of labour and the stakeholders bite the bull by its horn by coming up with a long term 10-year disability strategy for Kenya which can be reviewed after five years.

Consequently, we need to make sure a new strategy reflects the changing policy environment and builds on opportunities available today as well as what may emerge over
the next decade, this includes considering the findings from KNCr reports the recent UNCRpd reports,
.
Public participation

constitutionally speaking the parliamentary committee, the ministry of labour should adopt public participation models which will enable persons with disabilities to contribute to the new strategies as a way forward.

This will ensure Consultation people with disability are at the centre of the design of the new strategy and have a leading role in modernising policies and
programs affecting their lives.
The needs to be a clear timeline of the consultation.
The policy makers need to adopt range of options available to ensure that persons with disabilities to have a say.
Importantly, all consultation should be accessible to people will disability.
This can be through the following:

list of 3 items
• an open public survey
Since some part of the population are able to access internet and more so the social media.

• face-to-face community workshops in every county
Media awareness.
• and online forum
The ministry of labour and the stakeholders should ensure that at all times.
The Consultations should be accessible.
This is by ensuring when registering persons with disabilities
provide details of any adjustments or special requirements they might need
key responsibilities:

Obviously, nominated parliamentarians with disabilities need to rise to the occasion and speak with one voice.
Its high time they realized disability is a cross cutting issue and doesn’t know the party lines.
They need to be accountable to persons with disabilities. At all cost.
The parliamentarians with disabilities need to think outside the box and develop bills targeting different aspects on disability not just targeting the reappeal of the 2003 persons with disabilities. For example, enactment of a carers act, braille and access to adaptive technology act, mental health act etc
We have evidently not seen the top law makers with disabilities drumming support for Legislation and policies underpinned by data disaggregated by disability which can make a difference by promoting meaningful
leadership, and consistently challenging harmful attitudes and practices.
.
For instance, the much hyped Huduma number and the upcoming census.
As policy expert I also orate that the disability persons organization are not playing their rightful role efficiently.
This is to say that an alternative view for better advocacy needs to be realized.
This is through continues research, surveys and serious consultations among membership.
Its true that most disability persons organizations have restricted themselves to Urban townships when consulting with out reaching out to the rural remote areas where even basic service to a Kenyan with disability are situated.
e
Conclusion

I believe that its high time the disability persons organization developed a serious advocacy framework with all organizations that care about the human rights and wellbeing of people with disability.
The human rights bodies and agencies need to be speaking up about the broader systemic issues that
need to be confronted, to ensure that people with a disability can have a good life.
going forward, it is not just the responsibility of the disability sector to make sure people with disability were included in the
community.
as Richardson a disability advocate says,
“This is about whole of community, and whole of government working through how best to include and embrace people with disability in all aspects of life,”

The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization. Mugambi Paul is a public policy and diversity and inclusion expert.

Golden Chain

A Golden Chain
Friendship is a Golden Chain,
The links are friends so dear,
And like a rare and precious jewel
It’s treasured more each year.
It’s clasped together firmly
With a love that’s deep and true,
And it’s rich with happy memories
and fond recollections, too.
Time can’t destroy its beauty
For, as long as memory lives,
Years can’t erase the pleasure
That the joy of friendship gives.
For friendship is a priceless gift
That can’t be bought or sold,
But to have an understanding friend
Is worth far more than gold.
And the Golden Chain of Friendship
Is a strong and blessed tie
Binding kindred hearts together
As the years go passing by.

Kenyan budgeting is a failure without urgent intervention on Disability agenda. Author: Mugambi M. Paul.

Kenyan budgeting is a failure without urgent intervention on Disability agenda.
Author: Mugambi M. Paul.

To begin, as a follow up of lasts years global summit held in London.
The ministry of labor and stakeholders have started the process of ensuring the global summit commitments are implemented.
This is evidently seen by the upcoming report by development pathways and agency in UK on matters social protection.
However, taking a snapshot of the Kenyan budgeting processes and procedures this dream might not be realized.
This is because Its just 2 months towards the presentation of budget by the treasury.
Persons with disabilities have not gotten the opportunity to participate and be engaged in the budgeting processes.
As a public scholar I affirm that Kenya government will remain to fail the disability community by not fixing this abnormally.
The Kenyan government can ensure proper disability budgeting procedures are implemented in all its plans, policies and regulations.
The Kenyan government should at list plan for one % of its budget on disability matters.
This will ensure the social protection systems become disability-inclusive.
Through the ministry of labor, they can present a memorandum of understanding to the ministry of treasury and the parliamentary budgeting committee.
This should be executed by both national and county governments.
On the other hand, persons with disabilities need to claim their public spaces.
This will enable enhancement of participation and increase of there voices being hard by policy makers.
This can take place in the local chapters of budgeting review processes.
It’s a proven fact that the bottom to top approach has necessitated lots of changes in the public sector agenda making processes.
For this to be well articulated the disability persons organizations need to up their game.
This is by mobilizing resources towards a budget campaign
Through media and engaging the parliamentary committees.
campaign in the lead-up to the reading Budget to call on the government and opposition to deliver on their bipartisan promise to actualize the disability mainstreaming agenda a reality.
All in all, when disability budgeting is implemented it will ensure Kenya moves out of the current charity model of delivery of services thus realizing the social reformative agenda.
This is well articulated in the 2010 constitution and the UNCRPD
The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.
Mugambi Paul is a public policy and diversity and inclusion expert.

3 Best Ways Your Child Can Continue Healthy Oral Hygiene Out of the House Guest writer: Dr. Greg Grillo

A part of being healthy is having good oral hygiene. This is important for someone of any age, which why it’s a good idea to instill these healthy habits as a child. Even those with special needs have a wonderful opportunity to practice a daily dental hygiene routine.

Having good dental hygiene habits will make sure that your teeth are taken care of when you’re visiting friends and family, move on to college, or get your own apartment. As as a family dentist practicing for 17 years, I watch my patients grow from children into young adults. I’ve discovered that these are the best ways to keep great oral hygiene out of the house.

1. Have a Daily Routine

Having a daily oral care routine is so important in your overall dental health and well-being. If you can instill a daily routine as a child, those habits will stick, and you’ll be set for life. Some things that should be a part of your daily routine include:

-Brushing your teeth twice a day

This may seem obvious, but it can be missed. Brushing your teeth regularly and properly is going to eliminate plaque and any other bacteria built up in the mouth. For children, a parent will need to assist them with teeth brushing until they are about seven years old.

-Start Flossing Early

This step is skipped by people of all ages, but it’s such an important part of dental care. Children up to adults should be flossing once a day. The best time to do so is at bedtime because it removes any food particles that may have gotten caught in your teeth throughout the day. Children who struggle with flossing can use fun tools such as colorful floss picks to make it easier.

2. Visit the Dentist Regularly

Once your child’s first tooth appears, it’s time schedule a dentist appointment. The sooner you can get a child familiar with the dentist, the better. This will eliminate fears and hesitation as they get older. There are a lot of great pediatric dentists that have had extra schooling to care for your child and their dental health. The American Dental Association recommends that you schedule a dental appointment every six months after that initial appointment when they are young. Having regular visits twice a year will be important as your child gets older and is on their own. They will know how often they should be seeing their dental care provider and be willing to make appointments for themselves.

3. Eat a Healthy Diet

Eating and maintaining a healthy diet is one of the key factors in having good dental hygiene. Foods that have good amounts of vitamin D and vitamin B, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, and calcium, are great for strong teeth and healthy gums. Foods such as fruits and vegetables are a great source for these vitamins and minerals.

Also, avoid eating foods that are high in sugar such as candy, fruit juices, and soda. While these can be enjoyed in limited amounts, over-consumption can cause cavities and tooth decay as it wears down the enamel on the teeth.

Like most habits, instilling a healthy diet at a young age is very important. A child who eats a healthy, vitamin-rich diet from a young age will be more likely to continue these habits the older they get.

Good dental hygiene is vital to living a healthy life. Having a daily routine, visiting a dentist regularly, and eating a healthy diet are three of the best ways to achieve strong dental hygiene and have great overall health and well-being. Starting these habits at a young age is a great way to ensure that your child’s oral health will be good as they grow into adults.
this post is from a Guest writer:

Dr. Greg Grillo

Twelve Crimes of being disabled in Kenya Author: Paul M. Mugambi.

Twelve Crimes of being disabled in Kenya
Author: Paul M. Mugambi.

Twelve Crimes of being disabled in Kenya
Author: Paul M. Mugambi.

1. Only in Kenya where most government documents are written “physically challenged” in reference to persons with disabilities.
2. Only in Kenya both Government and private sector demand for a driving lisence even when they know Blind and Deaf-Blind persons will never drive on the Kenyan roads. Thus, denial of employment opportunity.
3. Only in Kenya we pay for the long and dreary processes of acquiring the disabled card while the national identity card is readily available and its free.
4.
Only in Kenya where government service providers one has to explain his or her disability before service is offered or denied. I wonder if other non-disabled citizens undergo this trauma.
5. Only in Kenya where Kenya revenue Authority demands renewal of tax exemption certificates to the disabled persons as if the permanent disabled persons got a miracle. You wonder why Kenya claims to be an IT herb while the KRA system can’t just update itself.
6. Only in Kenya where the invisible disabled persons are not recognized and lots of explanation is done.
7. Only in Kenya persons with disabilities have to organize themselves to educate service providers of their roles and responsibilities in service delivery to disabled persons.
8. Only in Kenya where most government offices are either inaccessible or located in inaccessible places.
9. Only in Kenya most government websites are in accessible and do not offer alternative formats in documentation.
10. Only in Kenya where most public and private adverts are written “Persons with disabilities are encouraged to apply” but they don’t take any extra measure to ensure disabled persons are brought on board.
11. Only in Kenya where disabled persons pay for the “disabled car sticker” for packing and even the disabled packing is already occupied by the non-disabled individuals.
12. Only in Kenya where disabled artists, musicians, sportspersons beg for government or private sector sponsorship to participate in both local and international events and obligations.

The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.
Paul Mugambi is a public policy and diversity and inclusion expert.

Why the disability sector in Kenya needs a urgent transformation

Persons with disabilities in Kenya account for 15 % of the population [WHO 2011].
Yet they are the most marginalized and lack the basic services from the government.
Obviously since the independence persons with disabilities have been treated as second class citizens.
This is because of the existence of economic, social and political disparities.
on the other hand, others argue Both government and the private sector have played a critical role towards development and design of disability policies.
This is evidently seen by the persons with disability act 2003, the special needs policy 2009 draft disability policy, national accessibility action plan 2015.
All these gains are towards improving lives of persons with disabilities. Therefore, we need to have a third eye lenses to ask ourselves.
Are these policies achieving their objectives? Are persons with disabilities able to effectively participate and included in all services?
The jury is out there.
As the 47 governor’s meet in Kirinyaga for their sixth annual conference in March 2019, a time has come for them to seriously interrogate how they can enhance access to services for persons with disabilities

Basic services and functions were devolved but persons with disabilities have received a raw deal.
The lack of national disability framework where the national government offers regulation to the counties and policy guidance has rendered persons with disabilities inactive and denial of services at the county levels.
This has greatly led persons with disabilities to be left behind thus not meeting the vision 2030 and the famous sustainable development goals. SDGS.

If county governments do not properly entrench disability matters in the ‘Big Four” agenda that is defining Jubilee’s development plan, as it presently looks, desired results
will not be achieved even if the national government yields to the ongoing clamour and cedes more cash to the devolved regions.

County governments are the game-changer in two of the Big Four agenda items, namely expansion of the manufacturing sector, and food security. The central
government must be applauded for the huge infrastructure projects it has initiated to connect the counties. The question is these infrastructures accessible to persons with disabilities?
With this massive project we need to have third eye lenses and ask ourselves are persons with disabilities properly being included?
For instance, in employment what percentage of persons with disabilities were involve?
In the tenders were persons with disabilities engaged?
Its high time the county governments
shed off their wasteful and autonomous and unaccountable attitude and explain their disability mainstreaming agenda.

Devolution gave persons with disabilities hope that it would bring services closer to citizens, increase job opportunities and improve governance. Far from it, if the reports
on the impact of devolution are anything to go by.

Unfortunately, persons with disabilities affairs in the counties have been identified as a main agenda but only to be pushed at the periphery and set in to other broad areas such as social services.
Furthermore, most counties have no dedicated advisors or policies on disability matters.
This is reflected by the low service delivery a lack of mechanisms to support disability mainstreaming.
According to ILO the largest minority in the world are persons with disabilities.
They highly face discrimination, stigma and institutional barriers.
Thus, many persons with disabilities cannot afford basic necessities like food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, and education.
There is also the need to increase the participation of persons with disabilities in governance at the county level. Most of the counties have not adequately engaged persons with disabilities
in designing, planning and implementing programmes. As a result, the knowledge, skills and energy that the persons with disabilities full population harbours goes underutilised.
As a public policy scholar, I opine that its high time. The disability sector in Kenya got a transformation.
This transformation would gain more tract to the citizens with disabilities.
Some of the key areas is moving from charity to human rights in service implementation.
Provide individual choices thus promotion of respect and dignity to persons with disabilities.
The disability sector should immediately stop talking to itself.
Stop board room meetings and step in the the mud.
This will ensure bottom top approach in public participation of persons with disabilities.
This is because the county governments are the service delivery points and more resources are being devolved..
To eliminate the possibility of alienating this potentially most productive group, decision-makers and other stakeholders at the national and county level must take deliberate steps to ensure the persons with disabilities are at the centre of development plans.
This is by having a national disability framework which stipulates the role of the national and county governments in service delivery for persons with disabilities.

Paul Mugambi
Is a public policy and diversity and inclusion expert.

Pastor’s Moment: Guest writer Dennis Itumbi

Dennis Itumbi

Pastor’s Moment:

#guest writer
#deniis Itumbi
Let me remind you something, in order to seize your opportunities, learn to be calm amid the chaos and hopelessness.
I like the way Stephens puts it,
“When you connect to the silence within you, that is when you can make sense of the disturbance going on around you.”
Once a farmer found an abandoned eagle’s nest and in it was an egg still warm.
He took the egg back to his farm and laid it in the nest of one of his hens. The egg hatched and the baby eagle grew up along with the other chickens.
It pecked about the farmyard, scrabbling for grain. It spent its life within the yard and rarely looked up.
When it was very old, one day it lifted up its head and saw above it a wonderful sight – an eagle soaring high above in the sky.
Looking at it, the old creature sighed and said to itself, “If only I’d been born an eagle”.
My friend let me keep it brief and to the point, the chaos of digging for seed from the ground and the norm of being who you are today, should not stop you from looking up, flapping your wings and flying like the Eagle you are.
Stop writing your obituary – someone once said, “Do not despise your own place and hour. Every place is under the stars, every place is the center of the world.”
Acts 27:13, ” When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete.”
Please read the whole of Acts 27 and see how opportunities present themselves in the midst of chaos and norm.
God Bless You, Keep You and Favour You

Emojis with Disabilities Means Inclusion By Guest writer.

As a person with a disability, I have never seen myself represented in the vast range of emojis – those small digital images – found on smartphones. There
are magician, mermaid and merman, zombie, and vampire emojis. There are thousands of emojis but up until now, no one with a disability.

That is all about to change. Later this year,
smartphones will have 59 new emojis representing people with disabilities . The new icons include men and women with a range of disabilities. There will
be people with a white cane, with a service dog, with prosthetic limbs, using a wheelchair, and with a hearing aid. There is also an emoji of someone using
sign language.

Emojis have become a crucial part of how many of us communicate. They can help share congratulations, personal news, good and bad moods, wishes, and plans.
In fact, emoji is thought to be the fastest-growing language.
It is only right that people with disabilities, as
the world’s largest minority , are represented in, and able to access, culture and communication like this equally.

There is still a long way to go for full inclusion and accurate representation of people with disabilities, but it is a big step forward to be included
in the emojis. I am looking forward to sending my first emoji with a white cane.
#inclusion
#disability mainstreaming
#beyond abilities
www.mugambipaul.com

Reprogrammable braille could shrink books to a few pages”  

Reprogrammable braille could shrink books to a few pages
Elastic bits with memory could eliminate the need for gigantic volumes.

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
07.24.18 in AV
Braille hdisplays have made the digital world more accessible to those with vision issues, but readers who prefer the portability of a book haven’t had
that upgrade. Even a typical book might require over a dozen volumes of braille paper, which rules out reading during a summer vacation. Harvard researchers
could shoon whittle that down to a far more convenient size, though, as they’ve crafted reprogrammable braille that could eliminate the need for unique
pages without the bulk of a display.
The concept is straightforward. The team compressed a thin, curved elastic shell using forces on each end, and then made indents with a basic stylus (similar
to how you print a conventional braille book). Once you remove the compression, the shell ‘remembers’ the indents. You can erase them just by stretching
the shell. It sounds simple, but it’s incredibly flexible: in its tests, Harvard could control the number, position and chronological order of the indents.
There’s no lattice holding it up, and it works with everything from conventional paper to super-thin graphene.
This is still rudimentary. While you can store memories in the shells, you can’t perform computing tasks with them. You’d need a more sophisticated platform
to control page changes. If that happens, though, braille books could be considerably more accessible. That could be helpful for long trips where you’re
searching for something to read, but it might also be incredibly valuable for schools that could easily send braille literature home with students.
Harvard’s concept for reprogrammable braille
Bottom

Lessons for disabled organizations as they await the appointment of board of directors to the NCPWD

What lesson can the disabled persons in Kenya learn as they await the appointment of board of directors to the NCPWD:

Generally speaking, most of the organizations of persons with disabilities are facing a marid of challenges. Ranging from lack of capacity, poor resource mobilization and leadership rangles.
All along it’s a reflection of the society.
The lack of proper governance in most disabled organizations has put a morror of whats needs to be done.]its high time government disabled stakeholders gave a thought of enhancing governnce and support changemakers.
As we gear towards the new dawn in the government own body.
There are a lot of
a lot of discussion’s going on.
There is lots of lobbing wich include inner and secret campaigns ae ongoing to ensure the NCPWD gets a formidable leader to take the semiautonomous body to the next level.
Queries which public policy makers are asking themselves include?
Will the appointing authority provide a roadmap of ensuring the qualified and empowered person with disabilities are given the chance to lead?
Will the political rejects be offered a lifeline under the board as is common practice in parastatals?
Will the disability persons organizations lobby for their own?
Will the citizen with disabilities enjoy enhanced service delivery?
As a matter of fact, in respect to the UNCRPD, the disability ACT 2003 many disabled persons expect nothing but the best persons to be granted the opportunity to steer the wheel of development.

As this below master piece elaborates.
All that glitters are not gold.
Read to understand.

A disability charity’s decision to choose as its new chair the head of a company closely linked with the government’s hated “fitness for work” test has
been branded “a betrayal” of disabled people and “a truly disgraceful appointment”.

United Response,
which provides a range of support services to about 3,000 disabled people across England and Wales, this week announced the appointment of management consultant
Malcolm McCaig (pictured).

McCaig has been a non-executive director of Unum UK since July 2009 and was appointed to chair the company’s board last year.

But Unum has spent decades attempting to influence UK government policy on welfare reform and is blamed by many disabled researchers and activists for
pushing successive governments to make the process of applying for out-of-work disability benefits harsher and more stressful.

Those policies have been closely linked to the deaths of countless benefit claimants and with causing significant harm to the physical and mental health
of many others.

Campaigners argue that Unum has spent years trying to undermine the social security system to boost the market for its own income protection insurance
(IPI) policies.

In 2011, Unum launched a major UK marketing campaign to promote the need for IPI policies, just as the coalition began its three-year programme to reassess
about 1.5 million existing claimants of old-style incapacity benefit through the new work capability assessment (WCA).

United Response this week celebrated the appointment of its new chair, describing him as “a strong advocate of diversity and inclusion” who would be “a
major asset to the organisation”.

But Mo Stewart, the disabled researcher who has done most to raise concerns about Unum’s influence on welfare reform*, described McCaig’s appointment as
“an insult to the chronically ill and disabled people being coerced and intimidated by the DWP, who used Unum as advisers for welfare reforms that have
caused death, despair and destitution for those in greatest need in the UK”.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)
described the appointment as “a betrayal of all the disabled people and their families who have suffered under the work capability assessment”.

A DPAC spokesperson added: “More than that, though, we consider it active collusion in Unum’s interest in replacing the UK social security net with an
insurance system from which they will profit and disabled people will be harmed.

“Given Unum’s history in the US of denying disability in order to avoid pay-outs this is a truly disgraceful appointment.”

Rick Burgess,
another leading disabled activist, said: “Given Unum’s reputation in being a ‘disability denial factory’ and its role in abusive disability welfare changes,
this appointment is completely inappropriate, unless of course United Response plans on replicating Unum’s approach to disabled people.”

It is also not the first time Unum has courted links with the disability sector.

Two years ago, the Mental Health Foundation was heavily criticised for launching a partnership with Unum that aimed to tackle the stigma of mental health
in the workplace and encourage employers to safeguard the mental health of their employees.

Unum’s links with the UK government date back to the 1990s, when Peter Lilley, social security secretary in John Major’s Conservative government, hired
senior Unum executive John LoCascio to offer advice on how to cut the number of claimants of long-term sickness benefits.

A
detailed memo
submitted to the Commons work and pensions committee in 2002 by a director of Unum – then known as UnumProvident – called on the Labour government to
“ensure both that work always pays more than benefits, and more importantly that it is clearly seen to do so”.

And in 2005, Unum bragged in a document that it had “always been at the leading edge of disability assessment and management”, and that government policy
was now “moving in the same direction” as “our views and understanding” and was “to a large extent being driven by our thinking and that of our close associates”.

Three years later, in 2008, the Labour government introduced the WCA.

Stewart said McCaig’s appointment “disregards the history of this American corporate giant, the fact that they were official government advisers from 1992
regarding ‘welfare claims management’ which influenced the introduction of employment and support allowance and the notorious WCA”.

She also pointed out that Unum
was accused of operating a “disability denial” agenda
by a professor at Yale Law School and was
identified by the American Association for Justice
as being the second worst insurance company in America.

In 2005, California’s insurance commissioner, John Garamendi,
described Unum Provident as “an outlaw company”
that had “engaged in a strategy to increase its bottom line at the expense of its customers”.

The company has previously admitted widespread criticism of its past actions in the US, mainly over its refusal to pay out on large numbers of genuine
insurance claims by disabled people, a record also mentioned five years ago
in a Commons debate on the WCA.

Unum also sponsored Cardiff University’s Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research for four years.

That research, said Stewart, led to
the fatally flawed biopsychosocial (BPS) model
of assessment on which the WCA is based.

Unum has repeatedly dismissed claims that it pushed the government to introduce the WCA system,
and two years ago
even claimed that it “never has lobbied on the topic of welfare reform or related matters”.

United Response failed to respond to the concerns about Unum.

But Tim Cooper, the charity’s chief executive, said: “Malcolm is an outstanding individual whose background and vast experience will prove invaluable in
leading United Response and helping it achieve its vision.

“We undertook an extensive recruitment process resulting in an incredibly strong shortlist of candidates, and Malcolm’s skill set and demonstrable understanding
of the charity led to his appointment.”

*Stewart’s book,
Cash Not Care,
details Unum’s influence over successive UK governments, and how it led to the introduction of the WCA

Lesson la Activist toka kwa aPunda

One day a farmer’s donkey fell down into a
well. The animal cried piteously for hours as
the farmer tried to figure out what to do.
Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the
well needed to be covered up anyway;
it just wasn’t worth it to retrieve the donkey.
 
He invited all his neighbors to come over
and help him.. They all grabbed a shovel and began
to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the
donkey realized what was happening and cried
horribly. Then, to everyone’s amazement he
quieted down.
 
A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally
looked down the well. He was astonished at what
he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his
back, the donkey was doing something amazing.
He would shake it off and take a step up.
 
As the farmer’s neighbors continued to shovel
dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it
off and take a step up.
 
Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey
stepped up over the edge of the well and
happily trotted off!
 
Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds 
of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well 
is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of 
our troubles is a steppingstone. We can get out 
of the deepest wells just by not stopping, 
never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up.
 
Remember the five simple rules to be happy:
 
Free your heart from hatred – Forgive.
 
Free your mind from worries – Most never happen.
 
Live simply and appreciate what you have.
 
Give more.
 
Expect less. 
Love.

Economics of disabilities; what we’re not told Kenyan story

July 24th 2018 the UK government, in partnership with Kenya and the International Disability Alliance (IDA), co-hosted the first ever high level global
disability summit in London. The aim of the meeting was to galvanise global efforts to address disability inclusion.
The summit brought together more than 700 delegates from governments, donors, private sector organisations, charities and organisations for persons with
disabilities. Mr Ukur Yattani, the Cabinet Secretary for Labour and Social Protection led the Kenyan team.

Globally, one out of every seven people live with some form of disability, the majority in low and middle-income countries. In these settings, disability
is both a cause and consequence of poverty because people with disabilities often face significant barriers that prevent them from participating fully
in society, including accessing health services and attaining education and employment.

According to the World Health Organisation, about six million Kenyans are persons with disabilities. The Kenya National Survey for Pwds, 2008, says nearly
80 per cent of these six million people live in rural areas where they experience social and economic disadvantages and denial of rights. Their lives are
made more difficult by the way society interprets and reacts to disability. In addition to these barriers, Kenya still lacks a policy that operationalises
laws on disability. The National Disability Policy has remained as a draft since 2006!

But let us look at disability from different frames. Have we thought about the significant contribution in the economy made by people with disability as
consumers, employers, assistive technology developers, mobility aid manufacturers and academics among others? According to Global Economics of Disability,
2016 report, the disability market is the next big consumer segment globally — with an estimated population of 1.3 billion. Disabled persons constitute
an emerging market the size of China and controlling $1 trillion in annual disposable income.

Do people working directly in these industries pay taxes? Does anyone have an idea of the revenue — direct or indirect— collected by government from disability
industries, organisations, import duty charges on assistive devices and other materials used by persons with disabilities? What of the multiplier effect
of the sector; transporters, warehouses, and PWDs themselves who are active spenders and who pay both direct and indirect taxes.

SH40 BILLION

Just look at it this way; six million Kenyans (going by WHO’s estimate) are persons with disabilities and its assumed about two million of them are wheelchair
users. The cheapest outdoor wheelchair fabricated locally is about Sh20,000, translating to a staggering Sh40 billion! Imagine the rest using crutches,
hearing aides, white canes, braille services and costs of hiring personal assistance. Undoubtly, this is a huge market.

The contribution of people with disabilities far outweighs what is allocated to them through affirmative/charity considerations.

President Mwai Kibaki signed The Persons with Disabilities Act, 2003, in what turned out to be the most unprecedented disability legal framework in Kenya.
The Act led to creation of a State agency called the National Council for Persons with Disability. During his second term in office (May 2008), Kenya ratified
the United Nation Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability.

MEANINGFUL PARTICIPATION

One fact that most people have glossed over is the allocation given to the National Council for Persons with Disabilities, compared to the contribution
made by PWDs to the social, political and economic spheres in the country. But then, in Kenya, studies to ascertain the actual contribution of disability
as a sector have not been conducted.

We must change the narrative of disability for us not to leave out this vibrant community in development and other spheres of life. Disability must be
viewed not as a burden but as a part of diversity, like any other. Disability is not about someone’s impairment but rather about a barrier – environment
and attitudinal – in front of this person to freely and meaningfully participate in the society.
By a Guest writer
HARUN M. HASSAN

17 Easy Ways To Make A Blind AKA mpofu Person’s Day

1. When introducing yourself, use loud, exaggerated speech. Since we’re
blind, it’s safe to assume we’re a little dim, too.

2. Don’t speak directly to us. It’s always best to talk over our heads like
we’re not there at all, especially if you are offering a service. Example:
“What would she like to order?” Be sure to ignore our attempts to answer
for
ourselves.

3. Grab or otherwise manipulate our bodies whenever and wherever you deem
necessary. For example, if you intuitively perceive that we’re going the
wrong way (even if you haven’t asked where that is) just snatch the nearest
limb and lead on, Macduff!

4. If you aren’t in a position to grab us, you can always shout
instructions
in the hope that we’ll know what you’re talking about. If we look baffled,
just keep repeating the instructions in an increasingly frantic tone. We’ll
clue in eventually.

5. Remind us often how grateful we should be that people are willing to
provide accommodations for us. While it’s unlikely that we will ever, ever
forget this for more than five minutes at a time, it’s a good idea to slam
the thought home when we’re not expecting it. It builds character.

6. Stage loud conversations about us while we’re in the room, because we
won’t hear. If we hear, it’s okay, because we won’t understand. If we
understand, it’s okay, because we won’t care.

7. Keep all conversation firmly focused on blindness. If we try to
interject
by discussing our education or interests, just redirect us. We get carried
away trying to be all normal, so it’s helpful to keep us on track!

8. Be sure to describe all the other blind people you’ve ever met, in
extravagant detail. We couldn’t be more fascinated by that blind guy who
skied, and that other blind guy who went to school with you, and that blind
girl you met on the train once-the one with the cute puppy.

9. Make a habit of asking us why we’re “here”. If we’re on the bus, ask us
why we’re out alone. If we’re at work, ask us how we got the job. If we’re
in class, ask us why we’re in university. If we seem offended, ignore us:
deep down inside, we really enjoy presumptuous interrogation!

10. Dispense advice about how we should live our lives; the less you know
us, the more valuable your feedback will be. If you need a good starting
point, you can begin by analyzing our mobility tool of choice (cane or dog)
and emphatically demanding that we switch. We love that.

11. Involve yourself in our love lives, specifying exactly the type of
person we should date and why. If you think we should date a sighted person
because they’ll be able to take care of us, we’ll want to hear all about it.
If you think we should date a blind person because we should “stick to our
own kind” we will be all ears!

12. Give us things-money, coupons, whatever-because you pity us and want to
make our day better. Don’t be phased by any apparent expressions of
confusion. (“Oh, that’s just my gratitude face!”)

13. Stop us on the street and thank whomever we’re with for helping/taking
care of/being so kind to us. It’s not as though we have real friends who
genuinely enjoy our company. No: if we’re out with a sighted person, they
are fulfilling a purely charitable role. They will appreciate your praise,
and we will feel extra extra grateful!

14. Place your hands on us in any public place and pray. If we gently
explain that we don’t want to be prayed for, rest assured that it’s just
the
secular cynicism doing the talking. When our sight is miraculously
restored,
you’ll be the first to know.

15. Make as many potentially dangerous practical jokes as you can think of.
A few good ideas include warning us of imaginary obstacles (“Watch out for
that tree-just kidding!”), concealing our possessions, and encouraging
us to
“find” you while you run gleefully around us in circles. These were a
staple
of primary school, and I treasure many pleasant memories from that era. Do
me a favor, and bring back the nostalgia!

16. Refer to us as “that blind person” even after you know our names.
Blindness is so integral to our identities that our names are really just
decorative, so there’s no need to remember or use them. If we fail to
answer
to “Hey, blind girl/guy!” just keep trying. We’ll learn to love it.

17. Assume that our default status is “Help!” If we reassure you that we’re
okay, thanks, don’t fall for it. Insisting upon rescuing us every time we
cross paths places us into a position of dependence, which is exactly where
we belong.
Article Thanks to our guest writer:
Dan Hicks

Autism Is My Superpower By a Guest writer. Michael R. Whary

Autism Is My Superpower
It does not matter what sixty-six percent of people do in any particular situation.
All that matters is what you do.
John Elder Robison, Look Me in the Eye
My parents were concerned because my speech was not as advanced as other children
at age two and a half and I did strange things like lining up all my toys in rows
throughout the house, spinning around in circles, and throwing tantrums. In addition,
my motors skills such as running and hand strength were delayed. I also had a lot
of trouble with balance.
My neurologist recognized the signs immediately and informed my parents that I was
autistic. My parents asked what my long-term outlook might be and they were told
that I would most likely never be independent. They were told that because of my
lack of motor skills I probably would never be able to ride a bike, motorcycle, or
drive an automobile. This news made my parents very sad as they had lost my older
brother in childbirth two years earlier.
My parents immediately enrolled me in speech and occupational therapy classes. I
don’t remember much about it, but they said I went to classes five days a week for
four years. Early on my parents believed that if they could get me enough training
that somehow I would
outgrow or no longer be autistic. As I went to classes later I noticed that almost
all of the parents believed the same thing. It wasn’t just about helping their children
fit into society. It was also about trying to hide the autism from the world. A lot
of the kids sometimes felt like Rudolph in the movie
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
 when his dad tried to hide his red nose.
While my autism caused me to develop slower than other children in some areas it
also gave me some abilities that others didn’t have. I learned my alphabet at age
one and I could read at a fourth grade level by eighteen months. In preschool the
teacher always read a story before naptime to the class, but was so amazed at how
well I could read that I took over and was the official storyteller for my preschool.
It was easy for me to read the words on the page fluently, but I had difficulty having
a simple conversation.
My dad had been a star athlete in high school and college, but because of my delayed
motor skills I was not able to play organized sports early on. I really wanted to
follow in his footsteps because he enjoyed football so much, but it just wasn’t possible.
Instead I joined the Cub Scouts. It was so much fun, and at each meeting I learned
a new life skill, from cooking to tying knots to hiking. It was also the first time
that I spent a lot of time with neurotypical children. This was important because
I would copy how the other scouts acted and that’s how I learned to interact and
take part in organized events. All of the physical activity improved my motor skills
too.
I earned the Arrow of Light Award and the Cub Scout Super Achiever Award because
I had earned every pin that the Cub Scouts offered.
Since I had such a wonderful time in Cub Scouts I bridged over to Boy Scouts. It
was not an easy transition as Boy Scouts are “boy run.” This means that I was no
longer taking classes from patient adults, but being given orders from older scouts
who were in high school. It was difficult because I could not process what they wanted
me to do as quickly as regular developing children. I was sometimes overlooked for
leadership positions and not given a chance. I did come home very upset sometimes,
but I always remember my father saying, “If
it’s easy everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.” He always knew
what to say to motivate me. I doubled my efforts and slowly I was able to do the
jobs that were needed and in turn I was given positions of responsibility.
I believe that scouting is very good for autistic children because they learn hands-on
life skills through merit badges. An Eagle Scout must have twelve Eagle required
badges and twenty-one total merit badges to even be considered. The Eagle requirements
are very difficult. Everything from First Aid, Citizenship, Accounting, Family Planning,
and Physical Fitness are learned along the Eagle Trail. I currently have all of the
Eagle required badges and a total of forty-five merit badges. I enjoy learning new
things from the experts in the field who teach the merit badges. My favorite was
the Aviation merit badge. We went to an actual flight school and learned all about
navigation, instruments, weather conditions, and the different planes. We then got
to ride in a small plane and I even got to fly it for a little bit. It was amazing!
When I was thinking about an Eagle Scout project there were so many options to consider.
The churches all needed help with their facilities, and all of the fraternal organizations
like the Elk, Moose, and Veterans clubs had things I could have helped with, but
none of the options seemed quite right.
Then a little over a year ago I came down with a terrible fever and my mother took
me to the emergency room. The EMT who was there took my information and when they
were told I was autistic the doctor asked him to stay in case they needed to hold
me down while I got shots. I guess the doctor had experience with other children
on the spectrum. I calmly allowed them to give me the shots and the EMT and doctor
were both shocked when I didn’t put up a fight.
The EMT stayed with me and asked a lot of questions about being autistic. Then he
followed us out into the parking lot and explained why he was asking all the questions.
It seemed that his nephew had just been diagnosed with autism and he and his sister
were very upset. With a tear in his eye he told us that I was such a well-mannered
young man and in control of my surroundings, which gave him hope for his nephew’s
future. He said that I inspired him and he was so
happy that he met me.
As I thought about what he had said it came to me that maybe I could help other parents.
I could make them understand that autism is not something to be ashamed of and that
if their child is on the mid to higher end of the spectrum anything is possible.
I want parents to embrace their children for who they are and not carry the guilt
that they did something wrong. According to the CDC, one in forty-two boys in the
USA is somewhere on the autism spectrum. If I could inspire new parents who are so
devastated by the news then maybe I could make the world a better place.
Currently, I am a high school sophomore and enjoy playing the piano and the trumpet
in our marching band and jazz band. I’m also in ROTC and was honored by being inducted
into the Kitty Hawk Honor Society for members with good grades. I take advanced classes
and I am on track to graduate with honors. I currently have a 3.75 GPA. I threw shot
put and discus for my school’s track team and also ran the 100-meter dash. I will
be attending a university upon graduation. I am hoping to get accepted into the Wharton
Business School at Penn, or another Ivy League school, but if not then possibly Baldwin
Wallace University in Berea, Ohio. After graduation I would like to own my own business,
possibly in computers.
How would I define my autism? I was never considered an “Aspie” because of my diagnosis.
I use the word “autistic” because it is a word most people understand, but in the
end it is just a word. To be honest my answer may sound strange, but I am not defined
by my autism. I am Michael Whary. I cannot be defined by any set “definition.” What
I have learned is that no matter who you are or what disabilities you have to overcome
in this life if you want something badly enough anything is possible! God gave everyone
a special gift, a “superpower” if you will. Autism is mine. It has taught me to overcome
my physical, mental, and social difficulties.
Every year we celebrate my birthday with a cake and candles as most people do. When
I blow out the candles and make a wish it’s always the same, “I wish that all of
the suffering in the world would end and in so doing there would be peace on Earth.”
I thank the powers that be for giving me this life. I thank my parents for their
guidance, patience, love, and understanding. And I wish nothing but good things for
others on the autism spectrum.