My Meeting With Senator Jordon Steele-John Of West Australia

I met Senator Jordon Steele-John who is a Senator of West Australia
and is a member of the Australian Greens parliamentary team.

He is A passionate youth and disability advocate, he has always
wanted to make a positive difference.His first political memory was
of the Tampa Crisis in 2001.
Six at the time, I might have been too young to understand the
complexities of that sorry saga, but I did understand that desperate
people were asking
for our help and we were saying no. It was my first encounter with the
power of politics and it had a profound impact on me. Over the next
ten years I
considered all the dream jobs usual to kids that age (palaeontology
was the frontrunner for quite a while!) but I could never shake that
desire to make
a difference and, after living through the Howard era, the Iraq War
and the Pacific Solution, the impact political decisions have on
people’s lives was
clearer to me than ever. So I decided to get informed and get involved.

Coming from a family of strong Labor supporters he had always
believed that, as a young person, a person who journeys with a
disability and a person who
cares deeply about social and environmental justice, Labor was the
party for me. So it was with sadness and disappointment that I watched
as, from genuine
action on climate change to ensuring that big miners pay their fair
share of tax, they failed to stand up for what matters. The final
straw came with the
Gillard Government announcement of Malaysian Solution. I knew then
that both parties had signed up to the type of cynical and
dehumanising politics which
always ultimately leads to cruelty, and I knew that I could not be
part of it. Searching for a voice which spoke to me with authenticity
and about the
issues I cared about with courage, I found The Greens and never looked back.

Over the course of my life I’ve learned that to be a young person with
a disability in contemporary Australia is to occupy the intersection
of some of
our society’s most ingrained myths and most damaging preconceived
ideas. Far too often it seems as though these are the prisms through
which our lives
are viewed and our rights are framed. It can feel almost impossible to
make your voice heard when the debate so easily casts aside everything
from affordable
education, housing and transport to the very state of the environment
we will inherit. At every opportunity I’ve worked hard to bust these
myths, challenge
these preconceived ideas and be a strong voice for the issues that
matter, working for the past several years as a youth and disability
advocate at the
local, state, federal and NGO level with a focus on rights and
awareness training.
From genuine action on climate change to affordable housing, quality
education, a properly funded NDIS and an effective transition to the
new economy,
The Greens embody the desire to make a positive difference that I’ve
felt for as long as I can remember. We have the courage to
authentically engage with
young people and our issues, laying out a policy vision which truly
meets the challenges and opportunities that face our generation.

Jordon Steele-John inspired me and he is an Icon of our time.
He also listened to my experience coming from a developing nation
where access to services is a dream to many persons with
disabilities.
We also shared how Australia can be of help to uplift advocacy efforts
on the low income countries by improving policy directions.

My Visit to Israel

#Israel Day 1

23rd December 2015

THE BUS RIDE

The experience since I arrived in Israel is quite enormous; I cannot get it off my mind.

From the moment I landed at the airport, I couldn’t believe the reception that I got. The access received was excellent. The airport attendants seem to have been taught mobility and orientation well. They surpassed my wildest dreams and expectations. As we drove through the streets, I was awaiting to find the usual traffic that we get back home. It could be habit, or adaptability to the traffic norms faced in Kenya, but Alas!! The experience left me with utter amazement. There wasn’t any traffic even for a single second. It felt like I had jumped time zones to what we are hoping for as far as accessibility is concerned for Vision 2030. I kept asking my host “Is there no traffic???”. In Israel physical access is the order of the day. Blind persons here literally have free transport as long as an official photo is taken and used at the bus stop or the train station as identification.

In my country Kenya we are advocating for better access of road, not just access but road safety. I pay for my sighted guide. It is a life-changing contrast to what I’m experiencing here in Israel. Isn’t it ironic that all I need is a photo to get a free ride all over Israel?? Being blind in Israel isn’t a disability, but an opportunity to continue living your life with as minimal hurdles as possible. The transport system is the best I have ever experienced. Access is a right and not a privilege.

#Disability Soldier.

Summary Points on Transport Features (Israel)

The Reality of Transport in Israel is as follows:-

  1. Accessibility is a right and not a privilege like we experience in Kenya.
  2. The Blind Certificate is similar to what we call disability card in Kenya.
  3. All Blind persons are simply required to produce their identification card at the public bus service and train station, and you go where you want in the country.

https://www.facebook.com/mugambi.paul.988/media_set?set=a.1027275033959454.1073741854.100000309023349&type=3 (bus ride)

https://www.facebook.com/mugambi.paul.988/videos/vb.100000309023349/1027277310625893/?type=3&theater (bus video)

  1. For the first time in history I crossed the busy highway- pedestrian lane without any assistance.
  2. I have not come across any potholes, sewage holes, trenches etc
  3. From the houses to the roads, it’s accessible. Accessibility is the order of the day.
  4. The blind rarely use the White Cane. They interact more with guide dogs. The guide dogs are offered free food by the government.
  5. Access is available even up to the beach while in Kenya this is a problem even in our own offices or houses. What I am experiencing here in Israel is no longer fodder for the imagination. It has become an actual reality that has me mesmerized day in, and day out.
  6. Drivers are trained to handle blind persons.

I will leave here with a lot of unforgettable memories.

VISIT TO THE HEBREW UNIVERSITY- JERUSALEM

This is a summary of my visit to Hebrew University Jerusalem. It is the home of Aleh organization where I experienced the Smart Board demonstration. The points below provide a summary of my experience.1. Deliver services to the Blind and Visually Impaired students in the five universities to pursue their academics.

2. run a pre-university for blind and visually impaired persons.

3. Coordinates the National Service for the Blind and Visually Impaired since they cannot join the regular soldier activities.

5. Supports the blind and visually impaired children with mentorship

5. Supports the children of blind and visually impaired parents.

7. Supports referrals for blind persons to get the blind certificate.

8. Operates Information Centres in the 20 Ophthalmologists’ hospitals where the newly blind persons are referred to and empowered about the services available for the blind in Israel and where to get them.

Blind and visually impaired people read in a variety of ways, just like anyone else.

  • In print: for many partially sighted readers, they use well-designed print information using a minimum 12 point size font on good quality. They don’t use shiny paper. This makes a real difference.
  • On a computer: Available software enlarges screen text. It speaks with a synthetic voice or shows information in Braille on a refreshable Braille display. Blind and partially sighted people can thus read electronic documents if they are designed with accessibility in mind.
  • In Braille, large print or audio is used since not everyone has access to a computer.
  • At the Hebrew University for the first time, I learnt how the visually impaired can be taught by making the environment accessible. With the smart board, you can become a lecturer using a smart pen and board. You can adjust the length, and colour using icons. Once you write on the smart board, it gets connected to the whole network of the computers.  As a student, you can adjust it to meet your needs e.g. colour, fonts, and the overall view. This is best for the visually impaired learners.

·         Persons with eyesight problems can utilize their residual sight optimally. This can also apply to cognitive and students with learning disabilities. This is what schools in Kenya need to adapt as we head towards inclusive education. As we talk about the laptops, we need to speak about the smart boards too.  Students with eyesight issues don’t need to strain on the board but concentrate on what the teacher has written, and it will appear on their computers.

#What a life.

#Technology is solving problems.

#Accessibility at its best.

#Disability Soldier Nasema.

  • The information assists all of us to make decisions, become involved with the society and lead their lives independently. Blind and partially sighted people have the right to be able to do this just like every other citizen.
  • This right to information is internationally recognized  (from Article 21 of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (External link).
  • Furthermore, it makes good business sense. As people are living longer and sight problems increase with age, a growing number of individuals will be blind or visually impaired who can join my clan.
  • Making information accessible is not expensive or complicated. It simply requires some awareness and a shift in the production process and staff. Getting accessibility not only benefits the blind and partially sighted. e.g. an accessible website will rank higher in search engines; accessible documents are easier to maintain, update, and convert into other formats.

https://www.facebook.com/mugambi.paul.988/videos/vb.100000309023349/1030429983643959/?type=3&theater (Accessibility materials for the blind)

https://www.facebook.com/mugambi.paul.988/media_set?set=a.1030419313645026.1073741855.100000309023349&type=3 (smartboard experience)
THE OrCAM DEVICE

The climax of my Israel visit is the actualization of my dream of getting to experience the Orcam device. The OrCam device is a small camera wearable in the style of Google Glass. It is connected by a thin cable to a portable computer designed to fit in the wearer’s pocket. The system clips on to the wearer’s glasses with a small magnet and uses a bone-conduction speaker to offer clear speech as it reads aloud the words or object pointed to by the user.

The system is designed to both recognize and speak “text in the wild,” a term used to describe newspaper articles as well as bus numbers, and objects as diverse as landmarks, traffic lights, and the faces of friends. As you can see from my experience, totally awesome.

The OrCam system has a simplified user interface design. To recognize an object or text, the wearer points at it and the device then interprets the object or scene. The audio information is transmitted to a bone conduction speaker, similar to the Google Glass headset.

Other Exciting Moments in Israel

 

 In conclusion, mostly in my country blind persons and majority of persons with disabilities do not have access to tourist sites. It is not because we don’t want to, however the environment has not been conducive and there lacks implemention of affirmative action on the sites according to the disability act 2003 which is currently on review.

I had a lifetime experience at the beach

I couldn’t believe accessibility was upto the beach!

Still in shock

 

https://www.facebook.com/mugambi.paul.988/videos/vb.100000309023349/1026007980752826/?type=3&theater (Mugambi in the gym) https://www.facebook.com/mugambi.paul.988/media_set?set=a.1025994720754152.1073741851.100000309023349&type=3 (Ashkelon Beach)
 

Visit to the Marina and Lighthouse,

If you said a Blind person cannot enjoy being a tourist then you are wrong !check it out.

https://www.facebook.com/mugambi.paul.988/media_set?set=a.1030424580311166.1073741856.100000309023349&type=3 (marina lighthouse)

life time mwenjoyo (life time enjoyment)

Whereby access to the route is fantastic, you can plan to visit it. You will love it.

There are beautiful sceneries.

The children are trained in boat sailing, diving, canoeing. It’s part of the school curriculum. Those who are hydrophobic mko na shida. (those of you who are hydrophobic will miss out)

Sweet melodies sounds blew the air waves while the wind blew at its best, at the Ashkalon beach.

I wish I could stay here longer. Going back to Kidero Potholes and Grass brings thoughts of misery. However, I intend to return to my country Kenya with knowledge and exposure   beyond my wildest dreams that will assist our cause to drive positive change in the Disability Movement.

I thank God for creating the opportunity to visit Israel, and to experience a different aspect of life as a blind individual. It is a memory that will be etched in my mind forever.

#DisabilitySoldier

#social justice is what we need as persons with disabilities.

We should say no more charity

I say “No more charity”