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

Don’t Believe the Media’s Lies: Disability and Beauty Are Not Mutually Exclusive By medicarepublic.com Additions by Mugambi Paul

This isn’t a feel good story. It’s not an essay on the virtues of strength and bravery, neither is it an attempt to inspire you with tales of overcoming
adversity. It’s not a lesson on looking past disability and discovering some inner beauty bullshit. This is a call to action. This is about acceptance
and inclusion, about seeing and celebrating. Like all diversity, disability can be beautiful.

Diversity is a hot topic. It means recognizing our differences, seeing what distinguishes us from the majority and then throwing a party hat on it and
embracing it. In recent decades, Western society has made great strides in challenging stereotypes and acknowledging diversity in skin color, size, age,
race, sexual orientation and gender. We’re still far from equality on any of these issues but the conversations exist and progress continues. We see these
identities depicted in media and when we don’t, or when we see false, corrupted versions of them, we are justifiably outraged because we understand that
representation matters.

What we observe in television, film and advertising is critical to our understanding of all aspects of society. Media has a direct and profound impact
on how we think about ourselves and others. The inclusion of disability into our socially acceptable model of diversity is an area where we still have
a lot of work to do. Across multiple media, disability is underrepresented, misrepresented, or just plain ignored. In fact, where disability is concerned,
mass media is telling us a big, ugly lie.
#In Kenya we are not yet in existence in the great media and entertainment scenes. Most artists with disability are used us charity objects. Our music royalties are not paid on time and we lack actual marketing and promotion.
I wasn’t born with a disability. But as an adult, I find myself needing to create a new identity that includes it. My search for positive examples to inspire
this acceptance of a new way of being has as much to do with how I feel about myself as it pertains to how others perceive me. In the absence of representation,
the message can only be that disability cannot be beautiful and I refuse to accept that. Fashion and beauty are where we look to see the heightened, idealized
versions of ourselves that help shape our style which is so critical to identity. Yes, fashion is fantasy but in a world where none of us are perfect,
we should all be able to find something recognizable, something that reminds us we belong.

I’m looking for the people who look like me, who look better than me. I need more than just Iris Apfel or vintage Madonna to show me how to style a cane.
I need to see the cool girl with the walker so that I can think, wow. She looks hot. I can look hot too. I’m just as vain and superficial as everyone else.
This frivolous, materialistic, self-obsession is part of my North American birthright and I want in.
In Kenya at most we don’t have artist to look upto just the short stature of Likobe and Mwala we can talk about other disabled artists are either not in existence or never granted the opportunity.
So, just where are these pretty people? In movies and TV, disability is almost always used as a plot point and not as something a real person happens to
live with. In the world of entertainment, disabilities are turned into stereotypes of victims and burdens, heroes or freaks; lazy tropes that are used
to make us feel specific emotions. These careless characterizations are not just hurtful, they’re dangerous. They inform how we see disabled people in
real life and lead us to believe they are low status individuals who cannot be happy, lead productive lives or be self-sufficient. This sucks. It’s also
wrong.

The Victim stereotype is meant to elicit pity with stories about the plight of the disabled that reinforce the idea of how awful their lives must be. Dickens
did it with Tiny Tim in such an overt characterization that even the boy’s name evokes pity. Victims can also be packaged as burdens whose lives aren’t
worth very much. Or at least not as much as that of the burdened person. By contrast Heroes elevate the status of disabled persons, putting them on pedestals
for simply living their lives. Their accomplishments tell us that if disabled persons just try hard enough, they can triumph, overcome their obstacles
and live ‘normal’ lives.
In advert we are not involved even in courses which we can advocate for ourselves the ableism mentality is spearheaded by even those we think are with us in this agenda. Cmpanies in Kenya have now followed soot on this non empowering agenda.
Daytime talk shows and reality TV have become modern day freak shows. Disability is the spectacle and as it turns out, we haven’t evolved since the days
of PT Barnum’s biological oddities. Meanwhile, physical deformities are used to portray super villains driven to crime or revenge through their unfortunate
fates. From Captain Hook to Darth Vader, movies have us socializing children to fear and associate negatively with disability. From a young age we can
be convinced that disability is a punishment for being evil, or that disabled people probably want to kill you.

All of this is, of course, crap. These are not my people. Like most disabled persons, I don’t see myself reflected in any of these stories. While I would
love to blame my chronic bitchiness on Multiple Sclerosis, people tell me I was bitchy well in advance of my diagnosis. And while it’s true that some children
are afraid of me, doctors tell me ‘super villain’ is not actually a symptom of MS.
These stereotypes are not how the majority of the disabled population experience disability or life in general. But these ideas are so pervasive and powerful
that they’ve become normalized. We believe these harmful lies without questioning them.

Part of the problem is that disabled people have little or no influence on how stories are told. It’s a population that is under-employed in every sector
and media is no exception. Stories are most often not written by disabled persons and the number of actors in leading roles with disabilities is not a
number that exists. Even when the story is about being disabled. Imagine if this were still true for other marginalized groups. Our false convictions are
so strong and so deep that most of us don’t even see a problem with this.

In addition to what we think disability is, we are left with what we think disability is not. The media wants us to believe that persons with disabilities
cannot be considered attractive, desirable or sexual.

In the fashion and beauty realm, there is no narrative. Disability is altogether ignored, as if it doesn’t exist; as if we don’t also have budgets for
things like lipstick and lingerie. We are lead to believe that disabled people are not also girlfriends, boyfriends, lovers, parents and partners, workers,
travelers and friends. We don’t recognize disabled persons as contributing, participating members of society.

It’s thus become accepted that disability disqualifies you from being beautiful. When someone does describe a woman with a disability as attractive, it
can feel like a loaded statement. Maybe it’s being said with shock and surprise. Or perhaps it’s qualified with something like “You’re pretty, for a disabled
chick” or “What a waste of such a pretty girl to be in a wheelchair”. The people saying these things actually think they’re doling out compliments. When
I was in the process of being diagnosed, someone who thought she was being supportive said to me, “Don’t worry. Pretty people don’t get MS.”

WTF? Wherever did we get that idea?

Society would have us believe this demographic doesn’t matter anyway because it doesn’t affect that many people. But according to the 2009 US census, 9.9%
of working aged Americans had a disability. That means 1 in every 10 Americans aged 18-64 reported significant difficulty with hearing, vision, cognition,
ambulation, self-care or independent living. Yet we don’t tend to think of this population as visible minorities worthy of accurate and careful representation.

If we don’t truly see the diversity, we don’t see the injustice. In race or gender this translates to things like discrimination and income inequality.
In disability this can mean lack of accessibility, or issues of employability. Transgender bathroom rights are in the news every day recently but despite
the ADA (American’s with Disabilities Act) having been around since 1990, PWD act of Kenya 2003 of NO. 14 there are many public spaces in both North America and more worse in Kenya that don’t have accessible bathrooms
at all. While we are arguing and passing laws about who gets to pee where, there is a whole segment of the population that has nowhere to pee. Why aren’t
we outraged about that?
In Kenya we get free county toilets which at most a time are not even accessible.
It’s time to get real about the stories we tell about disability. Why is it that we’re more comfortable seeing the undead eat brains than we are hearing
about an actual human with a colostomy bag? Disability is a normal part of the natural diversity of the world. It’s not going anywhere and we need to make
room for it. Increasingly positive media examples have lead to the rising status of several diverse groups over recent years. The acceptance of disability
should be no different. Media not only influences societal trends, it practically dictates them. The arts are by nature forward thinking and innovative
and have a real opportunity to change ideas in a massive and meaningful way. People with disabilities live full lives and are many things, including beautiful.
It’s time to tell these stories.

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”