OFF MY CHEST: What dating with a disability is really like Guest Author Nicole Mballah

In a world that’s technically built for the able bodied, dating as a differently abled person is doubly hard.
Trust me; I’ve had my fair share of troubles finding love.
Physical limitations are a part of a disabled person’s life, facing countless barriers every day.
We often have a routine to make things easier. When it comes to dating, minor things can require major planning and preparation.
Usually these are the questions that follow suit; where do we get an appropriate taxi? Does the building have an elevator? Does the restaurant have a ramp?
Is it too noisy or crowded to move around freely? All these things and more have to be taken into account.
But it’s not all gloom. I once went on a memorable date with this guy where not once did it fell like my disability played a part or affected him. We were just two people genuinely having a good time talking and hanging out. My disability was not a topic of conversation the whole night; I was simply a woman he was interested in.
BIGGEST OBSTACLE
In my opinion, the biggest obstacle to dating is social perceptions; I always find that people think that those of us living with a disability are either asexual or ‘undateable’.
People often think about how our disability will inconvenience them, rather than trying to consider if the relationship will work. I wish people knew that we‘re like everyone, with just a few barriers.
I’ve done my fair share of online dating and while it was fun at times, I’ve also experienced rejection.
I always try to be upfront about my disability, sometimes disclosing it on my dating profile and including a picture with my crutches into the mix.
In the words of pop singer Anne Marie:
“Love every single part of my body, top to the bottom. I’m not a super model from a magazine, I’m okay with not being perfect cause that’s perfect to me.”
My dating life has been bitter sweet. I sometimes meet men who are uncomfortable with my disability, stopping conversations once they find out or having to answer strange questions about having a disability, like ‘Can you have sex?’ and the outright weird that go ‘You’re too pretty to be disabled’, to potential dates who thought it was weird if they liked me.
While also meeting guys who accepted my disability, assisting me whenever I needed it, simply moving chairs out of the way at restaurants, just being helpful without it being too much.
Even if those dates didn’t turn out to be long term relationships I learnt valuable lessons, for every person that rejected me for my disability there was a person who didn’t.
If you reject someone with a disability, you might be forgetting that we all might have a disability in some way, it might not be visible so don’t assume to be superior.
Dating with a disability is always a challenge, whether it’s online or going on a blind date.
Don’t be afraid to make a connection. There is no correct way to do it. Don’t let the rejections get you down that’s just a part of life.
If you’re honest about who you are and what you want; there is always a door full of possibilities waiting to be opened.

Why the Blind in Kenya were duped on money identification! Author Mugambi Paul

Before reading any further, close your eyes, reach into your purse or wallet and fish out 1,000 Kenyan notes.
What comes in your mind?
Can’t do it? You now know what currency discrimination feels like.

Currently, over one million blind and vision impaired Kenyans depend on someone else — a family member, friend, cashier or bank teller — to identify the
denomination of each notes for them before they can organize their money to spend themselves.
How many Blind and vision impaired persons have been duped?
The latest statistics even includes the Daughter of the head of Africa infrastructure Rose Odinga.
Furthermore, central bank of Kenya had great aspirations, but they were also duped.
To put matters into perspective the real Blind and vision impaired persons were not engaged.
Thus, lack of public participation.
who is the disability rep on the central bank of Kenya board?

I observe that, there are sighted teachers who have served in Blind schools for more than 2 decades and they don’t know braille or interest in adaptive technology.
Additionally, there are persons working in the disability sector and they don’t know what reasonable accommodation nor universal design is! This is the root course of current acceptance of mediocre leadership in the Kenyan disability sector at large.
This is also coupled with the charity-based model where the disabled person is offered a token to justify the service.
I affirm that due to this most public and private sector will claim they don’t have the capacity while they have not granted the disabled a chance.
Casing point is the employment opportunities
.
No wonder even the Blind and vision impaired persons are the most highly discriminated in job advertisement.
For example the Kenya national youth service, police and army.
Why does the Kenya society underestimate Us?
Did the Kenyan blind and vision impaired Peak bodies speak out?
Did the any human rights body speak out?
The jury is outside.

During the Madaraka 2019 what the Blind and the vision impaired persons were meant to celebrate the newfound love of government commitment to accessibility as per the constitution
2010 and the UNCRPD on matters universal design was not achieved.
Although we got a token of the cash notes having different colours.

I know some of you will justify that we the “Blind and vision impaired” should accept the token.
This is not going to happen.
I foresee the Blind and vision impaired persons arising and demanding for better access of the money identification.
The small bit done for different notes on colour is highly appreciated.
The Central bank of Kenya should realize the advantage of accessible cash it’s not for the blind only, but it will assist the highly tech young persons, veterans and those facing eye problems.
As public scholar and my passion for advocacy I have evidently seen how the engagement of persons of concerns makes policy implementation easier.
Its now upon the central bank of Kenya and the blind sector to ensure we have accessible notes through consultations.
Can the real Blind and vision impaired persons stand up?
The central bank of Kenya needs to include a disability research component in its works.
Will the 2 Kenyan sleeping giants in the blindness sector arise and stand to be counted?

All in all, I opine, the blindness and vision impaired system in Kenya doesn’t just need to be ‘reformed’. It needs to be broken down, dissected, & re-built from the ground, up.
This will happen when the Kenyan Blind and vision impaired persons unite and have a common voice!

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.