Why the disabled Kenyans should stop word romancing in quest for inclusivity. Author Mugambi Paul

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Over the past few months, Kenya social media sites within the disability sector has been filled with romantic words of how we us disabled persons should be defined.
Many of the social media users argued for or against the statement “persons living with disability”
Putting my scholarly lenses, I will fall into the trap of using legal instrument.
This is evidently best settled by the clear definition which is quite elaborate in the UNCRPD.
It begs the question whether I live with my impairment or not. Does this really matter?
The pertinent response should be if as and individual or group we are receiving efficient, timely service delivery.
This matter of romantic wording should stop instantly and let focus the energies towards demanding for more improved service delivery in both public and private sectors.
As a matter of fact, the disabled in Kenya are too euphemistic and this clearly waters down the advocacy agenda.
As a public scholar and also a consumer of disability services have put the shoes and thus found to jot my reflections.
This is well informed by the virtue of Some discriminatory experiences
I have encountered within the Kenyan public and private service provision.
I observe there are allot of grey areas we need to focus.
For instance, accessible communication and information, transport provision for disabled persons, inclusive education, demand for employment opportunism etc.
I opine that the Kenyan disability sector has lost its way by being caught
up in politics and the self-interest of higher-ups. As [Peter 2019] affirms the disability sector can redeem itself.
Several reforms need to take place in order to assure and uphold the rightful place and a just society for the disabled in Kenya.
There is a plausible and workable solution
within reach to overcome many of the failures and inefficiencies of disability service provision, and these solutions should be grasped with two hands so that we
can turn this around.
For example, if a follow up response for last year’s open letter on my blog would have changed the narrative.

“Open letter to the Newly NCPWD chair” Mugambi Paul


to put it differently, disabled persons have solutions to the obstacles they face on a daily basis.
“we are the drivers of our destiny”
More importantly, Kenya made several global commitments in 2018.
This has seen several initiatives being pursued by government, international non-governmental organizations, private business sectors and disabled persons organizations.
According to my web-based research most entities in Kenya performed well in meeting their obligations but is this impact felt on the ground?
needless to say, the disabled persons in Kenya have a responsibility of accountability by asking.
Are these global commitments being implemented to achieve the said target population?
Are the global commitments made by Kenya in line with the Complies with its Obligations Under the CRPD?
Are tangible outcomes being experienced by disabled persons at the grassroots?
Success story
Moreover, beyond individual organizations’ progress against their commitments, there is evidence by ministry of labor in Kenya that Global disability commitments has had a wider impact in raising awareness, and increasing
prioritization, in relation to disability inclusion. For sure, disability inclusion as key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
some of the ministry of labor success story include:
Launch of the National Action Plan on the implementation of the Global Disability Summit Commitments 2018
Development and an advocacy toolkit that will be used to strengthen dignity and respect for all.
Lastly, Establishment and launch of the Inter Agency Coordinating Committee to coordinate and monitor the implementation of the National Action Plan on the
implementation of the Global Disability Summit Commitments 2018. On the other hand, much needs to be done
by the consortiums in the non-governmental organizations.
most of them are still grappling with teething issues and set ups.
We hope in 2020 more research and global commitments outcomes will be felt on the ground.

According to June 2019 Kenya investment report and state social enterprise reports they do not have any reference to inclusivity aspect of disabled persons.
The report just mentions the term disability only in the reference of the social protection aspect of the Uwezo program.
This literally shows Kenya still has a long way towards getting proper participation of persons with disabilities and inclusive reporting.
All in all, the disabled a person and their organizations need to enhance the collaborative accountability mechanisms which will aid towards the realization of achieving the global commitments.
The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.
Mugambi Paul is a public policy, diversity, inclusion and sustainability expert.

What’s Next? severe disabled wish. guest Author: petergibilisco Researcher, author and advocate. Bachelor of Business Accounting, PhD from Melbourne University. Dealing with issues involving disability.

I wrote and published this article on OnlineOpinion over 11 years ago. It is troubling to me that nothing much has changed over all that time.

I am still trying, even though I’ve got 1/4 of the abilities I had back then in 2008. That means now, I am constantly pushing the boundaries of my remaining
abilities to speak against injustices. I want to achieve so much in a personal, social and academic sense and all I ask is to be given the opportunity
to do so.

It is probable that everyone will get an itch somewhere, sooner or later. And so, when you get an itch, you do what comes naturally: you scratch it! It
is a simple process that itches are made to feel better when scratched. Or so it seems.

But what if you can’t scratch? I mean, what if you can’t scratch where it itches because you have nothing to scratch it with? It may be an itch that is
underneath your plaster cast that is in place to help with the healing of your broken knee-cap. What if the itch can’t be localised? What then? It is not
such a simple problem.

I happen to know a lot about the problem of scratching itches from a rather unique perspective How? Because I have a neuro-transmitter dysfunction that
simply won’t allow me to reach wherever it itches. So I have learned to cope, to block out the irritation. I have to admit that it is, indeed, a luxury
when I am fortunate enough to have a very empathetic support worker who can help me by scratching my back or my ear, but I won’t bore you with all the
details of my relief because I have only raised this with another purpose in mind, a purpose I might add which might help our society understand the itches
people like myself have to deal with.

I would like to draw attention to what disablement can mean to someone like me who suffers from Friedreich’s Ataxia. I’ve been attacked by this progressive
disease, since I was first diagnosed in 1976 when I was 14. Now I am confined to a wheelchair and need daily assistance with routine transfers, hygiene
and most of my daily activities. Living with a degenerative disease has broadened my thoughts concerning disablement and allowed me to focus on the need
for empathetic behaviour from those directly related to disability.

In 1981 I was 19. That was the year of the first United Nations International Year for Disabled People. You’d have to say that my life, with the progression
of Friedreich’s Ataxia, since then has tracked the development of public policy that has, in significant ways, taken seriously the problems that disabled
people have to continually and progressively confront.

In this sense mainstream society has begun to acknowledge disablement as a serious itch that needs to be carefully scratched with appropriate care, tools
and resources that are outlined in just policies.

And so there are policies, legislation, a wider social commitment, education and programs now in place that show, in this country, that we have a significant
society-wide compassion to assist those in great need. But, yet the itch is still not appropriately scratched!

Yes, we need ramps and railings that lead into public buildings. But, there needs to be something more. Let me tell you that I have received much, for
which I am very grateful. And have come such a long way with so many people to thank. I often wonder, how can someone like me have got this far? And with
a disease that has made a greater impact over my body as time passes.

I am now 45 and my care needs increase almost by the day. Yet despite this I have just completed a study tour in Hawaii visiting the University of Hawaii,
Center for Disability Studies. My social enquiry in the US focused on how many people with severe disabilities yearn for, and are capable of performing,
most human activities – with assistance from a support worker.

I was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia at 14 and then my mother died of cancer when I was 18. I was well and truly on a downward emotional and physiological
spiral. By 23, I was confined permanently to a wheelchair. But it was also around this time, with the encouragement and perceptive advice from a close
lady friend which lifted me out of a fantasy land of self-pity, that I began studying for an Associate Diploma in Accountancy at Dandenong TAFE. That inclusive
and happy learning environment gave me inspiration to tackle life with vigour and it still serves as a reminder to me when, like anyone else, I develop
the usual emotional itches which need scratching. That was my 1984.

But that year, 1984, reminds us of something else doesn’t it? Since then, my life has been not unlike the problematic world that George Orwell describes.
It is especially relevant to people like myself who are really very grateful for all the special consideration, no matter how insignificant, equal opportunities
and affirmative action we have received over the years.

But why is it problematic? It is problematic in an Orwellian sense because we know that if we raise a voice in criticism, even if we are trying to be constructive,
we put ourselves in an exposed situation. After having traveled so far, with so much kind assistance, it can too easily sound like we can never be satisfied
and can never get enough freebies.

It’s as if after graduating with my PhD, and then in 2007 when I was presented with the Emerging Disability Leader of the Year award, I developed a new
itch, but just didn’t know where so it could be scratched. My PhD thesis, my academic journal articles and my On Line Opinion pieces were all being applauded
but, somehow, the major issue I was trying to discuss was being ignored.

I think public policy towards people with disabilities, and in particular severely disabled or progressively disabled, has ignored some important factors
to the detriment of our society.

First, I will sound like a broken record by offering my analysis over and over again; and second, our society cannot be, or become, the compassionate solidarity
it claims for itself if it doesn’t hear what I am trying to say. I have a sense of obligation here to speak out. It’s not just for me, although I am painfully
aware of its application to myself and to my own situation.

The point is this: for some of us the special consideration, equal opportunity and affirmative action, designed to get disabled people into the mainstream,
paradoxically brings us to a more exposed and needy situation. This cannot be addressed without more special consideration, further and ongoing application
of equal opportunities after training is completed and further affirmative action once we have obtained our qualifications. It is a simple point that can
be readily illustrated.

This illustration of policy dynamism is based on the approach I have identified as pragmatic social democracy, advocated by Hugh Stretton and Marta Russell,
in my Doctoral Dissertation.

Once a person with a severe disability at TAFE, for example, receives a diploma then society’s responsibility to that person is not somehow fulfilled,
because at that point the obligations have actually increased. The person may need special support to attend interviews, and when that person is offered
and accepts a position of employment it may be necessary for technical and other assistance.

I could repeat this point for each of the steps I have made through my own higher education: TAFE Diploma, Bachelor of Business, Bachelor of Arts, Master
of Arts, and Doctorate of Philosophy. There are other facets to keep in mind as well. Somehow we need to find a way to view and support people with a disability
in pro-active methods of equal opportunity; rather than focusing on the medical model’s view of a sympathetic approach: people with severe disabilities
need an empathetic approach, aligned to the social model. My assertion is that society’s responsibility increases in specific ways oriented to professional
commitment and involvement, once the student with a severe disability graduates.

But, as my own needs, and possibly those of others, have increased or are increasing, support is not only to be seen in educational terms. The dynamic
of increasing support reflected in policy should also seek to meet the increased needs which the policy at an earlier point has also helped to bring about.
There are also increased needs of those who support, as well as, the increasing needs of the person with a disability.

For a TAFE graduate like myself, I was faced with a daunting prospect. I had a wonderful Technical and Further Education experience, which affirmed me
as a mature-age student, and I was no different in some ways from any other TAFE graduate: “What next?” we asked. Leaving TAFE for all of us in that year
was a life changing experience, but life moves on.

Life moves on. That is the irony that is central to my attempt to point to the dynamic at work here. But the paradox is that not all of us, and not all
disabled people, have to deal with a progressive disease. To apply for a job in an accountancy firm after my graduation from Technical and Further Education
would have been to ask the prospective employer to initiate a general policy change that we, as a society, were only just beginning to think about let
alone implement.

The political consideration of equal opportunity and affirmative action was still at an early stage. So, as I look back on it now, it is no wonder that
I was attracted to the higher education field which proved to be more advanced, and hence more hospitable to me with my particular needs, than most other
areas.

I am the beneficiary of higher education which has been required to make room for disabled people. But then, it seems that higher education was also being
re-oriented to make it compatible with job training for a post-industrial society. In such an environment, as Marta Russell has pointed out, a university
degree becomes the evidence that society has met its obligations to help disabled people compete. Equal opportunity was not always matched with appropriate
affirmative action.

In this respect I would suggest that affirmative action needs to be taken to a new level. And perhaps this new level cannot be reached without recognising
the ongoing obligation which a degree-granting institution has to its graduates. Understanding mutual obligation from the institution to its highly qualified
graduates is downplayed if not lost entirely.

In my own case, a university which takes a qualified post-graduate student with Friedrich’s Ataxia into its PhD programs, should not view itself as giving
a sympathetic expression according to the medical model’s agenda, which has the unfortunate ability of systematising disability policy pursuits. Although
that is, I am sorry to say, the predominant way in which Australian higher education under third way and neo-liberal policies tends to view such achievements.

That’s the itch I have wanted to scratch. We need universities that will recognise that their institutional mutual obligation is not transacted merely
by granting degrees and then every year thereafter sending out brochures inviting its highly qualified alumni to give generously to the university’s noble
cause.

In my case I am forced to ask: How is it that the university has not required me to give back by post-doctoral research and to be part of its ongoing research
effort? How is it that it can take on a candidate without expecting to maintain its responsibility to provide ongoing support after graduation, and also,
in order that its own research work is enhanced by my contribution?

Note, my point is not to ask that my work be judged before I do it. I am referring here to the lack of effort or empathy that seems to come from the side
of those administrating higher education institutions in Australia.

Writing On Line Opinion pieces, or developing my own Blogspot, are indeed satisfying experiences and I would not want them to be taken away. But such personal
satisfaction at getting a paper published is not the main game. What I am concerned about is the development of genuine policy for the severely disabled,
and in particular, policies that will seek to meet needs that arise from progressive disability.

I have always done what is needed to be done, and I only wish to keep bringing to light the individualism of people with disabilities.

PETER BOOK POSTER FINAL

I talk about social issues and disability in my book, 6 and a ½ Years on a Dunghill: Life in Specialist Disability Accommodation.

2 disability experts paints a grim picture on the BBI report “why the disabled Kenyans always fall into cracks” Authors: DR Siyat Abdi and Mugambi Paul.

According to the World Bank, WHO and the United Nations One billion people, or 15% o

f the world’s population, experience some form of disability.
Persons with disabilities, on average as a group, are more likely to experience adverse socioeconomic outcomes than persons without disabilities. Such as less education, poorer health outcomes, lower levels of employment, and higher poverty rates.

Barriers to full social and economic inclusion of Kenyans with disabilities include inaccessible communication, navigating the physical environments, inaccessible transportation, the unavailability of assistive devices and technologies, non-adapted means of communication, gaps in service delivery, utter unemployment inequality and generally discriminatory prejudice and stigma in Kenyan society.

From our professional lenses and in-depth analysis, we observe that the voice of this largest minority was never hard on the BBI 156-page report.
Notwithstanding, understanding the influence of different stakeholders in public policy making is very Critical “Carolyne 2016].
Although the BBI Taskforce had lots of public network in executing some of the insisted public approaches [Carolyne 2017], the task force did a total disservice and provided just a window dressing of Kenyans with disabilities.

In our collective opinion, the first omission and a major setback was the lack of representation of persons with disability in the BBI task force for persons living with disabilities.
This affirms the incessant notion of the government of Kenya of not ensuring article 54 of the 2010 Kenyan Constitution is realized.
Our expectations were high, and therefore, we expected the Taskforce would provide a clear direction on accessible representation that responds to the needs of persons with disability.

Secondly, on behalf of all Kenyans with disabilities who are the largest minority, we affirm the term “Disability” appeared 9 times in the BBI Report.
This was not in reference to any commitments to the 9-point agenda in their Terms of Reference but giving basic information of the experiential circumstances people with disability find themselves in Kenya.
In other words, the task force deliberated on the historical background on issues regarding persons living with disabilities without offering any commitment on how the nation will address the historical and traditional social injustices encountered by person with disabilities in Kenya.
Instead, the Taskforce echoed the common cliché we are used to by outlining traditional principles which clinically failed to work in the past.
No doubt, the BBI task force affirms what Paul Mugambi said in one of his articles, emphasising why the disability movement in Kenya must change tact once and for all!
http://www.mugambipaul.com/2019/11/17/why-the-disability-movement-in-kenya-should-stop-crying-faw/.
Increasing inclusivity on a political, economic, social, religious, cultural, youth, and gender basis is not Inclusivity devoid of disability.
How long are we going to continue being marginalised both in the national government and in the Counties?

It is worth noting the reflective theoretical commitment of Kenya to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development goals.
It affirms clearly that disability cannot be a reason or criteria for lack of access to development programming and the realization of human rights.
Additionally, the SDGS framework have already been integrated in both short- and long-term Kenyan plan strategies, but limited wheels of implementations are in actions.
Its significant, to pronounce that the SDG framework has seven targets, which explicitly refer to persons with disabilities, and six further targets on persons in vulnerable situations, which again include persons with disabilities.
The SDGs address essential development domains such as education, employment and decent work, social protection, resilience to and mitigation of disasters, sanitation, transport, and non-discrimination – all of which are important obligations for the Kenyan government.

Unfortunately, the BBI task force team clearly seem to have been communicating to persons with disabilities in the charity model.
This is to mean the expressions reference to persons living with disabilities seem to be a separate group from Kenyans and this shows that there was exclusion in addressing persons with disabilities in the BBI report.
Thirdly, the term inclusion appeared 24 times.
The only relevant was the 22nd mention.
The cruel irony is that Article 174(e) of the Constitution provides that one of the objectives of devolution in Kenya is ‘to protect and promote the interests and rights of minorities and underserved or discriminated-against communities.’
It is for this reason that the Taskforce strongly feels that measures leading to greater inclusion, equality, equity, and basic fairness at the National level should be mirrored in the Counties, both in law, policy and administration.”
Do you think people with disability will enjoy this commitment?

Fourthly, the term Physical access has been mentioned twice and the 2nd one is relevant to persons with disabilities.
Increase physical access for people with disabilities into buildings, particularly public ones, and transport.
This shows the limitation of the BBI report since it’s not just enough to talk of physical access of built environment and transport only.
Kenyans living with disabilities still need more in area of universal and accessible housing, employment opportunity, and access to building (public and social facilities), communication and access to adaptive technology among many other disability services.
Fifthly, the term “has access” has been mentioned 42 times in the report.
The only relevant area is the 2nd mention. “
The aim should be for all Kenyans to have to cover the same distances to access public services.”
The access to information seems to be one of the major recommendations for the BBI task force but they avoided to demand for alternative accessible formats which could have ensured those with vision loss (blind), those with cognitive disability and other print disabled access information.
The BBI task force would have well utilized the Marrakesh treaty as a benchmark on access to information with excellent literature support from the United Nation Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD).

The BBI report missed opportunities to present across several mechanisms on enhancement of rights of people with disability in Kenya:
For instance, we anticipated that they would have an opportunity to present a structured Social protection systems that would be barrier-free and inclusive, and in a manner which ensures that everyone has equal opportunities to access social protection schemes, which may require special measures for particular categories of the population who may face additional barriers, such as persons with disability and the elderly Kenyans.
They missed to articulate the structure and design implementation of social protection, taking into account Human rights principles and standards at every stage of the schemes in the context of the level of marginalisation experiences of persons with disability both in the national government and in the Counties.
We welcome the Taskforce proposal to change the County Executive, including, but not limited to, the running mate of every candidate for the position of Governor.
While it is commendable to suggest consideration of the opposite gender, window of opportunity should have been given for any governor to decide their running mate, and if possible opportunity to make informed decision to pick a person with a disability as a Deputy Governor.
Another missed opportunity was to empower the National council for People with Disability NCPWD to be elevated a disability commission instead of a semiautonomous body incapable of servicing people with disability.
This could be either through a referendum or by legislation which could have subsequently ensured that the disability commission is well resourced and has the capacity to provide appropriate disability services based on social model and ensure the realization of disability rights.

On a positive note, the beauty of the BBI report is the importance of public participation and engagements. We hope people with disability will be fully engaged in decisions that matter to them.

In conclusion, the BBI report seem to have nailed the coffin for persons with disabilities by claiming that people with disabilities in Kenya are bunch of winchers, always complaining of injustices.
It seems the task force doesn’t understand that people with disabilities in Kenya are tired of the prolonged injustices experienced.
Yes, we must complain and continuously complain because we don’t expect civil and political elections of representatives in Party primaries and nominations to be fair; free and transparent elections in the context of persons with disability.
We must raise our voice because we are severely marginalised both in the national government and in the Counties in terms of employment and social services.
We cannot be satisfied with the BBI solution of just using reputable private recruitment companies to help, but to put in place recruitment legislations that give Kenyan people with disability opportunity to exercise their skills and talents to maintain their livelihood.
What the Kenyan people with disabilities need is real tangible implementation of legal and policy frameworks and ensuring persons living with disabilities actually access all government and private services just like any other Kenyan.

The views expressed here are for the authors and do not represent any agency or organization.

DR Siyat Abdi
Is a independent disability consultant.
Mugambi Paul is a
Public policy diversity and inclusion expert.

Public participation event

address to the public on importance of engaging disabled persons

DREAM OF DISABLED KENYANS. A speech on 3rd December to commemorate the international day of persons with disabilities in Kenya. Author Mugambi Paul

As Lopita Nyong’o said “dreams are valid”

I am humbled and grateful as your Cabinet Secretary.
The Makueni governor,

My principle secretary,
NCPWD board and secretariat.,
The ministry of labor social services.
Distinguished disabled persons, wananchi hamjambo?

I’m preaching to the converted when I say that getting a job and having a job is an absolute game-changer in everybody’s life and that shouldn’t be any different for somebody who has a disability or somebody who lives without one.
The importance of the independence, the self-confidence, the skills and the connections to society and community that are created when you have a job are absolutely essential and not the least of which it means you have an income.
needless to say, we are committed as a Government around employment for all Kenyans but in my position as the Cabinet secretary for Labor and Social Services I’m very focussed on disability employment.
My one simple goal as the cabinet secretary responsible is to make sure we give Kenyans who have a disability access to the full suite of opportunities in the employment sector – whether it be self-employment, open employment, supported employment or other types of employment.
In other words, it is absolutely essential we continue to focus on that.
I want every Kenyan living with a disability who has the capacity to work to get a job.
In particular, I want to see more opportunities for every person who’s able to get into open employment, to actually be open employment.
I want to make sure that employers see employing a person with a disability as just a mainstream, everyday activity.
I want everybody who’s living with a disability to gain from the big for agenda plan by the president.

Furthermore, with respect to the world of work, Kenyans living with disabilities have historically faced serious challenges and barriers impeding their access to employment.
This represents a violation not only of their rights, but a loss for our societies and economies. Many persons with disabilities continue to face discrimination
with respect to opportunities and outcomes in the Kenya world of work.

According to Thorkil Sonne, Chairman of Denmark’s Council for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainable Development Goals (
“Results from many employers show that it makes good business sense to provide inclusive work environments for people with disabilities. You will get the
work done, and also harvest positive side-effects such as higher engagement, higher retention rate, joy of work, sense of purpose and improved management
skills in the workplace.”
Unfortunately, employment in Kenya does remain an issue for people with disability – I’m not telling you anything that you don’t know.its a proven fact that many employers in both public and private entities have continuously practiced marginalization and discriminatory tendencies [ILO 2017 Whiteford 2018]
For instance, some employers have failed to consult disable employees and thus arbitrarily transferring them.
This must stop since it causes mental distress and frustrate the employees with disabilities.
To make matters worse no provision of reasonable accommodation and measures are put into place.
As a government we shall take actions to ensure especially the public entities provide platform of consultation as envisaged in in the 2010 constitution. This is well supported by ensuring reasonable accommodation as enshrined in the UNCRPD and the public service disability mainstreaming regulations 2018.
My ministry will set the example by ensuring this is followed to the latter.
I also take note of Participation in the workforce for people with disability which is lower than those that live without a disability [daily nation 2015]
Participation rates for people without disability continues to improve in our workforce but participation rates for people with a disability hasn’t [Mugambi 2017[
In fact, at the moment there’s a 70-percentage point difference between the participation rate for people who are without disability and those with a disability.
Additionally, we are absolutely committed to make sure that we fix that problem and there is every reason that we can with the help of the people that are here in Makueni.
Improving employment outcomes is a high priority when it comes to disability and I’m sure that it’s absolutely the highest priority for Kenyan government.
But equally we understand that as Kenyan government there are things that we need to do, levers that we need to pull, policies that we need to put in place to ensure that we give you the best opportunity to deliver on behalf of the people in Kenya with disability.

Today, I wanted to talk about some of the key policy levers:
Social protection strategy.
NCPWD strategy
Persons with disability bill 2019.
Draft disability policy
National action plan on accessibility.
At the end of the day, my decisions are guided by what is best for the individual and that must be guided by the feedback that I get from individuals who live with disability and from people like you who engage on a day-to-day basis with the employment sector.
I hope the national employment authority, NCPWD, federation of Kenya employers and other stakeholders will be keen to realize this dream and vision of ensuring Kenyans with disabilities get to the job market.
Its clear in my mind employment of persons with disabilities is the most absolutely needful priority of all times.
We thank the NCPWD for the last 16 years for endeavoring to reach out to employers.
NCPWD through the disability mainstreaming have helped employers to get themselves up to speed in understanding what it is to employ somebody with a disability but, most importantly, to retain those people in the workforce.
Over the next 3 years, my ministry will collaborate with partners and ensure we commit to reducing the unemployment rate among Kenyans with disabilities.
This is through having substantial reforms which will ensure improved employment outcomes.

I am keen to hear back from you as to how you think things are going and what you would like to see us doing in the future so that we ensure that we maximize the opportunity for every Kenyan with a disability who wants to work to be able to get that job and keep it.
In other words, this will ensure disabled persons are at the co plans and get to participate in public policy reforms and implementation.
Moreover, A crucial element in all our efforts to increase the employment outcomes for people with disability is the attitude of employers.
It’s disappointing to see that whilst research points to the fact there is a desire for employers to employ people with disability, that desire doesn’t often translate into actual action.
A lack of confidence appears to remain in the wider employment sector about employing people with disability.
I want to work with you on how we encourage greater understanding in the employment sector about the huge benefits of employing somebody with a disability.
If we can just get the employers through the door, they will be able to understand that with the right support people with a disability can be some of the greatest employees that they will ever have.
I think that’s what we need to make sure to continue.
We can do better; we will do better and I’m sure working together that that outcome will actually be achieved.
We need to make sure we give people with disability access to the full suite of options for employment – be it self-employment, supported employment or mainstream private and public sector.
Lastly I promise Over the coming 12 months the Department will be working with all sectors, whether it be your sector, whether it be people with disability, whether it be the business community or county governments, to make sure that we develop a Disability Employment Strategy that starts to mainstream disability employment into everybody’s vocabulary.
Because clearly everybody benefits, absolutely everybody benefits, when more Kenyans are in working.
Lets all work towards achieving the global commitments we made in July 2018.
In conclusion can I just say thank you so much for the opportunity to be here today.
I hope you have a fantastic Christmas holiday.
Kindly do not drink and drive.
Kenya needs you more.
Happy new year 2020

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

The dream of saving the disabled Kenyans Author Mugambi Paul.

We’ve come a long way, with disabled Kenyans having more opportunity than ever, but there’s still a long way to go.
Since 1992, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) has been annually observed on 3 December around the world. The theme for this 2019
IDPD is ‘
Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda’. The theme focuses on the
empowerment of persons with disabilities for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development as envisaged in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,
which pledges to ‘leave no one behind’ and recognizes disability as a cross-cutting issues, to be considered in the implementation of its 17 Sustainable
Development Goals.

My hope is that Kenya will reach a point where basic education about acceptance and inclusion is no longer imperative.

I hope we’ll reach a point where it’s commonly understood that people with disability have the same rights to independence, employment, respect and access
to facilities as everyone else.
And I believe finding jobs for the thousands of Kenyans with disability who dearly want work is an essential part of getting there.
As a public policy scholar, I observe, it’s difficult for a blind person to land a job, even with stellar qualifications. A blind person with an associate degree is statistically less likely
to be employed than a sighted high school dropout.

Often, employers who don’t have experience working with disabled persons can’t conceptualize
how a disabled candidate can perform the job’s duties.
It makes matters worse employers who have experienced working with disabled persons are the barriers of enabling the Kenyan disabled to be employed.
As Helen Keller once said, “The chief handicap of the blind is not blindness, but the attitude of
seeing people toward them.”
These ungrounded fears contribute to the persistently low employment rates for disabled people.
Statistically as research shows at list in a population of 10 disabled Kenyans 8 are not employed.

To shift attitudes and make a difference — more people with disability need to be supported in the workplace.
I opine that most employers do not know that disabled people aren’t in the workforce, meaning employers are missing out on the benefits of hiring people with disabilities, including improvements in profitability,
competitive advantage and innovation.

Moreover, I grew up in a rural set up. where my community never bought into who I was — and made my world not as accessible as they possibly could. I had a great struggle to accomplish my educational journey,
where I faced discrimination and not treated as a peer. I believe right now,
There are many people with disability hoping to engage in work and the community more broadly and receive the opportunities that I was given so naturally.

They deserve the opportunity to be employed and fulfil their potential as much as anyone else in the African community.

I know what I most want to achieve as I celebrated my 22nd Birthday of being Blind.
Secondly my dream is
What I most want is for the community to use IDPwD as a launching pad for further action.

At this year’s celebration I hope governments, individuals and organizations will take the opportunity to commit to one concrete action towards removing barriers to accessibility
and inclusion for disabled Kenyans.
This is not too much to ask!
Get your workplace to give a person with disability a job.

Look for ways you can make your organisation, building or website more accessible for people with disability.

Create a paid internship program to help people with a disability get the skills they need to find a permanent job.

Provide anti-discrimination and bullying training to your staff — particularly those in customer facing roles.

If I can convince one person to roll up their sleeves and create a job for a person with disability or improve accessibility and inclusion within the community
— I’ll be satisfied with my contribution as a public scholar and expert in diversity and inclusion.

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.

Why the Blind Kenyans have Join the Drinking Nation Courtesy Of the society and Union for the Blind Author: Mugambi Paul

According to world health organization 2019 2.2 billion people, which represents 25% of the world’s population, have some form of vision impairment. Half of them do not yet have access to services,
80% in Africa alone

It’s estimated that about one and a half million Kenyans are either blind or vision impaired.
Furthermore, Many places within the City of Nairobi and other major towns in Kenya remain virtually and visually inaccessible to disabled persons.
These include restaurants, offices, entertainment joints, offices and health facilities among others.
Such public places; buildings, social amenities and facilities lack disability accessible infrastructure like lifts, ramps and designated parking.
Most entertainment joints in the city and major towns are nowadays located in back streets buildings. This makes their accessibility by the blind a nightmare, more so without the assistance of sensitive well-wishers.
The blind, vision Impaired and other disabled citizens in Kenyas’ fight for their rights has been met with hard resistance, ironically by the very systems that have put in place by the government and non state actors to uphold their rights.
In fact, these systems have disenfranchised the public participation in decision making processes like law making, putting the blind, vision impaired and other disabled at risk of serious injuries in busy public facilities, It’s terrifying, to say the least.
Unfortunately, The blind and visually impaired take risk move around every day in the shared spaces, some being so unlucky to have sustained injuries or killed all together.
It is hazardous even around car packs and buildings entrances.
As a blind person navigating such spaces, you are surrounded by loud noises, and large objects moving around you, always living in fear of getting crushed.
Sometimes you fear that you will get killed on road or car park with people in shared spaces never watching out for disabled persons, especially the blind and vision impaired.
I remember recently, a rogue driver crushed my white-cane; how far do you think the car was, from me?
Additionally, The County of Nairobi designed accessible traffic lights project which hardly meet the universally accepted accessibility measures, the project is a disappointed to the blind and the visually impaired.
Evidently, I tried to engage persons manning one of the trial traffic lights which proved to be futile, owing to the signature bureaucracy perpetuated in the management of county disability affairs in Kenya.
Disabled persons organizations and other stakeholders need to petition the Nairobi county government to ensure absolute access of the by the blind and the vision impaired to exact drop off points.
This will be reduce or avoid all together calamities associated with inaccessibility, and save the blind and visually impaired on the cost incurred in mitigation of the inaccessibility.
It is absolutely sad to note that the Nairobi county government banned the use of motorcycles within the city without providing an alternative for the vulnerable persons, which again boils down to exclusion of the blind in decision making.
This whole state of affair results to most blind and vision impaired persons having additional psychosocial disability, making them feel like second-class citizens.
The Kenya union of the Blind which is supposed to be the chief advocate for the blind and visually impaired persons is now busy creating and promoting “a blind and visually impaired drinking nation”
In the union’s Embakasi headquarters area, they have invested on butchery and a bar.
I won’t be surprised the Kenya society for the blind joining in the same breath since already they have commercialized its premises with garages and restaurants.

the Kenya union of the blind and the Kenya society of the blind have absconded their advocacy role in favor of investment.

The blind and the visually impaired persons in Kenya have been discriminated for far too long. Time is now that they ought to arise and claim their place in the public space.
The blind and visually impaired persons need to lobby policy makers and other community leaders to ensure accessibility for disabled persons is achieved.
The society and policy makers need to understand blindness is also a mobility disability.
The Persons with Disabilities Act 2003 partly states that persons with disabilities are entitled to a barrier free and disability-friendly environment.
The proprietors of public buildings and transport must endeavor to comply with this law, and the relevant authorities need to enforce compliance fairly and objectively.
When shall we ever move from theory to practice?
The views expressed here are those of the author, they do not represent any agency or organization.
Mugambi Paul is a public policy, diversity and inclusion expert.

The Blocks to Disability Leadership and the mercantile economy of Kenya Author Mugambi Paul

Should disability leaders give up their work?

What world you do when you are in an office and all documents are inaccessible?
What would you do if you turned up for work and you had to climb a 3-meter brick wall to get into the office?
Ask the Nyeri law courts.
What about if everyone conducted team meetings
using PowerPoint and print materials?
How would you feel if you complained and nobody seemed to care?
The Kenyan public space has basically normalized this habit.
Yet, Kenya is the signatory and has domesticated the UNCRPD.
Kenya is known worldwide to have progressive laws and policies.
Imagine if we would have at list 10 % implementation of accessibility!
Let me give an example of the normalcy which occurs daily.

Some contemporaries of mine went to work the other day.

No big deal, hey. Lots of people go to work every day.

The difference is these colleagues are disability leaders. They are well respected in their various fields and regularly lead the public conversation about
disability. They are somehow not tough people I know, allot much gets in their way.
They mostly forget to bring the cows home by not demanding what’s is rightfully and constitutionally there’s.
!
This is to say, most of the public and private conferences in Kenya are held inaccessible areas.
Mostly, the disability leaders aren’t able to transact their work obligations as expected because the workshops and business areas are normally inaccessible. Very inaccessible. Should I say even the Kenyan parliament is among the list?
A place where the largest minority or marginalized group are supposed to find solace.
Should we continue with boardroom discussion on how to make accessibility real?
Or just continue with our social media rhetoric discussions?
Should we wait for another Kibaki moment to actualize the dreams of our heroes and heroines in the disability world?
Where is the accessibility voice space?
Who should be bringing the sector in to order?
The government and human rights bodies in Kenya “hamwoni hi ni dhuluma?” What I am
particularly annoyed by isn’t the inaccessibility, well actually that does annoy me, rather I’m very annoyed that a bunch of disability leaders have continued this trend to
work expecting to perform at their usual high standard, and they are unable to do so.

Most of them can’t live the venues or have alternative mode of communication.
That’s why in Kenya we are still talking in boardrooms about accessibility.
If one day the disability leaders walked out in protest of inaccessible venues and products it will be the turning point.
Through a social media survey, I actually noted that some disabled leaders aren’t involved by public and private entities into workshops.
They are normally left out and remain in offices.
There bosses tend to claim they are stubborn when they demand for reasonable accommodation.

How many local and international conferences have taken place in Kenya and accessibility becomes an afterthought?

This is a total distress and lack of engagement.
This affirms why disabled persons are not represented in most of the forums and become last to be remembered.

How is that the answer? Should disability leaders be giving up their work, or should conferences and workplaces be more committed to ensuring accessibility?

Newsflash: accessibility isn’t an extra or a nice thing to have, its mandatory if you want disabled people in the room. If you think diversity is of any
value at all then accessibility is part of your regular processes, it’s just how you operate. You budget for it, make it happen, build it in from the outset.
You choose venues that work, and make sure there are rapid responses to any issues that arise. You don’t argue and able plain and put the onus back onto
the disability leader to get less disabled, you take responsibility for making accessibility happen and you fix it quickly when it doesn’t.
which government building in Kenya is accessible for the disabled persons?
Most importantly, you make sure the people designing the access are those who know about access and have professional experience in accessibility.
This means they will also be disabled people. These access experts should be paid for their work, just like your sound technicians and caterers.
Obviously, lack of recognition of disabled experts has been normalized by the system, which we need to break.
and that makes it unusual. Most incidents of inaccessibility happen to individuals, often in workplaces that aren’t supportive or have managers who think
they know better, or they are single barriers affecting individuals at offices, seminars rather than everyone, so we never hear about them.
Mostly when organizers realize their mistake.
They normally result in a formal apology during the final plenary. Unfortunately, most of the disability leaders accept and move on.
Additionally, most apologies do not include a commitment to recruit disabled people onto the organising committee in the
future, nor did they include a reference to the same situation happening at the previous conference and this incident being a repeat.

There are still significant barriers to disability leadership.

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.

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.

Why the Kenyan census 2019 remains a mystery to the many poor and disabled Kenyans! Author Mugambi M. Paul

Over 1 billion people globally, including 494 million in Sub-Saharan Africa (roughly 45% of the population), lack government-recognized proof of identification [UN 2017.] This hampers their access to critical financial and social services and raises barriers to exercising political and economic rights. Obviously, several studies have shown that lack of desegregated
data among the disabled persons has greatly impacted negatively towards lives of the disabled community [world bank 2011].
According to [KBS 2009] Kenyans with disabilities make up 3.8 %.
However, these statistics are debatable and disabled persons organizations have argued that proper mechanisms were not in place.
Will the 2019 August census in Kenya be different?
The answer lies on the shoulders of the Kenya neural of statistics.
They have been able to adapt the Washington set of questions, but this will be put in to test during the data collections.
However, in the development of the censor’s committees still disabled persons organizations nor the county disability officers are not represented.
This is a great setback of ensuring inclusivity and raising the voice of persons with disabilities.
The policy makers need to adopt measures urgently at the ministry of interior to ensure disability representatives are added. This should not just be for quantity but provide quality and real representation in public participation.
Additionally, the county governments need to be keen on what the data of persons with disabilities mean in matters of service delivery and enhancement of proper support for persons with disabilities ]2010 Kenyan constitution]. It’s prudent to mention that the county governments are the service providers in their own counties.
persons with disabilities and thee organizations need to knock on the county government to ensure that the census collected becomes meanful in service delivery and planning.
At list a third of the counties have enacted county disability laws but are yet to implement.
I take note that Persons with disabilities face several challenges in receiving identification documents and presenting these documents to access services.
There is no exact information to show how many disabled persons have received particular government or private sector services.
What is emerging clearly as a public policy scholar I uphold Kenya should adapt to data driven analysis.
is in order to fight poverty.
Thus having need evidence-based thinking and plenty of good data.
The Kenyan census should be huge part of this phenomenon. Although it can be easy to overlook, it’s actually incredibly important because this data will inform the Kenyan government decisions that will shape millions of lives.
Recognizing this, I believe Kenya has a chance of its new census data to be more accurate, comprehensive, and granular than in the past. Will the Kenya beural of statistics switch to digital tablets? Will the Kenya bural of statistics use satellite imagery to make sure households in rural areas don’t go undiscovered and uncounted? The jury is out there.
I look forward for a disability desegregated data at the county levels.

I trust The government is now seriously committed to a “leave no one behind” ethic, which means counting every single person in the population. That includes people who are sometimes called “the invisible” — those who live in slums, disabled persons , who are homeless, or who are institutionalized.

These people are harder to reach, but without counting them and identifying which places they’re concentrated in and which services they lack, it’s difficult to design targeted interventions that will actually help them. Kenya and other African countries are increasingly treating this kind of data-driven approach as crucial to their development.
The Kenya bural of statistics must adapt many new ways which Kenya is leveraging data. That includes a biometric national ID system the so called Hudumanumber. (more than 30 million Kenyans have registered for it so far.
I suggest that Kenya adapts a digital address system (whereby every five square meters in the country will have its own unique address).
This way government can target services to people, once you know where they are.
How do you count “the invisible”?

Kenya’s census will take place in August 2019 for 3 days not a lot of time to survey a population of approximately 50 million people. But I believe the preparations begun well in advance, and this time, they will include a lot of help from new technology.

For the first time, will the enumerators use digital tablets to survey the population?I opine that through this they will be able to have answers to be checked for inconsistencies or omissions in real time. Will the Kenyan bural of statistics use Electronic maps?
This will help enumerators make sure they’re counting everyone in their demarcated area. GPS will pinpoint and record the exact location where each interview will be conducted.

Meanwhile, will the Kenyand government officials use satellite imagery to identify all housing structures in the country?
I affirm that if the enumerators go out into the field, an image showing which locations they’ve covered will be overlaid on top of the satellite imagery.
This will allow the officials to determine which areas may have been missed.

Usually it’s in rural areas, enumerators may not have known people are living there.
The Hudumanamba enrollment should be a wake-up call before the census begins.
Most developed and developing nations are increasingly looking to leapfrog challenges with traditional ID systems by moving to digital identification systems through the use of new technologies. Kenyan government has not been left behind since it’s a leader in digital Enovation in Africa.
The Kenyan government has introduced Hudumanamba system for its all citizens and the diaspora populations.
Digital identification systems are attractive to governments due to potential benefits of universal coverage and unique authentication. Were persons with disabilities, organizations for persons with disabilities consulted on the process?
It seems the government of Kenya denied its citizens the public participation
And say on this agenda. This has led to a court case making it voluntary to register for Hudumanamba.
On the other hand, Kenyans who need services might find themselves at catch 22 when the hudumanamba services will be rolled out.

Digital identification systems use a range of technologies include biometrics scanners, facial recognition, artificial intelligence, and other emerging mobile technologies.
The rapid moves towards digital identification systems raises both opportunities and challenges in ensuring that persons with disabilities can register for, receive, and use their unique identification. Will the disabled persons stop using the disabled cards?
Will the registration of newly disabled persons be conducted after the Huduanamba registration?
What’s the link between the registration for disabled persons and the hudumanamba roll out?
It seems the Kenyan government still stand accused of enhancing bureaucracy towards achievement of vital services to persons with disabilities with this unlinked processes and procedures.

Hudumanamba card is speculated it will offer alternative mechanisms to ensure that the lack of breeder documents (e.g. birth certificates) do not hamper individuals’ abilities to receive important credentials and open pathways to receiving economic and social services. At the same time, they need to be carefully designed to ensure accessibility and inclusion. Some of the Problems that emerged during the Hudumanamba registration included when persons with disabilities were unable to provide biometric data. e.g. due to lack of an iris or fingerprints), algorithms did not recognize certain facial features, or most hudumanamba centers fail to provide accessible accommodations and exceptions.
For instance, lack of alternative formats for the information, which was being gathered to the Blind, vision impaired, intellectual impaired and the Deafblind,
Another example is the inaccessible venues for the hudumanamba registration.
This was also coupled by Lack of staff training, and awareness of disability issues.
Furthermore, many disabled persons allegedly reported mistreatment during the process.
Thus, having significant challenges in the process of registration.
Will the Kenya bural l of statistics take lessons for the upcoming census?
The jury is outside!
All in all, the globe is embracing the digitalization of government services.
Disabled persons are not to be left behind.
Solution is to ensure we have inclusive policy and regulations
Thus, enabling the policy implementation to cater for the needs and priorities of disabled persons.
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.

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.

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