Why the disability sector in Kenya needs a urgent transformation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My third eye on Kenya’s disability movement

It has been argued from different quarters that the attitude of entitlement without responsibility has contributed to apathy among persons with Disabilities.
Kenyan persons with Disabilities should be encouraged to become proactive in ensuring good governance practices and use their creativity to ensure that they find their rightful
space in policy and decision making.
Failure to do this will mean that they have accepted to continually be marginalised.
Accountability is critical in ensuring that political leaders and all duty bearers honour their commitments and shows how different programme actions and
investment of public funds translate into tangible results and long-term outcomes that directly benefit persons with Disabilities . Accountability mechanisms should allow for grievances to be voiced and remedies provided and, as a responsive function, should help to improve how policy
or service delivery can be adjusted to make it more effective.
Efforts should be made to build capacity for persons with Disabilities to claim their rights and engage as active citizens.

An effective accountability mechanism is one that has the ability to transparently show the linkages between national and county levels with strong feedback
information loops.

This accurate and timely information has the potential to help in supporting national and county recommendations, actions and approaches aimed at reaching
the goals that support persons with Disabilities meet their aspirations and live a prosperous life.

Working with persons with Disabilities , especially in complex processes like planning, budgeting and monitoring, is crucial if development policies are to be truly
relevant to those they are meant to serve.
Sometimes participation and collaboration becomes difficult when review processes are complex and hard to interpret.

Persons with Disabilities should demand leaders to provide information in alternative format that is interactive and language that they can understand. All this is enshrined in Kenyan constitution and the UNCRPD.

An environment in which feedback is shared should also be considered.

If possible it should be easy to access without necessarily incurring costs.

Political leaders can only be said to be accountable if they listen and respond to the needs of persons with Disabilities people in a clear manner, explain action taken to
rectify whatever recommendations made and a guarantee that it will not be repeated.

This can be through actions like legislative reforms, innovative planning processes and prioritised funds allocation.

In conclusion, non-discriminative feedback mechanisms and effective follow-up processes is a means of verifying that an effective accountability mechanism
is in place.
The Constitution of Kenya has already defined duties, responsibilities and rights, so what is critical is to create strong linkage and integration both
at national and county levels because decisions are made through a network of actors.
For instance in the recently held general elections the Disability community was duped by the independent electro commissionin many ways.
There were no braille ballots at all. To make matters worse 17 counties left out the nominees with disabilities and for the 30 counties that had still had anomalies. Its still gloomy for women with disabilities as history has shown us they are often left out by women with out disabilities as they champion the women agenda and more sore the 2 third gender rule.
Never the less its important to note at the high level UNCRPD forum in August 2015 Kenya nation proclaimed that they provide free legal service when the rights of persons with disabilities have been ignored plus they provided accessible ballot in 2013.
We are yet to see the steps in which the state law office takes this matter in to consideration.
The litmus test that Kenyan persons with Disabilities should use is whether political leaders have put accountability mechanisms and pathways in place that are inclusive,
accessible, collaborative and responsive clearly showing how they will be structured and work in practice.

NB The views expressed here do not represent any agency or organization they are based on 17 years experience as a disability practitioner and human rights defender.

Few Discrimination experiences at its best In Kenyan context

Every Day:

1) Store employees assuming we’re stupid:Go to the grocery
store, the movie theater, a store in the mall, a restaurant or any
public-type place that has
employees, and five times out of ten you’ll run into an employee who
will automatically assume you’re ill-equipped mentally because of an
obvious visual
disability.

2) buses and matatus passing us by:If you live in a big outscuts like
Umoja, Rwai, Gidhurai, eastlands chances are you’ve experienced buses and matatus
passing you by quite often. People with disabilities
constantly complain that buses pass them by when they’re out on the
road trying to hail a cab.
3) Stairs in public spaces.You go to grab a coffee or meet a friend
for lunch, visit some office but wait – you can’t get in. This is architecture
discrimination at its
finest and we encounter it every day. Despite the misguided notion
that certain buildings are grandfathered-in to the persons with
disability act and do not need to be accessible,
umm no, they do. Any public space must. crossing most roads for us is a night mare.

4) Doctors not really listening.Out of all the people we encounter
each day who may possibly discriminate against us, you’d think medical
personnel would
not be on the list, however doctors and nurses can be some of the most
discriminatory people when it comes to how they treat people with
disabilities.
some one asked my tribe mate when she was pregnant “which animal did
this to you” you can imagine how it sounds when spoken in swahili! 5)
Wheelchair “quotas.”“Sorry, no more wheelchairs allowed.” Concert
venues, airplanes, city buses, amusement park rides – quotas on how
many wheelchairs
are allowed in certain places are a reality of disabled life. They’re
instated for safety, but they’re also highly limiting, generally only
allowing a
half dozen people with disabilities or so into an event or two people
who use wheelchairs on a city bus.

6) Strangers pretending they don’t see us.Once in awhile you’ll run
into someone who’s not very pleasant. Maybe they’re budding in line in
front of you,
or avoiding your gaze when you’re looking for someone to help you grab
something from the shelf. These folks like to pretend they don’t see
us, thinking
it’s easier to do that than just interact with us.

7) People taking our parking spots.It happens all the time –
able-bodied individuals parking in disability parking spaces. The
convenience is just too
hard to deny. And while this is all fine and dandy when it’s in the
middle of the night and there’s no one else at the store, they
generally take our spots
in the daytime, especially the good ones that have extra room for our
ramps. some government offices have turned the unisex accessible
toilets to be stores.