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

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