What the Blind and vision impaired Kenyans can learn from south Africa. Author Mugambi Paul

Blind SA (South Africa) is an organization of blinds for the blinds in
South Africa
as most of top functionaries are visually changed persons. Launched as the South African Blind Workers Organization in 1946 to help the blind in finding
careers of their choice, it was renamed as the
Blind SA
in 2004.

According to an estimate of the
World Health Organization
(WHO) about 15 percent of people in
South Africa
are living with disability out of which 60 percent are visually impaired. In absolute terms about 250,000 children in
South Africa
are blind or visually impaired for whom only about two dozen schools are available. The
Blind SA
is dedicated in developing
braille pages
to facilitate visually challenged persons particularly children and youths to learn and live a meaningful and productive life. Besides, it also conducts
sensitization programmes, skill training and placement facilities for the visually challenged persons.

In an interaction with Devdiscoruse, the CEO of
Blind SA,
Mr. Jace Nair tells us about the challenges for the blind people and his organization’s efforts to make their lives easier.

Q.1. What are the main areas of operation of your organization?

Nair: Empowering blind and partially sighted persons to live a meaningful and economic productive lifestyle is the main objective of Blind SA. We are primarily
engaged in advocacy which involves commenting on policy and legislation, access to ICT, access to financial services and banking, access to Education &
ECD, access to employment and
Economic Empowerment
(EE), access to government services such as health, social security, housing and public transport.

To achieve our objectives, we conduct self-representation, production of accessible publications in braille script, daisy and audio, training in braille
and orientation and mobility, entrepreneurial and small business development, placement, skills program and employment in the public and private sector.

Q.2. How, according to you, your organization is contributing to achieving any one or more SDGs?

Nair: The visually challenged people are among the most vulnerable groups in society across classes, genders and communities. We are dedicated for their
overall empowerment. In this way we are contributing to the achievement of several
sustainable development goals
(SDGs). They are No Poverty (SDG1), Zero Hunger (SDG2), Good Health and Well Being (SDG3), Quality Education (SDG 4), Gender Equality (SDG 5), Decent
Work and Economic Growth (SDG8), Reduced Inequalities (SDG 10), Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (SDG16) and Partnerships for the Goals (SDG17).
This is achieved by the programmatic and advocacy initiatives.

Q.3. So far, what are the main achievements of your organization in line to the
SDGs
set up by the United Nations for the year 2030?

Nair: We have produced over 1.4 million
braille pages,
trained over 400 facilitators in braille, trained over 100 persons in orientation and mobility and trained 14 persons in small business development. Besides,
we also held 4 events for accessible, safe, affordable and integrated public transport for blinds in association with the SA’s national Department of transport,
four municipalities and Gauteng Province to create awareness for blind commuters and the use of the white cane.

Q.4. What are the recent initiatives of your organization has made in line to the SDGs?

Nair: Empowering blind and partially sighted people through programmatic initiatives are our prime focus. In the year 2018-19, we made a presentation and
conducted sensitization programs in 56 companies and four job placements. The beneficiaries of various categories include NSF project (88), Braille Training
(149), ETDP SETA (50), CoJ Projects (30), Study Bursary Project (55), World Read Aloud Day (14) and 645 learners.

Q.5. What is your strategy for further expansion of your organization?

Nair: We aspire to re-affiliate with the
African Union of the Blind,
World Blind Union
and Internal Council of the visually impaired. Besides, we are also working for a greater role in
SA Disability Alliance
and SA Braille Authority.

Q.6. Where do you want to see your organization by 2030?

Nair: By 20130, we aspire to emerge as a leading national disabled people organization in
South Africa
leading the mainstreaming of disability for blind and partially sighted persons.

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.

Why the Kenya Revenue Authority should partake responsibility of tax exemption for the disabled Kenyans!

During the past 3 decades in Kenya there have been numerous changes in our society with respect to the management and treatment of people with disabilities.
Of course, there ar numerous success stories of actual improved disability mainstreaming.
How did the changes occur?
Many legislative and societal changes have taken place for instance, the disability act of 2003, the UNCRPD 2006 and the 2010 constitution and several disability related regulations. Furthermore, these gains have been necessitated by the lobbing and advocacy by disabled persons and their organizations.
On the other hand, Disability mainstreaming and work to end discrimination against disabled persons have been on both government and non-state actors’ agendas for decades. Why is disability mainstreaming still important?
Some of us feel that “everyone” in government and non-state actors who include development and human rights organisations are well aware of the issues. But the truth is that in organisations without
any explicit focus on disability mainstreaming or disability social justice, the levels of awareness for disability-based discrimination (and the need to end it) tend to be uneven.
Am not surprised by the inaccessible built environment, inaccessible information or the negative attitudes which still exist among the Kenyan society.

Efforts to promote disability equality remain limited and often isolated. Some would prefer to drop “disability” altogether, busy as they feel with all those other
issues that must be “mainstreamed” – good governance, environmental protection, HIV/AIDS prevention, “you name it!”

most government and private entities normally pass on the back when dealing with disability matters!
I opine that ignorance in the Kenyan society is very expensive for disabled persons.
Why should and institution require permission to offer disabled person a service?

As citizens we do not require permission to get a passport, when one has Malaria a disabled person doesn’t require permission.
Why does Kenya revenue authority run away from its responsibilities?
As long as one has uploaded the right documentation there is no need of putting more barrier for the disabled persons.
Why are policy makers silent on this injustice?
Most top government policy makers and stakeholders have done benchmarking of disability services in other countries and they know how good and proper systems work for the people.
Why are they not actualizing simple and impactful solutions to the disabled persons?

. But there are at least five reasons why “disability mainstreaming” must continue:
list of 5 items
1. Organisations that are committed to universal human rights have a responsibility to ensure their work respects and promotes human rights. Disabled rights
are human rights, enshrined in widely accepted international treaties as the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities UNCRPD 2006.

Any rights-based approach that neglects disabled persons rights is inadequate.

2. International movements and campaigns rally large numbers of disabled people. Disabled persons make the largest minority group in the world

if government institutions who are the planners, implementers and evaluators ignore disabled interests and needs, and refrain from
engaging disabled persons as interlocutors, collaborators and allies.
They will never get it right!
3. Many development and human rights agencies are into education and campaigning – i.e., they attempt to spread ideas around, and to mobilise others to
join them in their cause. The messages they convey, implicitly or explicitly,
influence people’s minds: research has shown that campaigning can reinforce or weaken people’s value systems – broadly speaking, what they consider to
be “good” or “bad”, “right” or “wrong”. (See for example the gender mainstreaming angle.
Hence, it is important to avoid reinforcing values that condone discrimination and other violations against disabled persons
which would be in stark contradiction with the development and human rights goals most of us defend.
The disability organizations need to take lead in voicing what needs to be don on tax related concerns.
Disabled persons should not just be raising concerns on the social media but take the demands to the Kenya revenue authority.
The Kenya revenue authority need to work along side disabled persons in order to ensure smooth and faster process is achieved.
4. disability -based violence is not only one of the most pervasive human rights violations, it also jeopardises development. For example, large numbers of disabled persons have experienced delayed service delivery due to the bureaucratic processes. For instance, delayed in tax exemption renewal, with
dire consequences for their physical well-being, their mental health and their social status. Getting tax exemption is right, but y risk their
lives because of high cost of transport, psychological wellbeing. The Kenya revenue authority should know that most disabled persons are unemployed and for those who do not get access to the service
are likely to feel abused, something is deeply wrong.
Additionally, the Kenya economy is highly affected by wastage of hours on the road.
The tax exemption should have been simplified through decentralization of Kenya revenue authority services at the county.
In other words, if the digitalization process ways actualized the staff at Kenya revenue authority would be able to automatically issue exemption certificates without delay.
The disability mainstreaming focal point person at Kenya revenue has to actualize the dreams of disabled persons by ensuring the system works beyond himself or herself.
Are there government institutions, private sectors who have been given tax relief by the Kenya revenue authority for promoting disability employment and improving access for disabled persons in Kenya?
5. In terms of efficiency, any organisation has a responsibility to serve the disable persons who need their service.
Disabled persons should not be treated as second class citizen in government services.
Siting an example in 2019 May the Kenyan government in collaboration with world bank launched the braille version of the 2030 vision which in essence non blind persons read a decade ago. Is this fair?
The Kenyan policy makers need to stop the mancantile policy process and adapt solution-oriented policy and procedures.

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.