The two Sleeping blind giants in Kenya: author Mugambi Paul

Reading the annual general meeting invite by the Kenya society for the blind gives a familiar script.
The process and conduct of doing things seem to be usual.
No logical or pragmatic turnaround of event.
The Kenya Society for the Blind is a statutory charitable organization established in 1956 by an Act of Parliament this institution is meant to guide, offer technical support to matters Blindness and vision impaired to the government and stakeholders.
Has Kenya society for the Blind lived to its promises envisaged in the 1956 at?
What is the role of government in ensuring the Blind and vision impaired persons live to exploit their potentials?
Did the government escape duty and obligation to the blind and vision impaired persons?
When shall we have the updated Kenya society for the blind act to meet the current issues faced by the blind and vision impaired persons?
The act needs to be aligned with the Kenyan constitution 2010, UNCRPD, Public ethics act and public participations act.

This is not to say that nothing is happening.
As a matter of fact,
Kenya society for the blind has held several charity activities geared towards education of the blind pupils.
Additionally, there are many grey areas on matters Blindness and vision impairment in Kenya.
Its either the Kenya Blindness sector has decided to be dormant or the system has refused to change.
For instance, in matters governance even with known lawyers we aren’t able to differentiate the roles played by board members and staff.
This is totally uncalled for and review needs to be done urgently.

This seems to be a common practice among the disabled persons organization in
Kenya. With this notwithstanding, in matters programming several issues can be raised.
What are the pros and cons of having car garages in the premises?
How many blind and vision impaired persons have gainfully been absorbed by the new ventures?

Several studies and social media posts have continuously demonstrated this behavior.

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secondly on face value the Kenya union of the blind is supposed to be the voice of blind and vision impaired in Kenya.
theoretically, Kenya union of the blind is mandated to be bold and grant the self and systemic advocacy initiatives among the blind and vision impaired persons.
It’s an institution where the blind and vision impaired persons can be able to become self-advocate.
It is also a platform
For engagement with government and stakeholders.
Can we claim the blind and vision impaired persons are self-advocates?
Is there a mentorship and leadership practice?
Where is the status implementation of marekesh treaty??
In matters governance Kenya union of the blind stand to be condemned for its status.
Am not surprised that the largest blindness organization in Kenya has the same chairperson for the last 30 years.

To make the matters worse
The chairperson was appointed as a commissioner in a state organ which is also supposed to play an oversight role on disability matters in the country.
This is a true example of conflict of public interests!
This discussion is held in low tones in the disability sector.
Am not flabbergasted when the Kenyan blindness sector has not experienced significant reforms for its current and future generations.
The barriers faced by blind and vision impaired persons have been compounded by the sleeping advocacy organ.
It seems the mediocre practises are in the Kenyan DNA.
Several researches have shown how many blind and vision impaired persons have low esteem combined with the restrictive environment they have lived.
This affirms why most individuals with disabilities are not able to advocate for themselves.
On the other hand, the disabled persons who seem to advocate for themselves are treated as riles or individuals who are outcasts.
Its high time the Kenyan blindness sector arose from slumbered and demonstrate with collective and unifying voice life will be better for present and future generation of the Blind and vision impaired persons. A clarion call is be stalled upon individuals to show the light.
As Martin Niemöller a prominent Lutheran pastor in reference to the Nazi regime, once said;
“First, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out; because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out; because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out; because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Furthermore, there has been rise of new entrants in the Kenyan blindness sector.
In other words, the new kids on the block in the blindness and vision impaired sector need to take lessons from the 2 sleeping giants.
This will aid effective engagement and bring the blind and vision impaired persons to their rightful place.
The Kenyan government needs to establish an oversight agency to ensure the Blind and vision impaired persons do not become vulnerable under this circumstance.
Its clearly known that there are no support mechanisms in place to support blind and vision impaired persons.
The 98 % of the blind and vision impaired individuals are just survivors in Kenya.

some recommendations to the Kenya society for the blind and Kenya union of the blind.
1. Put the house in order by reviewing the ACT of 1956. By public participation and engaging policy makers.
2. Review the governance and regulation policies.
3. Conduct a self-surgery before the reforms take place. To demonstrate this, we Kenya used to have telephone booths later on Mobile took over. We used to have tined cooking oil now we have rapped and plastic cooking oils.to bring matters to perspective, Kenya society for the Blind used to advocate for persons with albinism. Things changed drastically and now persons with albinism left the Blind and vision impaired wagon for better tides.
All in all, the future is bright for the blind and vision impaired persons.
As a public policy scholar on diversity and inclusion I will strive to contribute by rearing many more disabled persons to be their own best advocate
I have recognized that as a blind person, if you know the laws and understand your rights you are the most authentic spokesperson for yourself. Thus, much of my work is now cut out
It doesn’t matter the time, but we are heading there.
Advocacy is one of the most important reasons for me to connect with disabled people and their families. When I do, I will teach them that they are not alone,
I will empower them with the tools to raise their own expectations, and I will connect them with an unparalleled network that will be a lifelong resource for them
to continue to be strong advocates for themselves.

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.

“Open letter to the Newly NCPWD chair” Mugambi Paul

“Open letter to the NCPWD chair”
Mugambi Paul

This letter is sent to our newly Chair of the NCpwd:
Dear sir,
Kenyan persons with disabilities
want the same opportunities as everyone else in the community – somewhere to work, somewhere to live, somewhere to enjoy the company
of family and friends, the chance to follow their passions and interests. We want NCPWD that makes these things possible – not stands in their way.

Using the ideas that have been collected for the last 15 years.
I have come up with the three C’s: three useful targets to help get the NCPWD
back on track. 1. Control

Kenyan persons with disabilities must be in the driver’s seat. It is their experience and their views that must determine priorities and drive change. Choice and
control must not be undermined or restricted by poor policies and processes.
For instance, it should no longer be business as usual for the Blind and vision impaired persons to receive brailed version of vision 2030 after a decade when it was out.

No disabled representative is at the building bridge initiative! Persons with disabilities must be empowered by their experience in the NCPWD, not further disempowered
and marginalised. And above all we want good outcomes for everyone –not just those who are educated, or well-resourced or who have an advocate.

So how do we make this happen?
list of 5 items
• Quicker, simpler and easier processes. Simple and plain communication that is easy to understand, more so for persons with developmental disabilities and Deafblind etc

• More help for people, families and carers at every stage of the process including application for assistance, peer support and advocacy

• Fully functioning and fit for purpose IT system that works for both consumers and producers of disability services at the county and national levels.
participants and providers

• Focused and resourced attention on groups who need more support – such as those with complex needs, severe disabled persons, Blind and those who have never been hard.

• More staff to clear backlogs. And competent well-trained staff with the right experience and expertise
Additionally, a 51 per cent disability employment target across all levels of the NCPWD including senior leadership. Currently
just 25 per cent of the NCPWD workforce have a disability.
Furthermore, on the public service I believe more needs to be done to stop the disability community
being shut out of public sector jobs
.
The 5 % has the target did not go far enough, given the consistent decline of employees with disability
in the sector.
According to public service survey 2015 Kenya has not yet achieved even 1 % target of employment opportunities to persons with disabilities.
I opine that targets needed to be supported by a comprehensive strategy to address the “unacceptably low” employment rates of people with disability
across the APS and in mainstream employment more generally.
A Kenyan National Jobs Plan to fix systemic problems that people with disability face finding and keeping a job.

This plan would include measures to strengthen the transition of young people with disability from school into tertiary education and mainstream jobs,
and would integrate with the social security system to support people with episodic disability moving in and out of employment.
Moreover, a whole-of-government and whole-of-community approach is needed to enable employers to create meaningful, flexible and inclusive employment, make workplaces
more accessible, remove discrimination and build positive employer and community attitudes.

2. Certainty

Persons with disabilities, their families and carers want to know the NCPWD will be there for them when they need it. Those who have made applications want to know
services will be there when and how they need them. And for those who do not have an assistances, other programs and services must continue. No one should be left
without support because Kenyan government can’t get it together.
Instructively, Kenya has been on top from the global disability forums that no one should be left behind.
So how do we make this happen?
list of 5 items
• Full funding should be enshrined in the upcoming national and county budgets and persons with disabilities 2019 bill

• Active support and intervention to make sure people have a diverse range of quality services to choose from. Intervene early to prevent failure and lock
in crisis support so no-one falls through the cracks

• Independently let NCPWD become policy formulator and a facilitator instead of an implementor.
For instance, immediate action on the way NCPWD works with other systems like health, justice and transport. All levels of government must sit down and work out how to synchronize services instead of making disabled persons to suffer.

• Greater develop and resource of the Information, Linkages and Capacity Building program. This will ensure NCPWD funds the disability persons organization to further efforts of advocacy instead of fighting each other.

• New timeframes for entry into the NCPWD, plant and equipment approvals and plan reviews;

• More help for people to navigate the NCPWD and get their assistance plans into action including more support for advocacy; and

• Targeted outreach for people who require additional support such as children, people who are Blind, psychosocial support and or Culturally or
Diverse backgrounds.
list end
but also initiate or restoration of other programs and services
that support people with disability, their families and carers
list end this should be reflected in the county and national levels.

3. Community

The NCPWD was never intended to work in isolation. The gap in life outcomes between those with a disability and those without will never close without action
in all areas of life – employment, health, education and transport are all areas that need immediate action.

So how do we make this happen?
list of 3 items
• Greater attention and resourcing to the Kenyan National Disability Strategy

• Immediate action on employment, education, housing, transport and health. Targets must be set – and met.
More so the big four agenda.

• An immediate timeline for a board of trusty’s actions in issuance of
funding

I observe that All across the country persons with disabilities
, their families and carers and people who work in the sector have been holding formal and informal forums in the social media, mainstream media and public forums. events and coming together to demand
urgent change.
Obviously, many policy makers know what’s need to be fixed but they aren’t doing so.
As the chair you need to listen to us. After all, people with disability and their families know what is and what is not working when it comes to the NCPWD –
and we know how best to fix it.
Scholars and researchers have recommended
The disability persons organizations should join together with a government and work collaboratively so we can get the ncpwd working well for everyone who needs it.
This is very true in many countries.
NCPW is a body mandated to promote and protect equalization of opportunities and realization of human rights for disabled persons in Kenya to live dignified live.
as a public policy scholar, I affirm that and There is no question that when the NCPWD works it absolutely changes lives. We see its life-changing power every day. But, for too many people, the NCPWD
is not working well. It is too complex and too bureaucratic – and as a result some people are falling through the cracks while others are missing out altogether,
we know of some truly heartbreaking stories of people who are really being let down by the NCPWD. There are people with disability waiting two years
for a wheelchair, there are persons with disabilities waiting for the disability card for 7 months, there are blind persons awaiting a braille display but told to have a white cane etc
There are families pushed to breaking point without essential support for their child. There are people hospitalised as a direct result
of the stress of trying to work their way through a bureaucratic nightmare.

“Situations such as these cannot be allowed to continue. That is why, today I have written this letter. calling on the new chair to
listen to persons with disability and commit to getting the NCPWD working the way it should – the way it is mandated in respect to the UNCRPD, SDG and the Kenyan constitution.

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.