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.

The future of poverty policy Five years of momentum must not go to waste Guest Author SHARON BESSELL

New ways of measuring and tackling poverty are making crucial progress, but the scale of the problem is large, and many challenges and negative trends remain. Addressing these will be crucial to ending poverty, Sharon Bessell writes.

In 2015, world leaders agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 1 is to end poverty in all its forms everywhere. This marked a significant shift in global policy, refocusing poverty alleviation strategies from income alone to a far broader set of issues.

So how far have things come in the past five years as policymakers, service deliverers, and activists grapple with the challenge of ending poverty in all its forms everywhere? Three trends are worth considering as the new decade dawns.

First, in terms of global priorities, Goal 1 signals a welcome shift. There is no doubt that increasing incomes among the poor is critically important, and must remain a priority – both globally and within countries.

Equally, it is important to recognise that low income is not the only characteristic of poverty. The structural barriers that prevent individuals and social groups from moving out of poverty reflect deep-seated inequality and discrimination that are unlikely to be dismantled by a marginal increase in incomes.

Similarly, poor quality of health care, education, and other essential services available to many are the product of insufficient and unequal public spending and investment. Individuals need very large increases in their income to be able to buy higher quality services – and such purchases may never be possible for those who are excluded due to discrimination and stigma.

More on this:Mapping deprivation across lives
As the global definition of poverty has broadened to include dimensions beyond income, an important development, policymakers have improved their ability to measure multidimensional poverty.

The Individual Deprivation Measure is a powerful example of how poverty measurement is being rethought.

It allows decision-makers to include in their understanding of poverty access to and quality of essential services, its non-material dimensions, like voice and social relationships, and intersectional analysis that reveals which social groups are being left behind.

Central to new approaches is a recognition that poverty cannot continue to be measured at the level of the household. An important step forward came in 2016 when the World Bank initiated the Global Commission on Poverty, which stated that decomposition of household-level data is simply insufficient – poverty must be measured on an individual basis.

Debates about how to measure poverty are not simply a theoretical exercise with little practical relevance, they matter deeply and determine a response. When the multidimensional nature of poverty is in the picture, policymakers are better able to identify and respond to structural barriers, deeply entrenched discrimination, and services that continually fail the poor.

When poverty is measured at the individual level, policy can move beyond the already discredited idea that resources are shared equally within a household. Decision-makers can better identify which social groups are most disadvantaged and why. Governments and service providers are able to respond on the basis of evidence.

The second trend occurring globally is a steady decline in extreme poverty – measured as those living on less than $1.25 prior to 2015, now revised upwards to those living on less than $1.90.

In 1990, 36 per cent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty. By 2010, that figure decreased to 16 per cent, and by 2015 was at 10 per cent. At the end of 2018, the World Bank observed that extreme poverty was at its lowest level ever.

More on this:Poverty, homelessness, and welfare
This is a remarkable achievement. However, two issues must be kept in mind. First, the international cut-off for extreme poverty is very low. If it were increased to just $3.20, one-quarter of the world’s population would be living in poverty. A little further – to $5.50 – and 46 per cent of the world’s population would be defined as poor.

While great progress has been made, we cannot afford to be sanguine – the misery of poverty still affects half of all people around the globe.

In many countries, those who remain in poverty are those who are hardest to reach. For example, in Indonesia, poverty based on the national poverty line dropped below 10 per cent in 2019.

While the significance of this milestone should not be underestimated, in terms of numbers, 26 million people remain below the very low national poverty line.

For Indonesia, the greatest challenge remains. The most severely marginalised people – those hardest to identify and hardest to reach – are yet to move out of poverty. This is reflected across the region and the world.

The third global trend provides a less optimistic story – and one likely to undermine the achievements of recent years. It is a story in two parts.

First, the record of some of the wealthiest countries in addressing poverty in all its forms over the past five years is dismal.

In Australia for example, one in six children live in income poverty. In the United Kingdom, where government spending on children has fallen dramatically in recent years, child poverty is at 30 per cent. The apparent preparedness of wealthy countries to abandon efforts to end poverty is alarming.

It is even more so considering the apathy of these countries towards the global shift to assessing multidimensional poverty, rather than income alone, a change that has generally resulted in poverty measurements moving up to reflect reality. If the multidimensional nature of poverty in these countries was measured and included the stigma and shame that is created by unjust policies, these figures would be far worse.

The second part of this story is the failure of leaders to seriously address the climate emergency. Without action, new groups will be plunged into poverty and achievements in reducing global poverty could go into reverse.

Over the past five years, there have been positive trends in addressing poverty around the world. The adoption of ending poverty as a global goal, the shift towards multidimensionality in both assessments of and responses to poverty, the recognition that poverty must be assessed at the individual level, and the continuing downward trend in extreme income poverty globally are all great achievements.

However, they are countered by deeply disturbing trends, especially in wealthy countries, and the link between the climate emergency and poverty. These challenges must be addressed, or the last five years of progress may go to waste. If they are not addressed, it will amount to simply abandoning the most vulnerable to their fates, and settling for a world that is divided and deeply unjust.

Sharon Bessell
Dr Sharon Bessell is the Director of the Children’s Policy Centre in Crawford School of Public Policy, and the ANU lead on the Individual Deprivation Measure Project.

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.