Will the “Disabled” Kenyans cry foul after being left in Coronavirus conversations? Author Mugambi Paul

In order not to live the disabled Kenyans who are the largest minority, who make up 15 % of the population.
I opine, disabled Kenyans they deserve not to be left behind.
There is an urgent need for Ministry of health in Kenya to address the rights and needs of disabled person throughout all COVID-19 planning and response.
In other words, for maximum community results in the recent updates from the national and county governments there is the need to close the glaring gap of inclusivity.

Available facts:
Children and adults with disabilities and older adults are 2-4 times more likely to be injured or die in a disaster due to a lack of planning, accessibility, and accommodation. Most people with disabilities are not inherently at a greater risk for contracting COVID-19, despite misconception that all people with disabilities have acute medical problems.
Kenyan government Actions taken now can make a big difference in COVID-19 outcomes
Additionally, the disability sector from both the state and non state actors need to raise the voice not just to remain mum.
Are disabled persons represented at the national emergency committee established by the president?
Are the needs of the disabled catered for in the contingency plans?

Lessons learnt:
One of the greatest lessons in the fight of HIV aids in Kenya is that the disabled persons were not involved nor consulted in the plans strategies for combating the menace.
It took few disability stakeholders to get the national aids control council to ensure inclusivity is realized.
When shall the disabled stakeholders learn not to be left behind?
Should the disability society be involved after the rest of the population? we
Moreover, USAID was very critical in supporting disabled stakeholders in achieving active disability engagements.
Worst still, many disabled persons weren’t aware of how to prevent themselves from the HIV AIDS infection. Many disabled Kenyans died, and many being taken advantage of by the society perceptions and behaviours [HI 2007]
This is because of the late response to the needs of disabled persons.
Several studies showed the greater involved of disabled Kenyans in awareness, contributed to reduction of stigma and discrimination associated with disability and HIV aids.
It also ensured representation in National aids committees, and prevention promoted reduction of spread of the disease. [NACC 2008, Liverpool 2007 HI 2007[.

Role of the disability sector:
Needless to say, disability stakeholders can play a crucial role by facilitating support to the ministry of health on inclusive strategies which will address the needs of the disabled Kenyans.

Legal Obligations and Training
On the other hand, Public and private agencies that provide services to persons with disabilities must be aware of their legal obligations and must train their employees appropriately. When public and private agencies and businesses are unclear about their legal responsibilities, there are no limitations in providing greater than minimum levels of support and services to persons with disabilities. Lack of understanding is NEVER an acceptable reason for failing to meet legal obligations, including throughout emergency circumstances.
Furthermore, the ministry of health has a has a legal obligation to provide equal access to public health emergency services to disabled Kenyans, including throughout a pandemic since our president issued an executive order
Coupled with the support one of the pillars of the big 4 agenda, of Kenyan 2010 constitution on right to access to health services and international conventions.

Needs of disabled Kenyans:

I observe disabled Kenyans require the same resources and assistance that all citizens deserve.
in other words, adequate information and instructions, social and medical services, and protection from infection by those who might contracted the virus. However, some disabled Kenyans may have needs that warrant specific reasonable accommodation by the public and private sectors that may not be necessary for Kenyans without disabilities. This is not much to ask since the current strategies by both national and county governments have not addressed the reasonable accommodations.

For instance, Communications Authority has approved sending of bulk information messages on coronavirus by the Ministry of Health to all subscribers of local mobile phone operators.
I beg to ask:
Are persons with intellectual impairment, Deaf, Blind, psychosocial disabilities able to consume this information?
1. Can the government provide alternative formats of communication in awareness raising? Disabled Kenyans need to be informed of why Ministry of health believe that certain actions are warranted, to be given an opportunity to ask questions and receive answers in an accessible format, and to be afforded the opportunity to object and propose alternative solutions.
2. Another example, the Bagathi hospital has been designated to be the official self-quarantine place.
Has it met accessibility standards?
Are the beds easily accessible and user friendly to Kenyans with mobility impairments?
Moreover, in some places, the distribution of protective equipment, food, and medical supplies might be warranted. If Point of Distribution locations are established, government and private stakeholders must address how these supplies and equipment will be distributed and accessed by disabled Kenyans, elderly and others who have difficulties in movement and lack means of travel. Disabled Kenyans have the right to receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.
All in all, the existing legal protections of disabled Kenyans remain in effect under all circumstances. These protections are not subject to waivers or exceptions, even during public health emergencies or declared pandemics.
I Hope there will be no contrition on this journey of ensuring disabled become part of the solutions.

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.

Will you Be my Valentine? “Tips for an extra special day with your blind partner” Author Mugambi Paul

Friendship, love, and romance are in the air with Valentine’s Day in Nairobi..

Whether you’re on your first date, or it’s your tenth with your true love, planning the right date night, getting the right flowers, a gift, dinner reservations,
etc can be a bit stressful.

And you may imagine that going on a first date with someone who is blind or visually impaired can even be more awkward.

But in reality, going on a date with someone who is blind or low vision is no different than dating any other person.

Here are a few tips for sighted companions or partners to help make your date memorable.

#1 Sighted Guide

Consent is key! Once you’ve selected a place, made a reservation or planned an activity, don’t forget to brush up on your sighted guide technique.

There is an etiquette to offering sighted guide assistance to a blind person. Always ask first, don’t grab or push.

Now a days I combine my White cane experience with Sunu Band
to navigate indoor spaces like restaurants and cafes. Moreover, it has aided me with the line like at theaters, so I know when it’s my turn to move up in the queue.

The Sunu Band is also great for when you are doing a sighted guide as the blind or low vision person being guided retains awareness and more control.

#2 Be descriptive

But not overly so – allow your partner the chance to soak in the ambiance.

Now that you’ve arrived at that fancy, romantic restaurant or place, offer a lite description of where you are to your partner.

Allow your blind partner the chance to ask about his/or her surroundings.

#3 Don’t just read the menu

make it conversation instead of reading a list.
You know Nairobi hotels and restaurant do not offer braille, or large print menus, you have to check with your partner their preference.

If those aren’t available, you can start by asking what are they’re in the mood for drink and food? If it’s a place you know well, make a recommendation
or mention the specialty of the house.

But whatever you do, don’t order or speak for your blind or low vision partner. Especially, don’t allow waiters or staff to ask you to speak for your blind
partner.

In the event it happens, tell your waiter to direct the question or comment to your partner.

#4 Table manners are still king

And throw away the messy stereotypes. Enjoying a meal with someone who is blind or low vision is just like eating or drinking with anyone else. Again being
a little bit more descriptive is good.

When the meal arrives, you may offer a quick description of where things are on the table. For example, your wine glass is to your left or at your 9 O’clock.
Sometimes using the clock reference is helpful.

Remember, don’t overdo it and stress about the vision impairment. Just be yourself and enjoy each other’s company through great conversation, drinks, and
food. At the end of the date, the most important thing is that you both have fun.

Additionally, everyday should be a valentine.
You should even practise self-love.
Self-love means allowing yourself to be happy. Too often, we manipulate ourselves instead of increasing the amount of joy we bring to our lives.

So, every day, do things that make you feel good. Even 10 minutes of self-care can add up and make you feel much better in the long run. But you’re worth
more than 10 minutes. You are the most crucial person in your life. Act, accordingly, show love, and be open to receive love.
All in all, do things that fulfill your soul. Get rid of people who don’t make you feel good.
What others say or think about you has nothing to do with reality. It’s just their perception.

Sure, we’d all like to be around people who are kind and loving, but the harsh reality is that rudeness exists. Yet, it doesn’t need to affect you and
especially not your wellbeing.

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 cost of remaining mum on Kenyans living with disabilities and individuals with chronic illness Author Mugambi Paul

Research shows that most chronic illnesses can affect every single part of individuals life, but it doesn’t really look like it. Some chronic illnesses have constant pains and fatigue among individuals [WHO 2011].
On the other hand, I have engaged several individual in the social media platforms.
This has led me to learn several lessons
You might not know a person is suffering if you don’t communicate ]HI 2011].
I classify some of these individuals as having invisible disabilities.
This is to say invisible disabilities mean that often times,
people don’t believe that actually individuals can be sick. This leads to people saying common things that, despite usually having good intentions, can come off as rude,
dismissive, and ableist.

The one I’ve heard the most is something that has undoubtedly been said to every person with an invisible disability or illness – the dreaded ‘but you
don’t look disabled nor sick!’. This happens all too often as an offhand comment, but it’s also been followed by heartbreaking situations like eventually losing friends
who haven’t believed that chronic illness or having impairment was real because people don’t look or act sick in the way they think one should be?
So, to give you a bit of a crash course, here’s some examples of what NOT to say to people with chronic illness.

‘But you don’t look sick!’

Yep, I know – but I am. These five words reduce health down to appearance, which is not the case at all. You might be saying this with the best intentions
(hopefully shock, because someone look ~too stunning~ for someone who’s actually very ill) but what it actually does is hits on one of the biggest fears of chronically
ill people – that people don’t believe them.
Actually,
Personally, whenever someone says this, it just reminds me of the many times people haven’t believed I can’t see because I didn’t *look* Blind. You might mean it supportively,
but all I hear is doubt.
This is because am super in mobility and orientation especially in familiar territories.
Sometimes it’s an anxious moment for me when individuals with out disabilities just plainly discuss behind my back “look at him, he is just pretending, he is comfortable” not knowing I have to go an extra mile to orient myself, secondly he or she doesn’t know that I have to do it since I don’t have alternative.
Additionally, I note that Not all illnesses are visible.
I can guarantee you; every chronically ill person has tried absolutely everything they physically and financially can. I cannot think of one person who’s
simply said, ‘ah bugger, I’m chronically ill. I’m not going to bother trying things to feel better!’
Trust me, some have tried it all; all the doctors’ and specialists’ suggestions, and yes, a bunch of the tinfoil hat ones too (desperation and lack of medical
answers make for strange bedfellows).

Examples of suggestions of what my friends the blind community and other persons with disabilities have tried including: various supplements, Chinese herbs, marijuana, LSD, ketamine, essential
oils, drinking their own urine, crystals, B12 shots, spirulina, charcoal, detoxes and juice fasts, prayer and religion – the list goes on,
as a blind fellow you can guest which one of them, I have tried I’ll let you ponder on which).

And before you ask, yes
You have seen many disabled persons, the chronic ill persons going to work, or you saw a photo of one catching up with a friend on the weekend. That’s irrelevant to whether he or she look ‘okay’ to you now
He or she still remains ill, and he or she maintains his or her impairment since they do not disappear.
According to several studies they indicate the nature of chronic illness is, sadly, extremely can be unpredictable. One can have totally manageable levels of pain and fatigue one day, and barely able to
walk the next. Sometimes it’s because one accidentally overexerted himself and went over my limits, but sometimes symptoms flaring can be completely random.
If you find it annoying, just try to imagine how frustrating it is for individuals with chronic illnesses. Regardless, some have always sick and in pain – some days some are just able to manage
it (and hide it!) better than others.

‘You just need to snap out of it and push through.’

‘Pushing through’ actually makes someone, and many others with chronic pain and illness, worse.
In Kenya and other developing countries there is no particular policy framework addressing concerns of persons with chronic illnesses although a mention here and there on different framework.
Most families carry the burden of taking care of chronic ill individuals and this affects the economic and social wellbeing of the society at large. The resources used to trat could have been used for other functions [ILO 2017, undp 2016].
Its high time we have particular social protection measure to address persons who have chronic illnesses.
Moreover, one of the major experientials in the disability world and chronic illness which seems to be similar is the way the society expects us to push ourselves beyond our limits
Obviously its so great to push beyond limit but this doesn’t apply to all persons. What the society doesn’t understand persons with disabilities and individuals with chronic illnesses are not a homogenous group.
one is sick or disabled every single day, and know their body and their limits better than anyone – so telling one to ‘push through’ is actually
the worst possible advice. When you’re talking to someone with disability or a chronic illness, remember just because you’d be able to manage something, doesn’t mean
they can or should. Don’t assume someone’s health and limits for them. It totally removes their agency as a human being.
Besides having a disability some individuals might also be having chronic illnesses.
‘You’re too young to be sick!’ or sometimes for disabled persons they say woyee woyee how comes he is blind?

Yep! He or she is young! And sick or having a disability! It sucks. But sickness and chronic illness isn’t exclusively the domain of the elderly; people of all ages can get sick. The society needs to understand that Doesn’t
make their experiences less valid, or their identities abnormal. They just sick in a cool young person way, I guess. I don’t know – it’s a weird thing to
say, so just don’t.

‘If you stopped talking about it all the time and looked on the bright side, you’d feel better.’

I do! To be totally frank, as a blind fellow if I didn’t look on the optimistic side, I wouldn’t be alive right now. Being blind for 23 years now it’s not a walk in the park.
It takes strong will to be in this unjust society.
This also applies to other fellow disabled persons.
Needless to say,
Being chronically ill is also tough as hell, and many chronic
illnesses have strong ties to mental illness. One has to look on the bright side A LOT, otherwise their depression and just the daily battle of being sick
would drag one down and some can’t be able to get out of their beds.

All in all, people should be able to talk about their lived experience as much as they deem appropriate, and disability and chronic illness is not spoken about
enough. Let them vent, let us explain, let them talk about their day!

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.

Inside the Kenyan disability corridors of power Author Mugambi Paul

Over the past few years, the discourse agenda of many disabled Kenyans has been dominated by service delivery and public participation debate] Mugambi 2017] this is because both incredibly important issues. But amid these dominating subjects, have the voices of disabled Kenyans been hard?
Has Kenya improved its level of inclusiveness?
Globally, persons with disabilities are estimated to represent 15 per cent of the world’s population, but in many developing nations this percentage
can be significantly higher] world report 2011 UN enable 2011].
this is to say, population of 1.3 billion, disabled persons constitute an emerging market the size of China. Their Friends and Family add another 2.4 billion potential consumers who act on their emotional connection to PWD] Ilo 2017].
Together, PWD control over $8 trillion in annual disposable income] ILO 2016].
The aging Boomer population is adding to the number of the disabled daily. As Boomers’ physical realities change, their need and desire to remain active in society dovetails with the demands of PWD. This group controls a larger share of the national wealth than any previous generation. Does Kenya government know this?
Just like many developing nations Kenya is on automobile settings on matters disability inclusion.
Most public policies are well woven but poorly executed. This is quite evidenced by the rare and sometimes absence seen in leadership and decision-making roles, the visibility in
popular culture and media are low, absence of disabled representation in key policy decision organs and stakeholders, and recognition of the work as thought leaders and influencers is almost non-existent. What has been happening?
The Kenyan government has strongly concentrated on developing policies geared towards social safety nets. In other words, the Kenya government sees disabled persons as people who need care and do not deserve to contribute to the economy.
Debatably, if the Kenyan government could turn the coin, they would gain more tax collection from this single largest minority in Kenya.
This can be achieved once the government realizes and focusses on effective, first service and maximization of social assets] Whiteford 2018].
How will Kenya government meet the sustainable development goals 2030?
How will the vision 2030 be achieved?
How will the big 4 agenda be achieved?
The reality is disabled Kenyans have been left behind.
This has led to artist and disability activist to start to compose or entertain with the song “do not live us behind”
As evidenced in twitter tags and music.
Moreover, The work of the disability rights
movement often consists of them highlighting their absence from the public domain.
In other words, most regulations and legislation on disability are still shelved in the cabinet. this has led to continuous charity model of delivery of service with out clear roadmap towards right based approach. This is affirmed by the implementation of education policy practises etc
Needless to say, its popular for public and private organisations to claim that they are being inclusive, yet retention rates remain low for disabled people in most organisations, with very
few moving into positions of leadership or responsibility.

I observe, A key factor in understanding inclusion is that it lies in the eye of the beholder. Many organisations have good intentions on inclusion, yet their staff
members from minority groups don’t feel comfortable and leave within a short period. For other organisations inclusion is a reality, so long as everyone
fits in and conforms to company culture] eddy robber 1988].

It’s very easy to say you are being inclusive, it’s another matter to be viewed as being so by those who are the target for being included. I don’t want to sound like a broken glass “why should someone claim his or her organization, yet a disabled person can’t access a toilet?”
According to my findings Most people mean
well, but they forget their unconscious behaviours. Very few people are comfortable with stepping back to allow a person from a minority group (like a
disabled person) to take an opportunity over themselves. Even fewer seem comfortable with a disabled person being their supervisor.
Could this be one of the reasons of the low rate employment recorded by Kenyan public service report
in 2015?
There are those who consider inclusion to be not “seeing” a person’s difference. This isn’t inclusion, its assimilation.
There isn’t much point in having disabled employees to your team if they aren’t valued for their contribution. This seems like an unnecessary thing
to say, yet social media has heard many stories about disabled staff who are never sent the documents in a format they can read
and work on, or aren’t given time to hear what is happening via their interpreter, and even highly experienced employees who are never given the opportunity
to speak and share their views. They are, quite literally, token appointments.
As a public policy scholar and with lived experience on disability, I affirm that the focus must shift from charity model and have accommodation to a plan focused on specific actions to attract customers and talent in disabled persons markets.
Even the available market opportunities for the disabled are being snatched under our noses.
Why aren’t we represented in many government bodies?
Who is supposed to audit the leadership gaps in the disability sector?

All in all, many disabled people work in invisible ways, shifting ground from within existing business and government structures. This work is just as important, just
as necessary, as the work of those who use the public domain to challenge assumptions and perspectives on disabled people. Internal institutional barriers
need to be addressed as much as social assumptions and social policy. Without taking our place as 15% of Kenyan employment and leadership we won’t be in a position to
challenge the ableist structural barriers which deny an equitable disabled presence across the public and private domains.

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.

Should the disabled Kenyans stop be being in Automobile state? Author Mugambi Paul

Majority of Kenyans still see disabled persons as objects of pity. I believe with a collective paradigm shift of mindset we can do it [UNDP 2018]. With the new decade we can stand up and say no to discrimination and harassment of disabled persons. [UN enable 2019]
needless to say, as a totally blind person myself, I am all too familiar with such dehumanizing treatment. Often disabled individuals are treated differently, simply because we look, act, move or communicate differently. But should our differences, stemming from disabilities that we did not choose, be an excuse or justification for others to treat us as lesser individuals?
Unfortunately, many of us, the disabled Africans keep silent as this evil is perpetuated.
This is done by either family members, friends, employers and even in the public spaces.
In liberal democracies, citizens have the right to equal treatment under the law, which means that governments should not differentiate among people without good reason to do so. This is known as the principle of non-discrimination.
That’s because true equality requires a government to actually dismantle structures that perpetuate group disadvantage, either by providing preferential treatment or special protection to those on the wrong side of invisible barriers.
During my tenure as a student leader at Kenyatta university we pushed the policy agenda for affirmative action in university admissions for students with disabilities.
although we din’t get to enjoy the fruits of our advocacy.
Am grateful that the future generation of students with disabilities from 2010 din’t have to pay the price. there were great lessons.
Search as not everyone understand the journey for social justice.
Secondly as a leader you have to sacrifice for the people you lead.
camping at Professor Jude Ong’ong’a and professor Katana DVC academics and registrar academics respectively, was the order of the day.
This was to ensure no disabled person misses the exam card.
With this not withstanding the employers in both public and private sectors in Kenya need to borrow a leaf.
None of these preferential treatment policies are a magic solution for ending group discrimination and segregation, but without affirmative action policy the number of students with disabilities in both public and private universities would be far less than they are today.

On the other hand, In Kenya we have lots of disability awareness campaigns which have highly been of great improvement in the area of advocacy.
In other words, at list the mainstreaming media and social media in Kenya has highly contributed to the improved changes not like when we were starting fighting for disability space.
Additionally, we used to be chased like wild dogs when we approached media gates and other public spaces as we sort for services.
It seemed all along Blind persons were associated with begging thus the maltreatment.
Thanks to the UNCRPD the tide has really changed though we still have a long way to realize the dreams of our forefathers like EDDY Robert of the famous quote “Disability is a club.”
The reality check on Kenya is that we have adopted a more contemporary position on disabilities with accompanying policies and legislation, the general population remains rooted in the medical/charity model of disability.
I can site many examples of how Kenyans see the disabled as objects of pity who require sympathy, help or fixing. These interactions dehumanize and segregate PWDs. When one lives solely in a world of handouts and tokenistic gestures of goodwill promoted by corporate social responsibility initiatives, no dignity is earned, nor will any respect be gained.
For instance,
as a Blind artist and also a professional diversity and inclusion expert many a times people want to pay less for my works in comparison with non-disabled persons [Riayan 2019].
Sometimes with out blinking they demand to be offered service for free.
You really wonder if a blind artist and consultant uses free energy and free provision of his or her needs in his or her life.
Another example is the corporate who allege to organize support for assistive devices or marathons. Do these events actually sustain the disabled persons? Do the activities benefit a few individuals with disabilities and then sing Hosana?
I vividly remember how a vision impaired was almost being lynched at a Muhindi shop in town. This incident happens when he was checking the prices of bags and shoes.
The owner thought the vision impaired individual was a thief.
As long as the disabled are viewed as lesser or alien, dehumanizing incidents like the one we experienced at the media gates, will continue to be a common occurrence. Many incidences of disability-related harassment and discrimination have gone, and will continue to go, unchallenged. Despite protective legislation, sadly, little can be done to address the dignity that has been willfully trampled upon.
As a public policy scholar, this leaves me to conclude that decency and respect for a fellow human being cannot be regulated through legislation alone.
I recognize and appreciate that my views on such matters are not
widely shared by everyone in disability movement nor in our society. I acknowledge
that there are many traditions in our society which reflect different
experiences and perspectives than my own. All the same, I am proud to be
guided by a strong code of conduct that embraces diversity with respect for
divergent differences of opinion, beliefs, identities, and other
characteristics. What I stand for demonstrates that as a blind person am from a diverse cross section of society.
As a global citizen who happens to be blind, I have had the privilege of travelling to many different countries. Of the many that I have visited, Australia and Israel stood out the most. Perhaps due to their experiences and effective implementation of the disability policies.
. In my many visits, I have yet to be discriminated against. I have been treated not only with dignity but have always been offered help respectfully
when needed.

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 disabled Kenyans should stop word romancing in quest for inclusivity. Author Mugambi Paul

Image

Over the past few months, Kenya social media sites within the disability sector has been filled with romantic words of how we us disabled persons should be defined.
Many of the social media users argued for or against the statement “persons living with disability”
Putting my scholarly lenses, I will fall into the trap of using legal instrument.
This is evidently best settled by the clear definition which is quite elaborate in the UNCRPD.
It begs the question whether I live with my impairment or not. Does this really matter?
The pertinent response should be if as and individual or group we are receiving efficient, timely service delivery.
This matter of romantic wording should stop instantly and let focus the energies towards demanding for more improved service delivery in both public and private sectors.
As a matter of fact, the disabled in Kenya are too euphemistic and this clearly waters down the advocacy agenda.
As a public scholar and also a consumer of disability services have put the shoes and thus found to jot my reflections.
This is well informed by the virtue of Some discriminatory experiences
I have encountered within the Kenyan public and private service provision.
I observe there are allot of grey areas we need to focus.
For instance, accessible communication and information, transport provision for disabled persons, inclusive education, demand for employment opportunism etc.
I opine that the Kenyan disability sector has lost its way by being caught
up in politics and the self-interest of higher-ups. As [Peter 2019] affirms the disability sector can redeem itself.
Several reforms need to take place in order to assure and uphold the rightful place and a just society for the disabled in Kenya.
There is a plausible and workable solution
within reach to overcome many of the failures and inefficiencies of disability service provision, and these solutions should be grasped with two hands so that we
can turn this around.
For example, if a follow up response for last year’s open letter on my blog would have changed the narrative.

“Open letter to the Newly NCPWD chair” Mugambi Paul


to put it differently, disabled persons have solutions to the obstacles they face on a daily basis.
“we are the drivers of our destiny”
More importantly, Kenya made several global commitments in 2018.
This has seen several initiatives being pursued by government, international non-governmental organizations, private business sectors and disabled persons organizations.
According to my web-based research most entities in Kenya performed well in meeting their obligations but is this impact felt on the ground?
needless to say, the disabled persons in Kenya have a responsibility of accountability by asking.
Are these global commitments being implemented to achieve the said target population?
Are the global commitments made by Kenya in line with the Complies with its Obligations Under the CRPD?
Are tangible outcomes being experienced by disabled persons at the grassroots?
Success story
Moreover, beyond individual organizations’ progress against their commitments, there is evidence by ministry of labor in Kenya that Global disability commitments has had a wider impact in raising awareness, and increasing
prioritization, in relation to disability inclusion. For sure, disability inclusion as key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
some of the ministry of labor success story include:
Launch of the National Action Plan on the implementation of the Global Disability Summit Commitments 2018
Development and an advocacy toolkit that will be used to strengthen dignity and respect for all.
Lastly, Establishment and launch of the Inter Agency Coordinating Committee to coordinate and monitor the implementation of the National Action Plan on the
implementation of the Global Disability Summit Commitments 2018. On the other hand, much needs to be done
by the consortiums in the non-governmental organizations.
most of them are still grappling with teething issues and set ups.
We hope in 2020 more research and global commitments outcomes will be felt on the ground.

According to June 2019 Kenya investment report and state social enterprise reports they do not have any reference to inclusivity aspect of disabled persons.
The report just mentions the term disability only in the reference of the social protection aspect of the Uwezo program.
This literally shows Kenya still has a long way towards getting proper participation of persons with disabilities and inclusive reporting.
All in all, the disabled a person and their organizations need to enhance the collaborative accountability mechanisms which will aid towards the realization of achieving the global commitments.
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 Disabled Kenyan man missed the Land comission job!

Disabled persons all over the world face surmountable challenges in accessing participation in all spheres of life.
Siting example of Kenya it has been a long struggle for advocacy of both individuals and institutions to recognize persons with disabilities.
Disabled persons are 15 per cent of the world’s population, that’s one billion people, and yet, they are significantly more unemployed and under-employed
As expected, the constitution of Kenya is clear on matters representation and appointments in the public and private sector.
As evidenced by Section 54(2) of the Kenya constitution 2010 requires the state to ensure that at least 5 % of the members of the public in elective
and appointive
bodies are persons with disabilities. The sustainable development goals (SDGs), to which Kenya is party, in target 8.5, the world hopes that by 2030 achieve
full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and
equal pay for work of equal value. Despite existing domestic and global legal frameworks, access to the labor market remains a daunting challenge for
persons with disabilities. This may be attributed to accessibility related challenges, inadequate quality education stigma and lack of a comprehensive
strategy to empower and absorb persons with disabilities into the job market.
Additionally, disabled persons have been underemployed, and employers have immensely refused to adapt reasonable accommodation measures which could have enhanced the productivity of individuals with disabilities.
On the other hand, People with disabilities represent a significant untapped source of talent for employers and a market segment for businesses that includes not only the
person with a disability but their family members and friends. Businesses and employers are recognizing that disability inclusion in the workplace represents
a competitive advantage that has been overlooked for too long.
ILO 2005 in one of its studies stated clearly that with proper accesses and provision of reasonable accommodation disabled persons can stay for long in a particular job than the non-disabled counterparts thus high productivity and prophitability of the organizations
This reduces even the expenses of hiring new staff and reduces staff turnover.

Moreover, the situation is further aggravated by lack of an elaborate and sustainable
social security mechanism for this historically marginalized group.
The big question is what it shall take for the Kenyan government to effectively address the problem of accessibility and provision of reasonable accommodation to the labor market for persons
with disabilities?
The Kenyan 2018 public service disability mainstreaming policy articulates clearly the measures which all public entities should follow in promoting the welfare of disabled persons and promoting reasonable accommodation.
If all government entities adapt this approach all disabled persons in Kenya will stop lamentation.
Of course, this is
is the only sure way of granting persons with disabilities a chance to live an independent, dignified and respectable life.
The jury is out there, disabled persons are still hoping to see which government agency is executing the provisions of the constitution, UNCRPD, public service policy etc.

Unfortunately, this has not been the case for the most appointments in the recent past of Kenyan story.
For instance, after the expiry of the first land commission,
It was expected a new team will be brought on board.
Unfortunately, the disabled person who made it to the finals was not nominated to serve on the commission.
This is to show how Kenya has not recognized the importance of having a disabled commissioner.
To put it differently, disabled persons have been denied the opportunity of voicing the voice of the largest minority group.
Its not that the disabled persons don’t have concerns on the land matter but it is clear that disabled are the most disadvantaged on land matters.
Disabled persons have lost land to family, relatives and friends, they are also disinherited by the relatives, land taken away without their consent etc.
Regrettably, no human rights body nor the disability movement advocated for the disabled person to be taken on board. Even after the gazettement of the current list no one came to voice the agenda. Where is the so-called disability caucus group?
Why did the chairperson of the gender commission who doubled as the task force chair didn’t voice this discrepancy?
Will the disabled individuals be locked out of the upcoming IEBC commission job?
The jeury is out there.

For a thriving and leadership someone could have taken responsibility of this Agenda. pick me up!
Disable persons organization and disabled persons and allies need to rise up and advocate for better appointments and representation.
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.

Kenya society for the Blind need to be led by Blind and vision impaired persons Author Mugambi Paul

Kenya society for the Blind need to be led by Blind and vision impaired persons
Author Mugambi Paul

believe this as much today as we did in 1940. Unfortunately, too many Kenyan people
still take literally the parable that says when the blind lead the blind,
both will fall into the ditch. In 1950 our hope said that a literal
interpretation was wrong, and our experience now confirms it day after day,
year after year, decade after decade.
This is when the formation of Kenya Union of the Blind took place.
Unfortunately most never lived to see the fruits of there labour as veterans.
This affirmed by the heroes and heroines in the Blindness sector who have either gone ahead of us.
Some of these have provided great leadership and others have refused to pass on the baton to the generations to come.
I affirm that Kenya union of the Blind is one of the sleeping icons in the country.
As an advocacy organ it has not put any government institution relating to blindness to reform or become accountable to the Blind and vision impaired .
The heroes and heroines in the Blindness sector are turning in to their graves asking what happened?
As I was explaining earlier,
i but parables, stereotypes, and legal beliefs do not easily give way
even in the face of evidence refuting them. Unfortunately, the Blind and visually impaired persons have rendered the public space to be run by others who are not blind or vision impaired.
Kenya society for the Blind is one great example where the blind and vision impaired think they can find solace but it’s all in vain.
Kenya institute for the blind is facing similar predicament.
When was the position advertised?
Was it accessible to the blind and visually impaired persons?
Aren’t there Blind and visually impaired professionals.
Why are we silent on this?
In other words, many professionals who are not blind have mastered to speak on our behalf and have largely misrepresented the Blind and thus the once vibrant blind and vision impaired sector is crying for social justice to prevail.
The blind and vision impaired persons need to scrutinize the positions of the Chief executive officers of these government entities so that they do not become permanent and deny able blind and vision impaired persons from serving their own.

As a public policy scholar, I opine the blind and vision impaired persons need to rise and bring cows back home.
This is to say the blind and vision impaired need to make important decisions on how the blind related organizations ran by government and nonstate actors through having the say.
Secondly as a blind person I know the shoe since am the wearer.
No amount of professional who is neither Blind or vision impaired can understand or have the experience we have.
Thirdly, no wonder Central bank of Kenya and the Kenyan media have collaborated to cheat the public that bank notes are accessible to us the blind and vision impaired persons!
Let the Blind and vision impaired come of age and do the needful.
We are grateful for the support you have offered us,
Let now the Blind and the vision impaired persons be the leaders in the sectors.
Am not surprised that the little kid the Albinism family has been able to build away from home and has fortunately claimed the national cake at its best.
Unfortunately they left the Mother and father “Blind and vision impaired” to suffer.
Furthermore, without blind once built their identity not only on helping the blind but in speaking for us, making
all important decisions for us, and being the interpreters through which
Kenya would hear from its blind unfortunates. Thanks to Kenyan constituent which recognizes the people as the owners and proclamation of public participation and a country that encourages us to reach for our day in the sun as we
pursue the Kenyan dream.
Will the Blind and vision impaired generation not have chief executives who are blind?
Will the future blind and vision impaired generation just see us in the profession of begging and teaching?
I hope the Kenyan blind and vision impaired person now can start to speak for ourselves, direct the
programs that serve us, and tell our communities what we need and which
service providers are delivering it. We still need professionals who learn
to teach the alternative skills we need and to develop ever-more-helpful
equipment, but we do not need these men and women to speak for us but with
us, sharing in the collaboration that creates, maintains, and evaluates
quality services.

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.

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.

Why the disabled in Kenya should stop reading lamentation Author Mugambi Paul.

Generally speaking, Kenya is facing deteriorating standards an alarming trend and of service delivery to persons with disabilities.
Of course, Recently, there has been lots of reports of rights violations of disabled and more so among girls and women with disabilities. Some of the atrocities have ranged from rape, inflicting gross bodily harm, to murder.
Noticeably, Disabled persons organizations and social media users have broadcasted the information.
What next?
Another example is a case of
a lady 20 years, made National News after she gave birth at Uhuru Park. The previous night having been kicked out of her lodging in Muthurwa for failing to pay half US dollar. She could not even afford a tenth of a US dollar to use a public toilet when she resorted to be at the park and there, she had her baby. All heathy as the dailies in Kenya reported.
How did we find ourselves here?
For how long shall we have the broken system in place?
Disability policy makers should have an ardent call to adjust their belts and raise the alarm.
This is by fastening the legislative agenda and pushing for real implementation and oversight of the current laws.
Additionally, in our pursuit to champion for the rights and equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities, ensuring their safety in the society
must always take predominate position.
This is well articulated in the ]UNCRPD 2006[which Kenya has signed and ratified.
Historically, I can vividly remember the great promises that successive governments have made since I was newcomer in the movement. Thus far we are still advocating for the same. For instance, we were told in the early 2000 inaccessible of buildings will be a thing of the past.
Yet many infrastructure projects still do not observe the standards even after the gazettement 2015.
theoretically speaking Kenya has great policies but poor implementation.
This is not to say attempts have not been done to save the situation.

However, it seems the government and the disability policy makers are still engaging in pull and push game.
Why aren’t we represented in the building bridge initiative?
Why aren’t we represented at the independent election and boundaries commission?
This clearly shows the low expectation exhibited by policy makers on the capacities of disabled persons.
Its high time the disabled persons enjoy the national cake not just to take the crumps
Should the disability policy makers change tact?
I observe that during 2018 global London summit Kenya marketed itself as a leader on disability mainstreaming and inclusion.
Nevertheless, the top brass leadership din’t take the lead like the UK counterpart.

Observers expected the Kenyan presidency to take the lead.
It is imperative that the disabled persons and policy stakeholders stands firm and retrieve the lost glory and dreams of the founders of the disability movement in Kenya.
In most developed nations there is a cabinet secretary assigned to handle the exclusively the disability docket.
The latest entrant is Australia.
Where the Liberal MP Stuart Robert will enter cabinet as the minister for the NDIS after the scheme was taken out of the social services portfolio.

Should the disability sector be moved to the presidency?
The jury is out there.
Should the policy makers become innovative and engage more disabled persons?

Apparently, the lack of factual information among the disabled population leads to misinformation and low demand of actual rights.
Furthermore, most decision makers are based in the Nairobi city thus lack of involvement of the rural disability sector.
Most Kenyan policy makers use top bottom approach in decision making.
Moreover, the lack of economic resource has made disabled persons to be vulnerable.
Thus, often taken advantage of.
This is by either accepting to receive poor services or suffer in silence.
Its high time disabled persons in Kenya stopped lamentation.
The focus should be on self-advocacy and knowing the rights.
As individuals and institutions, we all are aware of the barrier’s persons with disabilities face.
They include lack of support systems in place. Poor resourced government services. Lack of representation in the workforce, private sector, low literacy rates among disabled persons,
Inaccessible building and infrastructure.
Lastly,
Low legislative agendas among parliamentarians with disabilities. Etc.
Kenya is arguably, the most unequal society.
According to world bank report 2018 43.6 of persons in Kenya live below the poverty line.
Obviously, disabled persons are triple affected.
It is high time we restored dignity and decency among disabled persons.
One way is by adopting universal basic income to all persons with disabilities.
This will promote economic independence among the largest minority group in Kenya.
This is because it will be a game changer by restoration of dignity on lives of disabled persons.
instead of the current cash transfer system which targets a few individuals with severe disabilities.
As a scholar I believe Inclusion of people with disabilities creates a strong economy by enabling a diverse community contribution which drives future growth.
Why do we have well written policies with poor implementations?
This can happen when disabled persons realize that it’s not the disabled leaders who are the problem.
The problem is individual disabled persons who doesn’t want to take responsibility of self-advocacy and engaging in systematic advocacy.
Of course, This is what the disability leadership has taken advantage of.
The disability leadership knows that the true liberation of disabled community will happen when many more self-advocates have taken their positions
Meanwhile the disabled persons organizations have to live to the promise of transparency and accountability in order to be the real watchdog of government institutions serving persons with disabilities.
This agenda should start among the disabled persons organization membership and structures.
Additionally, the legislators with disabilities have to change by living to the call of being leaders.
Being a leader calls for constant interaction with the disabled people. Listening to the citizens forms the basis of representation and legislation.
This will aid the parliamentarians to lobby and advocate for economically viable legislations to reduce the economic inequalities experienced by 99 % of the disability population in Kenya.
Together we can create new opportunities for inclusive economic growth with benefits for everyone in the community, as well as the person with disability, who may become a customer, client, employee, student, team member or holidaymaker at your organisation, sports club, business, shop, restaurant or rental property.

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.

Kenyan budgeting is a failure without urgent intervention on Disability agenda. Author: Mugambi M. Paul.

Kenyan budgeting is a failure without urgent intervention on Disability agenda.
Author: Mugambi M. Paul.

To begin, as a follow up of lasts years global summit held in London.
The ministry of labor and stakeholders have started the process of ensuring the global summit commitments are implemented.
This is evidently seen by the upcoming report by development pathways and agency in UK on matters social protection.
However, taking a snapshot of the Kenyan budgeting processes and procedures this dream might not be realized.
This is because Its just 2 months towards the presentation of budget by the treasury.
Persons with disabilities have not gotten the opportunity to participate and be engaged in the budgeting processes.
As a public scholar I affirm that Kenya government will remain to fail the disability community by not fixing this abnormally.
The Kenyan government can ensure proper disability budgeting procedures are implemented in all its plans, policies and regulations.
The Kenyan government should at list plan for one % of its budget on disability matters.
This will ensure the social protection systems become disability-inclusive.
Through the ministry of labor, they can present a memorandum of understanding to the ministry of treasury and the parliamentary budgeting committee.
This should be executed by both national and county governments.
On the other hand, persons with disabilities need to claim their public spaces.
This will enable enhancement of participation and increase of there voices being hard by policy makers.
This can take place in the local chapters of budgeting review processes.
It’s a proven fact that the bottom to top approach has necessitated lots of changes in the public sector agenda making processes.
For this to be well articulated the disability persons organizations need to up their game.
This is by mobilizing resources towards a budget campaign
Through media and engaging the parliamentary committees.
campaign in the lead-up to the reading Budget to call on the government and opposition to deliver on their bipartisan promise to actualize the disability mainstreaming agenda a reality.
All in all, when disability budgeting is implemented it will ensure Kenya moves out of the current charity model of delivery of services thus realizing the social reformative agenda.
This is well articulated in the 2010 constitution and the UNCRPD
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.

Twelve Crimes of being disabled in Kenya Author: Paul M. Mugambi.

Twelve Crimes of being disabled in Kenya
Author: Paul M. Mugambi.

Twelve Crimes of being disabled in Kenya
Author: Paul M. Mugambi.

1. Only in Kenya where most government documents are written “physically challenged” in reference to persons with disabilities.
2. Only in Kenya both Government and private sector demand for a driving lisence even when they know Blind and Deaf-Blind persons will never drive on the Kenyan roads. Thus, denial of employment opportunity.
3. Only in Kenya we pay for the long and dreary processes of acquiring the disabled card while the national identity card is readily available and its free.
4.
Only in Kenya where government service providers one has to explain his or her disability before service is offered or denied. I wonder if other non-disabled citizens undergo this trauma.
5. Only in Kenya where Kenya revenue Authority demands renewal of tax exemption certificates to the disabled persons as if the permanent disabled persons got a miracle. You wonder why Kenya claims to be an IT herb while the KRA system can’t just update itself.
6. Only in Kenya where the invisible disabled persons are not recognized and lots of explanation is done.
7. Only in Kenya persons with disabilities have to organize themselves to educate service providers of their roles and responsibilities in service delivery to disabled persons.
8. Only in Kenya where most government offices are either inaccessible or located in inaccessible places.
9. Only in Kenya most government websites are in accessible and do not offer alternative formats in documentation.
10. Only in Kenya where most public and private adverts are written “Persons with disabilities are encouraged to apply” but they don’t take any extra measure to ensure disabled persons are brought on board.
11. Only in Kenya where disabled persons pay for the “disabled car sticker” for packing and even the disabled packing is already occupied by the non-disabled individuals.
12. Only in Kenya where disabled artists, musicians, sportspersons beg for government or private sector sponsorship to participate in both local and international events and obligations.

The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.
Paul Mugambi is a public policy and diversity and inclusion expert.

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

Autism Is My Superpower By a Guest writer. Michael R. Whary

Autism Is My Superpower
It does not matter what sixty-six percent of people do in any particular situation.
All that matters is what you do.
John Elder Robison, Look Me in the Eye
My parents were concerned because my speech was not as advanced as other children
at age two and a half and I did strange things like lining up all my toys in rows
throughout the house, spinning around in circles, and throwing tantrums. In addition,
my motors skills such as running and hand strength were delayed. I also had a lot
of trouble with balance.
My neurologist recognized the signs immediately and informed my parents that I was
autistic. My parents asked what my long-term outlook might be and they were told
that I would most likely never be independent. They were told that because of my
lack of motor skills I probably would never be able to ride a bike, motorcycle, or
drive an automobile. This news made my parents very sad as they had lost my older
brother in childbirth two years earlier.
My parents immediately enrolled me in speech and occupational therapy classes. I
don’t remember much about it, but they said I went to classes five days a week for
four years. Early on my parents believed that if they could get me enough training
that somehow I would
outgrow or no longer be autistic. As I went to classes later I noticed that almost
all of the parents believed the same thing. It wasn’t just about helping their children
fit into society. It was also about trying to hide the autism from the world. A lot
of the kids sometimes felt like Rudolph in the movie
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
 when his dad tried to hide his red nose.
While my autism caused me to develop slower than other children in some areas it
also gave me some abilities that others didn’t have. I learned my alphabet at age
one and I could read at a fourth grade level by eighteen months. In preschool the
teacher always read a story before naptime to the class, but was so amazed at how
well I could read that I took over and was the official storyteller for my preschool.
It was easy for me to read the words on the page fluently, but I had difficulty having
a simple conversation.
My dad had been a star athlete in high school and college, but because of my delayed
motor skills I was not able to play organized sports early on. I really wanted to
follow in his footsteps because he enjoyed football so much, but it just wasn’t possible.
Instead I joined the Cub Scouts. It was so much fun, and at each meeting I learned
a new life skill, from cooking to tying knots to hiking. It was also the first time
that I spent a lot of time with neurotypical children. This was important because
I would copy how the other scouts acted and that’s how I learned to interact and
take part in organized events. All of the physical activity improved my motor skills
too.
I earned the Arrow of Light Award and the Cub Scout Super Achiever Award because
I had earned every pin that the Cub Scouts offered.
Since I had such a wonderful time in Cub Scouts I bridged over to Boy Scouts. It
was not an easy transition as Boy Scouts are “boy run.” This means that I was no
longer taking classes from patient adults, but being given orders from older scouts
who were in high school. It was difficult because I could not process what they wanted
me to do as quickly as regular developing children. I was sometimes overlooked for
leadership positions and not given a chance. I did come home very upset sometimes,
but I always remember my father saying, “If
it’s easy everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.” He always knew
what to say to motivate me. I doubled my efforts and slowly I was able to do the
jobs that were needed and in turn I was given positions of responsibility.
I believe that scouting is very good for autistic children because they learn hands-on
life skills through merit badges. An Eagle Scout must have twelve Eagle required
badges and twenty-one total merit badges to even be considered. The Eagle requirements
are very difficult. Everything from First Aid, Citizenship, Accounting, Family Planning,
and Physical Fitness are learned along the Eagle Trail. I currently have all of the
Eagle required badges and a total of forty-five merit badges. I enjoy learning new
things from the experts in the field who teach the merit badges. My favorite was
the Aviation merit badge. We went to an actual flight school and learned all about
navigation, instruments, weather conditions, and the different planes. We then got
to ride in a small plane and I even got to fly it for a little bit. It was amazing!
When I was thinking about an Eagle Scout project there were so many options to consider.
The churches all needed help with their facilities, and all of the fraternal organizations
like the Elk, Moose, and Veterans clubs had things I could have helped with, but
none of the options seemed quite right.
Then a little over a year ago I came down with a terrible fever and my mother took
me to the emergency room. The EMT who was there took my information and when they
were told I was autistic the doctor asked him to stay in case they needed to hold
me down while I got shots. I guess the doctor had experience with other children
on the spectrum. I calmly allowed them to give me the shots and the EMT and doctor
were both shocked when I didn’t put up a fight.
The EMT stayed with me and asked a lot of questions about being autistic. Then he
followed us out into the parking lot and explained why he was asking all the questions.
It seemed that his nephew had just been diagnosed with autism and he and his sister
were very upset. With a tear in his eye he told us that I was such a well-mannered
young man and in control of my surroundings, which gave him hope for his nephew’s
future. He said that I inspired him and he was so
happy that he met me.
As I thought about what he had said it came to me that maybe I could help other parents.
I could make them understand that autism is not something to be ashamed of and that
if their child is on the mid to higher end of the spectrum anything is possible.
I want parents to embrace their children for who they are and not carry the guilt
that they did something wrong. According to the CDC, one in forty-two boys in the
USA is somewhere on the autism spectrum. If I could inspire new parents who are so
devastated by the news then maybe I could make the world a better place.
Currently, I am a high school sophomore and enjoy playing the piano and the trumpet
in our marching band and jazz band. I’m also in ROTC and was honored by being inducted
into the Kitty Hawk Honor Society for members with good grades. I take advanced classes
and I am on track to graduate with honors. I currently have a 3.75 GPA. I threw shot
put and discus for my school’s track team and also ran the 100-meter dash. I will
be attending a university upon graduation. I am hoping to get accepted into the Wharton
Business School at Penn, or another Ivy League school, but if not then possibly Baldwin
Wallace University in Berea, Ohio. After graduation I would like to own my own business,
possibly in computers.
How would I define my autism? I was never considered an “Aspie” because of my diagnosis.
I use the word “autistic” because it is a word most people understand, but in the
end it is just a word. To be honest my answer may sound strange, but I am not defined
by my autism. I am Michael Whary. I cannot be defined by any set “definition.” What
I have learned is that no matter who you are or what disabilities you have to overcome
in this life if you want something badly enough anything is possible! God gave everyone
a special gift, a “superpower” if you will. Autism is mine. It has taught me to overcome
my physical, mental, and social difficulties.
Every year we celebrate my birthday with a cake and candles as most people do. When
I blow out the candles and make a wish it’s always the same, “I wish that all of
the suffering in the world would end and in so doing there would be peace on Earth.”
I thank the powers that be for giving me this life. I thank my parents for their
guidance, patience, love, and understanding. And I wish nothing but good things for
others on the autism spectrum.