The dream of saving the disabled Kenyans Author Mugambi Paul.

We’ve come a long way, with disabled Kenyans having more opportunity than ever, but there’s still a long way to go.
Since 1992, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) has been annually observed on 3 December around the world. The theme for this 2019
IDPD is ‘
Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda’. The theme focuses on the
empowerment of persons with disabilities for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development as envisaged in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,
which pledges to ‘leave no one behind’ and recognizes disability as a cross-cutting issues, to be considered in the implementation of its 17 Sustainable
Development Goals.

My hope is that Kenya will reach a point where basic education about acceptance and inclusion is no longer imperative.

I hope we’ll reach a point where it’s commonly understood that people with disability have the same rights to independence, employment, respect and access
to facilities as everyone else.
And I believe finding jobs for the thousands of Kenyans with disability who dearly want work is an essential part of getting there.
As a public policy scholar, I observe, it’s difficult for a blind person to land a job, even with stellar qualifications. A blind person with an associate degree is statistically less likely
to be employed than a sighted high school dropout.

Often, employers who don’t have experience working with disabled persons can’t conceptualize
how a disabled candidate can perform the job’s duties.
It makes matters worse employers who have experienced working with disabled persons are the barriers of enabling the Kenyan disabled to be employed.
As Helen Keller once said, “The chief handicap of the blind is not blindness, but the attitude of
seeing people toward them.”
These ungrounded fears contribute to the persistently low employment rates for disabled people.
Statistically as research shows at list in a population of 10 disabled Kenyans 8 are not employed.

To shift attitudes and make a difference — more people with disability need to be supported in the workplace.
I opine that most employers do not know that disabled people aren’t in the workforce, meaning employers are missing out on the benefits of hiring people with disabilities, including improvements in profitability,
competitive advantage and innovation.

Moreover, I grew up in a rural set up. where my community never bought into who I was — and made my world not as accessible as they possibly could. I had a great struggle to accomplish my educational journey,
where I faced discrimination and not treated as a peer. I believe right now,
There are many people with disability hoping to engage in work and the community more broadly and receive the opportunities that I was given so naturally.

They deserve the opportunity to be employed and fulfil their potential as much as anyone else in the African community.

I know what I most want to achieve as I celebrated my 22nd Birthday of being Blind.
Secondly my dream is
What I most want is for the community to use IDPwD as a launching pad for further action.

At this year’s celebration I hope governments, individuals and organizations will take the opportunity to commit to one concrete action towards removing barriers to accessibility
and inclusion for disabled Kenyans.
This is not too much to ask!
Get your workplace to give a person with disability a job.

Look for ways you can make your organisation, building or website more accessible for people with disability.

Create a paid internship program to help people with a disability get the skills they need to find a permanent job.

Provide anti-discrimination and bullying training to your staff — particularly those in customer facing roles.

If I can convince one person to roll up their sleeves and create a job for a person with disability or improve accessibility and inclusion within the community
— I’ll be satisfied with my contribution as a public scholar and expert in diversity and inclusion.

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 two Sleeping blind giants in Kenya: author Mugambi Paul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does a Blind person have extra Hearing capacity? Author Mugambi Paul

Does a Blind person have extra Hearing capacity?
Author
Mugambi Paul

Generally speaking, persons who are not blind or vision impaired have unique assumptions and perceptions.
This is because they hold on believes that blind persons have they a higher level of hearing among the rest of the population.
There are many debates which have multifaceted answers on this topic.
On my journey on social inclusion I have been asked severally this question.
Different scholars and persons with lived experience of being blind
have evidently contributed to this debate. Whenever I am asked the question, do I have better hearing because I am blind? I say that if tested, my hearing is probably no better than anyone else’s,
but the difference is that I know how to use it.
Most people are fascinated by the fact that I can hear the presence of an obstacle, such as when I am approaching a wall or a post, opening a bag or something else on
the pavement. I explain this to be possibly air pressure, the lack of wind from a certain direction because of an obstacle, and also echoes from surrounding
sounds. I use this extra sense a lot and find it very successful. I often demonstrate it to sighted people who are really impressed with it.
Research has shown that people who are born blind or become blind early
in life often have a more nuanced sense of hearing, especially when it
comes to
musical abilities and tracking moving objects in space.
For decades scientists have wondered what changes in the brain might
underlie these enhanced auditory abilities. Now, two research papers
published from
the University of Washington, use functional MRI to identify two
differences in the brains of blind individuals that might be responsible
for their abilities
to make better use of
auditory information.
???There???s this idea that blind people are good at auditory tasks, because
they have to make their way in the world without visual information. We
wanted
to explore how this happens in the brain, ??? said Ione Fine, a UW
professor of psychology and the senior author on both studies.
Instead of simply looking to see which parts of the brain were most
active while listening, both studies examined the sensitivity of the
brain to subtle
differences in auditory frequency.
???We were???t measuring how rapidly neurons fire, but rather how
accurately populations of neurons represent information about sound,???
said Kelly Chang,
a graduate student in the UW Department of Psychology and lead author on
the
Journal of Neuroscience paper.
That study found that in the auditory cortex, individuals who are blind
showed narrower neural ???tuning??? than sighted subjects in discerning small
differences in sound frequency.
???This is the first study to show that blindness results in plasticity in
the auditory cortex. This is important because this is an area of the
brain that
receives very similar auditory information in blind and sighted
individuals,??? Fine said. ???But in blind individuals, more information
needs to be extracted
from sound ??? and this region seems to develop enhanced capacities as a
result. This provides an elegant example of how the development of
abilities within
infant brains are influenced by the environment they grow up in.???
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study examined how
the brains of
people who are born blind or become blind early in life ??? referred to as
???early blind??? individuals ??? represent moving
objects in space.
The research team showed that an area of the brain called the hMT+???
which in sighted individuals is responsible for tracking moving visual
objects ??? shows
neural responses that reflect both the motion and the frequency of
auditory signals in blind individuals. This suggests that in blind
people, area hMT+
is recruited to play an analogous role ??? tracking moving auditory
objects, such as cars, or the footsteps of the people around them.
The paper in the Journal of Neuroscience involved two teams ??? one at the
UW, the other at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Both
teams measured
neural responses in study participants while participants listened to a
sequence of Morse code-like tones that differed in frequency while the
fMRI machine
recorded brain activity. The research teams found that in the blind
participants, the auditory cortex more accurately represented the
frequency of each
sound.
???Our study shows that the brains of blind individuals are better able to
represent frequencies,??? Chang said. ???For a sighted person, having an
accurate
representation of sound ins???t as important because they have sight to
help them recognize objects, while blind individuals only have auditory
information.
This gives us an idea of what changes in the brain explain why blind
people are better at picking out and identifying sounds in the environment.???
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study examined how
the brain???s ???recruitment??? of the hMT+ region might help blind people
track the motion
of objects using sound. Participants once again listened to tones that
differed in auditory frequency, but this time the tones sounded like
they were moving.
As has been found in previous studies, in blind individuals the neural
responses in area hMT+ contained information about the direction of
motion of the
sounds, whereas in the sighted participants these sounds did not produce
significant neural activity.
By using sounds that varied in frequency, the researchers could show
that in blind individuals, the hMT+ region was selective for the
frequency as well
as the motion of sounds, supporting the idea that this region might help
blind individuals track moving objects in space.
? These results suggest that early blindness results in visual areas
being recruited to solve auditory tasks in a relatively sophisticated
way? Fine said.
This study also included two sight-recovery subjects ??? individuals who
had been blind from infancy until adulthood, when sight was restored via
surgery
in adulthood. In these individuals, area hMT+ seemed to serve a dual
purpose, capable of processing both auditory and visual motion. The
inclusion of people
who used to be visually impaired lends additional evidence to the idea
that this plasticity in the brain happens early in development, Fine
said, because
the results show that their brains made the shift to auditory processing
as a result of their early life blindness, yet maintains these abilities
even
after sight was restored in adulthood.
According to Fine, this research extends current knowledge about how the
brain develops because the team was not only looking at which regions of
the brain
are altered as a result of blindness, but also examining precisely what
sort of changes ??? specifically, sensitivity to frequency ??? might explain
how early
blind people make sense of the world. As one of the study participants
described it, ???You see with your eyes, I see with my ears.???all in all I opine that blind persons utilize what the sighted persons don’t! to put it differently this studies have confirmed what I the response I give people when asked.
It is not that we have extra gift us Blind persons, but we utilize the maximum the hearing ability while the sighted use there vision.
Mugambi Paul is a public policy expert in diversity and inclusion.