Why 2020 decided to put its foot in our behinds. Author Mugambi Paul

According to the world blind union, it is estimated 285 million people are Blind and vision impaired. worldwide with about 90% of them living in low-income countries.  Of all the school-age children with visual impairment, less than half were receiving education. 

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic that has now enveloped the whole world, most governments took drastic measures of shutting down institutions of learning.

I affirm as a Blind fellow in the low-income country it is worse to be Blind at this Corona period.

This is because of the educational inequalities ranging from attitudinal, institutional and existence of the environmental barriers.

To put matters differently Blind and vision impaired persons are experiencing quadruple worries:

Lack of inclusive education Corona policies

Lack of skills and lack of   assistive technology,

lack of devices needed for reading and writing

Lack of available of even traditional modes of technology while at home e.g. Brail books, adaptive graphics.

Psycosocial distress.

Inaccessible built environments

Increase of discrimination

Additionally, all these issues have rendered individuals with blindness to suffer. Evidently in most countries they have provided alternative learning through the 4th revolution uptake of digital learning but not having the blind and vision impaired in mind.

Am very sad to say the list since the approaches and techniques adapted by most ministry of education has ensured Blind, visually impaired and Deafblind have been left behind.

Notably, over 80% of all incidental learning and the performance of activities of daily living are dependent on sight.  

The SDG slogan “don’t live us behind”” is unwanted ringtone to many blind and vision impaired.

The barriers experienced by many blind and vision impaired persons range from usage of non-visual chats, inaccessible contents, non-inclusive plans,

Lack of affordability of the radios and television among blind and vision impaired persons since poverty and disability are twin brothers.

Inaccessible modes of learning and channels of media.

Someone should educate me how braille will be examined virtually!

Someone should tell me how the adapted sciences will be examined virtually.

To be a student in the corona era seems to be a torture chamber by itself.

Its not that blind and vision impaired were not facing these challenges before but Covid 2019 has excarnificated the experiences.

Another instance is the experiences of girls and women who are blind and vision impaired are at higher risk of gender-based violence and it’s on record with the self-isolation guidelines many will be taken advantage.

I won’t be surprised to know the pregnancy rates have increased.

Human rights reports in several countries have shown how persons with disabilities are stuffing in the hands of close relatives and family members.

 

Lastly, the real, refugee set ups and internally displaced individuals who are blind and vision impaired are worse hit since they aren’t able to access the alternative mode of learning and support mechanisms are not in place.

The voice of the Blind and vision impaired seemed to have been stung led by the lack of alternative formats of Corona and then ensured to instigate the burial ceremony by many state and non-state actors.

Moreover, most governments do not have inclusive emergency plans in place thus persons with disabilities come as a second thought.

Is this fair for many students who are blind and vision impaired?

UnCRPD, many constitutions expressly advocate for right to education.

All in all, even under normal circumstances, persons who are blind and vision impaired are less likely to access health care, education, employment and to participate in the community. They are more likely to live in poverty, experience higher rates of violence, neglect and abuse, and are among the most marginalized in any crisis-affected community. COVID-19 has further compounded this situation, disproportionately impacting persons who are blind and vision impaired both directly and indirectly.

An integrated approach is required to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind in COVID-19 education response and recovery. It calls for placing them at the centre of the response, participating as agents of planning and implementation. All COVID-19 related action must prohibit any form of discrimination based on blindness and take into consideration the intersections of gender and age, among other factors. This is necessary effectively and efficiently to address and prevent barriers inclusion will result in a COVID19 response and recovery that better serves everyone, more fully suppressing the virus, as well as building back better. It will provide for more agile systems capable of responding to complex situations, reaching the furthest behind first.

 

governments need to put measures in place to ensure many blind and vision impaired persons do not fall in to the cracks.

I would like to see inclusive strategies adapted to ensure that no one is left behind.

 

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.

Australian Chief Minister Award winner

“excellence of making inclusion happen”

 

Corona the twin Brother of Indigenous disabled Kenyans author Mugabi Paul

The experiences of indigenous Kenyans with disabilities are a key area of concern since they haven’t been recognized or no one is aware about them. the Kenya bureau of statistics of 2019 doesn’t address or mention this group.

Hence no Data to show the    disproportionate impact and number of indigenous persons with disabilities. some form of long-term health condition.[i]

It’s a known fact that indigos disable Kenyans with disability may face particular challenges in their day to day lives, including accessing education and healthcare and shelter and livelihood. These challenges can be further compounded by 6multiple layers of discrimination, particularly in relation to tribe and disability

 In the Corona era they are most likely to be denied services as other marginalized groups get involved.

Their voices aren’t visible, some say they are backward lot but I affirm they are left behind not just by the structural and systemic influences but also the assertion of any development indicators.

 

 

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.

Australian Chief Minister Award winner

“excellence of making inclusion happen”

Award winner,

How to stop “Discrimination” in the Corona era! a call by Public policy scholars.

Addressing discrimination and inequality in the global response to COVID-19

In the short time since the start of this new decade, life has changed dramatically across the world. COVID-19 has now spread to more than 185 countries. The number of recorded cases has surpassed 3.5 million. Families and friends across the globe are mourning the loss of more than 240,000 people. With the stated intention of controlling the spread of the virus and protecting lives, States are implementing unprecedented restrictions on movement both within and between countries (“lockdowns”), with significant and wide-ranging impacts on societies and economies.  

As these measures have taken effect, it has become clear that, while the virus is indiscriminate, the impacts of state responses are not. In late April, launching a new report, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres stated that the pandemic is a public health emergency “that is fast becoming a human rights crisis”. As that UN report highlights, there is clear and growing evidence that state responses in delivery of healthcare, in the implementation of lockdown measures and in policies designed to mitigate economic impacts are having disproportionate and discriminatory impacts. These effects are being experienced by all groups exposed to discrimination, including, but not limited to, older persons, children, persons with disabilities, women, ethnic and religious minorities and indigenous peoples, persons, persons living with HIV and AIDS, and migrants, refugees and stateless persons. They are impacting upon the enjoyment of rights ranging from freedom of movement to access to education and from access to information to an adequate standard of living, together, of course, with the rights to life and to health. 

These discriminatory impacts are occurring despite the fact that almost every State in the world has accepted international legal obligations to ensure the equal enjoyment of human rights, without discrimination. At a bare minimum, these obligations require that the State – whether through law, policy or practice – does not discriminate in its actions. They also create a duty to provide effective protection from all forms of discrimination by private actors and to make reasonable accommodation when required. These obligations apply to all: citizen and non-citizen, irrespective of their identity, status or beliefs. They are “immediate and cross-cutting”. They apply in respect of all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Crucially, while international law recognises that in states of emergency, States can limit the enjoyment of certain human rights, their obligations to ensure nondiscrimination remain – emergency measures must not discriminate either in their purpose or their effects.

As this unprecedented global crisis unfolds, it is clear that States are failing to meet their nondiscrimination obligations. Their responses – largely driven by a stated intention to protect lives – are having a wide range of discriminatory impacts. While many of these effects may be unintended, the lack of intent does not limit States’ obligations. Moreover, with new evidence emerging each week, it is clear that we cannot yet foresee the full range of discriminatory impacts which this crisis will engender. 

State obligations to assess and address equality impacts

We call on all States to incorporate equality impact assessment as an integral element of their ongoing public health, economic and social policy responses to the crisis. It is only through assessing the equality impacts of their policy responses that States can ensure that their actions comply with their binding non-discrimination obligations under international law. Equality impact assessment is the only way that States can anticipate and eliminate the discriminatory effects of their policy responses, including those which are unintended or unforeseen.

Equality impact assessments must be aimed at identifying and eliminating the actual or potential discriminatory effects of State policies. They should also ensure that policies and programmes respond to and accommodate the different needs of diverse groups with due consideration to intersectionality and that they do not create or exacerbate inequality. 

In order to ensure that States comply with their international legal obligations, equality impact assessments should be pre-emptive, coming before new policy measures are adopted and before any changes are made to policies which are already in force. Where measures have already been adopted, equality impact assessment should be undertaken as an urgent priority. Where discriminatory impacts are identified, measures to eliminate any discrimination or inequality of impact should be taken with immediate effect. States must ensure that they involve and consult all groups at risk of discrimination and experiencing inequality in conducting equality impact assessment. States must ensure that equality impact assessment is an essential element of their monitoring and review of policy responses to the pandemic and of their on the ground effects. Both initial assessments and ongoing monitoring must be informed by the collection of data on the experiences and outcomes of groups exposed to discrimination

All policy responses to the crisis must be subject to assessment, including those relating to the management of healthcare and other resources, the restriction of civil liberties, closure of businesses and educational establishments, adaptation of support services, economic and social protection programmes, immigration and border control and the use of new information technologies. The actual or potential equality impacts of actions by both state and private actors must be assessed.  

A renewed commitment to the creation of an equal world

Furthermore, we call on all States to emerge from the current crisis with a renewed commitment to the elimination of all forms of discrimination and the creation of a world in which all are “free and equal in dignity and rights”. The wide range of unintended discriminatory consequences of state responses to the crisis – ranging from the increased exposure to the virus amongst ethnic minority populations to the rise in domestic violence – only serve to underline the deep inequalities within our societies and the failure to address the systemic discrimination which feeds them. 

This crisis has shone a harsh and unforgiving light on these existing inequalities. We must emerge from it ready to forge a world in which all can participate equally. Arundhati Roy has described this pandemic as a portal, “a gateway between one world and the next”. We call on States to ensure that we walk through this portal leaving no one behind, and with a shared determination to create an equal world.

Hope beyond COVID-19 Author Mugambi Paul

Africans with disabilities are largely left out of the African governments. coronavirus response despite being uniquely affected by the disease, as discussed by the international disability alliance, several disability experts and Views expressed in different social media platforms.

 

Palpably, The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many aspects of our daily lives, but its impacts are especially acute for disabled persons, who may

struggle with challenges like finding reliable and safe in-home care or physically adapting to enhanced hand-washing guidance.

But the coronavirus outbreak has also created opportunities for more equitable inclusion after the pandemic ends.

How might the pandemic disturb those who have disabilities?

For disabled persons, all the general challenges that come with the pandemic certainly apply, but there are additional barriers. The first is communication—getting

information can be more difficult for people with vision, hearing, and even cognitive disabilities, as popular news sources may not be accessible, especially

when information is changing quickly. I’m Blind and can attest to that. Keeping all of us informed is key to the COVID-19 public health response,

but information is not always accessible to the disability community, for instance data visual charts are not understood.

The second barrier involves adopting recommended public health strategies, such as social distancing and washing hands. For example, frequent hand-washing

is not always feasible for people with certain types of physical disabilities. As a public scholar I know the value of these strategies, but public health

policies often do not consider people with disabilities, leaving a gap in guidance. Those who have personal aides like sighted guides for Deaf blind and Blind individuals, and caregivers also need to be considered,

as they cannot participate in social distancing in the same way that others are.

The third, equitable access to health care, is a long-standing barrier worsened by COVID-19. This ranges from getting a coronavirus test to being seen

in an emergency room. For instance, drive-up testing may be impossible if you rely on state mobility services. There are also existing barriers in health

care settings that are exacerbated as the industry aims to meet the surge of COVID-19 cases. For example, the use of personal protective equipment, including

masks, can make communication more difficult for patients with hearing loss.

Additionally, the allocation of medical resources is a concern. There’s fear that medical resource allocation, including ventilators, may be discriminatory

against patients with disabilities. In Europe and united states of America some organization of persons with disabilities and human rights bodies have filed complains about these rationing policies. This issue echoes an underlying misconception

that people with disabilities can’t have a high quality of life and therefore the lives of disabled people may not be prioritized.

What lessons can African government learn from inclusion in Corona response for disabled persons?

in some countries, there has been a shift toward telehealth for nonurgent medical visits. That has provided challenges but also future

opportunities for the disability sector. We must ensure that telehealth visits are accessible to patients with vision or hearing loss or other disabilities

in order to maintain equity in health care delivery. If accessibility is prioritized as we make this change, a transition to telehealth could open the

door to a more accessible health care system.

Several studies have underpinned, THE ISSUES OF PRE-PANDEMIC CARE DELIVERY ONLY BECOME MORE URGENT IN A TIME OF CRISIS BECAUSE PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES HAVE OFTEN NOT BEEN CONSIDERED IN

A DISASTER OR PANDEMIC PLANNING.

While there’s a lot of pressure and certainly a high demand to meet the COVID-19 surge, it is still crucial to make sure that the organizations of persons with disabilities and disability experts

is being considered. It’s truly a remarkable and challenging moment for African health system, but the needs of the disability community can’t fall through

the cracks. The issues of pre-pandemic care delivery only become more urgent in a time of crisis because people with disabilities have often not been considered

in a disaster or pandemic planning. We need to learn from this crisis and ensure disability is part of future pandemic planning.

For those in the disability community who require in-home care or essential services when away from home, what steps can be taken to minimize the risk

of spreading the coronavirus while still receiving necessary care and assistance?

People who use in-home support care need to make sure that they have contingency plans for their care needs in case a caregiver becomes ill. Caregivers and community

organizations should also consider changing their staffing to the best of their ability in order to minimize spread. For instance, instead of three rotating

caregivers being assigned to an individual, assign one for a longer period of time. For people with a primary caregiver in the home, more flexibility in

paid time off or sick leave can minimize exposure while also meeting the care needs of the individual. What’s really important is to engage the individual

and the disability community at the policy level.

Furthermore, MANY disabled persons ARE AT HIGH RISK OF COVID-19, BUT THEIR PERSPECTIVE IS NOT BEING INCLUDED IN THE EFFORTS TO ADDRESS INEQUITIES IN THE RESPONSE.

For instance, most Kenyan policy directives are not disability inclusive.

 

In a moment when many providers have had to alter their operations due to the pandemic, what are ways to advocate for essential services and treatment

for the disability community?

The best approach is to ensure that whenever we’re talking about inequity or differences in the COVID-19 response, disability is part of the discussion.

Many people with disabilities are at high risk of COVID-19, but their perspective is not being included in the efforts to address inequities in the response.

This includes understanding the unique challenges of this community during this crisis.

We also need disability data. There is currently no systematic reporting of COVID-19 testing, infection, mortality, or outcomes by disability status.

This is evident by the daily media updates from different countries.

For example, in east Africa important differences in this data by age, geographic location, underlying health condition, estate location and race have emerged. These data have been

critical for allocating resources and directing policies, as well as highlighting underlying disparities and elevating discussions around these health

gaps. But for people with disabilities, an often-ignored health disparity population, we don’t even get counted. And this is not just the case for COVID-19.

Disability data is infrequently collected in this type of public health and medical surveillance, which limits opportunities to address disability inequities.

As a public policy scholar and expert on diversity and inclusion I affirm and recommend the data being reported should be 15 % or more are persons with disabilities “WHO 2011”

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, what impact and legacy do you think it will have for those living with disabilities?

I’m an optimistic person, and though it can be hard to think positively right now, there is an opportunity to change how we include people with disabilities

in this moment. COVID-19 has elevated that conversation, and the legacy should be a continued focus on disability disparities and constant efforts to address

disability inequities.

As we all make substantial changes in our daily lives, such as working from home and adjusting how we connect to others, look to people with disabilities

for guidance, as we have always used alternative strategies. We are the vanguards of resilience. My hope is that COVID-19 will bring more understanding,

inclusion, and opportunity to the African disability community.

 

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.

Australian Chief Minister Award winner

“excellence of making inclusion happen”

 

Mental health and wellbeing during the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak Author Paul Mugambi

 

The outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19 has impacted people in varying ways on global scale. It is understandable that during times like this,

people may be feeling afraid, worried, anxious and overwhelmed by the constantly changing alerts and media coverage regarding the spread of the virus.

Disabled persons have lived experience on this and with the additional Corona concerns its even worse.

While it is important to stay informed, the following are some mental health and wellbeing tips and strategies to continue looking after ourselves and

each other during these difficult times.

The tips are based on  experiences and great lessons as a  global citizen. 

Manage your exposure to media coverage as this can increase feelings of fear and anxiety. Be mindful of sources of information and ensure you are accessing

good quality and accurate information. Follow a “calm yet cautious” approach – do you best to remain calm and be mindful not to contribute to the widespread panic that can hinder efforts to

positively manage the outbreak. Ensure you are following directives issued by the government and WHO  medical advice and observe good hygiene habits.

 

Show compassion and kindness to one another – these times of fear, isolation (both physical and social) and uncertainty are when it is most important that

we strengthen our sense of community by connecting with and supporting each other. Remind ourselves that we can manage this much better together in solidarity,

and that COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate – it can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, disability, nationality, or ethnicity.

 

Actively manage your wellbeing by maintaining routines where possible, connect with family and friends (even if not in person), staying physically active,

eating nutritious foods and seeking additional support by contacting government or further professional support as required.  

 

Strategies to cope with social distancing, self-isolation or quarantine

 

Going into a period of social distancing, self-isolation or quarantine may feel daunting or overwhelming, and can contribute to feelings of helplessness

and fear. In addition to the above, I  encourage the following.

 

list of 7 items

  • Perspective – try to see this time as unique and different, not necessarily bad, even if it something you didn’t necessarily choose
  • Connection – think of creative ways to stay connected with others, including social media, email and phone
  • Be generous to others – giving to others in times of need not only helps the recipient, it enhances your wellbeing too. Is there a way to help others?

around you?

Thanks to those who have supported in kind the cases I presented to them.

  • Stay connected with your values. Don’t let fear or anxiety drive your interactions with others. I am also in this together!
  • Daily routine – create a routine that prioritises things you enjoy and even things you have been meaning to do but haven’t had enough time. Read that

book, watch that show, take up that new hobby.

  • Try to see this as a new and unusual period that might even have some benefits.
  • Limit your exposure to news and media. Perhaps choose specific times of day when you will get updates, and ensure they are from reputable and reliable

sources.

In my case I don’t own a TV.

Staying connected through the COVID-19 crisis

 

Research after the sierra Leone Ebola shows evidence of the significance of connection through epidemics.  It found that residents

in Sierra Leone experienced increased social connectedness, which offset the negative mental health impacts of the pandemic.

 

As connection is so important during this time, here are some tips on staying connected to others during this time. Remember – we are all in this together.

 

list of 2 items

  •  If there is someone you think may struggle through social isolation, it is important to reach out to them and let them know you care:

list of 4 items nesting level 1

◦ Call them to check on their welfare

◦ Send an email

◦ Leave a note under their door

◦ Don’t underestimate the power you have to offer hope to another person.

I have evidently seen work miracle around my self-Isolation tunnel.

list end nesting level 1

  • I encourage people to get creative with how they interact, here are some ways to stay connected if self-isolating:

I have greatly borrowed from the recent interaction in the social media.

list of 4 items nesting level 1

◦ Set up a gratitude tree – where every member posts a message or sends a text to other members to share something, they are grateful for.

◦ Find a buddy, or group of, to set daily challenges with. These could include a healthy habit, a mindful practice, a creative pursuit. Be sure to encourage

and check in daily to stay motivated.

 

◦ Set dates and times to watch the same TV shows/movies with someone and message each other your thoughts along the way… kind of like Goggle Box but you’re

not sharing the couch!

Ask random questions in the social media to make guys think!

◦ If your local community has one, join its social media group! This will keep you up to date with what’s going on directly around you. It may also include

ways you can perhaps reach out and connect with someone less fortunate than you and ways to assist them.

list end nesting level 1

list end

 

Helping children cope through COVID-19

 

This is an uncertain time for everyone, and children may be impacted by fear and anxiety. Here are some tips on how to ensure your children are supported;

 

list of 4 items

  • Give your children extra attention and reassurance. Where possible, minimise their exposure to media and social media that may heighten anxiety
  • Acknowledge your own feelings about the situation and let children know it’s okay to share their own feelings
  • Include your children in plans and activities around the house
  • If you don’t see an improvement in 4 weeks, or if you’re concerned, seek professional help (earlier if needed)

list end

 

Reputable sources of information

 

  • World Health Organisation –

http://www.who.int

Where to go for support?

 

 

It is extremely important to seek out help if you feel you need it. I want to remind everyone that counselling services are readily available.

 

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.

2018  Chief minister award winner

“making inclusion happen”

 

are disabled Kenyans In contradiction of the war Corona 2019? “what should Kenyan public health practitioner’s consider? Guest author Farida Asindua, _____

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic continues to cause a trail of destruction globally. In the full wake of the pandemic in Kenya, a disproportionate effect is most likely to be among the vulnerable groups, such as the 918,270 people living with disabilities (PLWD) in the country. According to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (2019) Census report, women with disability in the country are 523,883 while 394,330 are men. Majority are living in the rural areas, with only 179,492 living in urban areas – mainly in dense, poor and unserviced informal settlements – rendering them more vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic.

1.      Unique PLWD needs in the COVID-19 era

PLWD are more vulnerable due to the nature of their disabilities.  Lack of mobility is the leading disability in the country, followed by those visually impaired and cognition. Others are mental, intellectual, or sensory disabilities. COVID-19 pandemic puts all these categories of PLWD at risk of increased morbidity and mortality. In the current crisis, they are less likely to access health services, and more likely to experience greater health needs, worse outcomes, and discriminatory laws and stigma than other demographic groups in the country. With the limited Government capacity to respond to COVID-19, historical evidence points to the likelihood of PLWD being the least likely to be targeted with the interventions.

The country must therefore ensure that the unique needs of PLWD are considered in the ongoing COVID-19 containment and response planning. Interventions against the pandemic should be available and accessible to the PLWD in high quality and acceptable manner.

Public health messaging ought to also target PLWD and other vulnerable groups and should be disseminated in simple language across all the accessible formats. Strategies for vital inperson communication should be safe and accessible for persons with disability – in braille, sign language and large print. Although it is commendable that daily ministerial and periodic presidential addresses use sign language interpreters, wearing of transparent masks by communicators and health-care providers is encouraged to allow lip reading.

Physical distancing or self-isolation mechanisms – including the mandatory quarantine, the night curfew and movement cessation into and out of Nairobi and parts of the coastal strip – are already disrupting service provision for PLWD in those areas, who often rely on assistance for delivery of food, medication, and personal care. It is feared that escalation of these measures into full national lockdown would adversely affect majority of PLWD who reside in rural areas. 

The Government of Kenya and all duty bearers should therefore design the mitigation mechanisms not to lead to the segregation or institutionalisation of PLWD. Community level protective measures should be prioritized in the alternative, allowing care givers to continue to safely support PLWD, enabling them to meet their daily living, health care, and transport needs, and maintain their employment and educational commitments.

2.      Important public health measures

The main public health measures that should propagated to curb the spread of COVID 19 are as follows:

  1. Improved accessibility to hand washing areas with running water and soap so that PLWDs are able to use the facilities without assistance.
  2. PLWDs should embrace having hand sanitizers with them at all times. They should sanitise their assistive appliances like wheel chairs and crutches to ensure that they are not carriers of the virus.
  3. Use of gloves should be encouraged and the same be frequently sanitized. The assistive devices should be washed with water and soap once they reach home. Caution should be exercised if gloves are used. PLWD should ensure they do not touch their face with the gloves.
  4. Handwashing should be encouraged for personal assistants, parents, guardians of persons with disability who assist them frequently.
  5. Persons with visual impairments who have to use touch to tell their environment should be encouraged to use gloves and if possible, to avoid touch of people and surfaces all together to prevent COVID 19 transmission.
  6. Use of masks throughout by PLWD depending on their disability, preferably one with an elastic to the ears to avoid frequently having to put it in place. Some may need assistance to put on again, so once assisted it should remain in place. Depending on the type of disability, some persons with disabilities have personal assistants, who also have to put on a mask, so that they do not infect the persons with disability and vice versa.
  7. Social distance; currently it is recommended to be 1 metre away, and lately some say 1.5 metre away from each other. This may be difficult especially for persons with disability who require someone to constantly be around them for assistance. This being the case depending on the disability, both the aide and the person with disability should be in a mask. They should have a sanitizer to constantly sanitize their hands. Staying home, remains the best option for all including PLWD.

3.      Conclusion

PLWD in Kenya are indeed at increased risk of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus infection or severe disease because of existing comorbidities, and are additionally facing traditional barriers to health care during the current pandemic. Health-care staff ought to be provided with rapid awareness training on the rights and diverse needs of this group to maintain their dignity, safeguard against discrimination, and prevent inequities in care provision. The Government should ensure that COVID-19 mitigation mechanisms are inclusive of PLWD to ensure they maintain respect for dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms, and avoid widening existing disparities. 

Of necessity, this includes accelerating efforts to include these groups in COVID-19 containment and response planning. It will require diligence, creativity, and innovative thinking, to preserve Kenya’s commitment to UHC, and ensure PLWD are not forgotten.

 

Disclaimer: All views expressed here are that of the author and do not necessarily represent views/opinions of any entity or agency.

a Public Health and Disability Inclusion Expert

Email: fasindua@gmail.com

______________________

What lessons can the low income Countries like Kenya learn from the Corona episodes? Author Mugambi Paul

When it comes to COVID-19, the only thing we can really be sure of is that we don’t really know very much at all. Mortality rates, the R-0 value (the number

of people each coronavirus patient will go on to infect), just how far we need to stand away from an infected person, whether or not we should wear masks,

and just about everything else about dealing with this virus seems to change with each passing day.

 

Are we dealing with one strain or two? Has the virus mutated? And, importantly, can people who have “recovered” from the virus continue to infect others?

If so, for how long?

 

According to a report by the South China Morning Post

 (SCMP), doctors in Wuhan, China, found that between 3 and 10 percent of “recovered” patients continued to test positive even after being discharged from

hospital.

 

It has already been established that around 25 percent of COVID-19 patients are asymptomatic, and despite not showing any symptoms, are still infectious.

Might it not be possible, then, that patients who are no longer displaying symptoms, but test positive, could still be infectious? As reported by the SCMP, researchers across the globe are working flat-out to determine whether COVID-19 patients develop antibodies that will protect

them from future infections, and whether those who have officially recovered can still infect others.

 

The country with the best recovery rate to date is China, and as such, scientists are very interested in any research to come out of that country.

 

The SCMP reported:

 

The Chinese mainland, where the disease first emerged last December, has discharged over 90 per cent of its infected patients and around 4,300 confirmed

patients are still receiving treatment in hospitals. …

 

Wang Wei, president of Tongji hospital told CCTV’s prime-time programme that of the 147 recovered patients they studied, only five – or just over 3 per

cent – have tested positive in nucleic acid tests again after recovery.

 

Wang and his team insist that their study should not cause concern because there is no evidence that “recovered” patients can still infect others.

 

He told the media that none of the family members or associates of the five patients who recovered in his hospital but continued to test positive went

on to get infected.

Nonetheless, their findings are especially relevant because China now has thousands of “recovered” patients, and if the doctors are wrong, these patients

could go on to infect others.

 

And other Chinese researchers have found that far more than 3 percent of patients who no longer exhibit symptoms still test positive.

 

The SCMP reported further:

 

Life Times, a health news outlet affiliated with People’s Daily, reported this week that quarantine facilities in Wuhan have reported that about 5 to 10

per cent of their recovered patients tested positive again.

 

Previous reports have also highlighted cases where patients tested positive after recovery, including one case study about a family of three

in Wuhan, who all tested positive again.

 

These incidents have raised questions about whether nucleic acid tests might not be reliable in detecting traces of the virus in some of the recovered

patients.

 

Some experts have also expressed concerns about the sensitivity and stability of the test kits, and the collection and handling of patients’ samples.

 

Only time will tell whether recovered patients can continue to infect others or not, but with close to a million patients worldwide and over 50,000 who

have already died, we can only hope and pray that the Chinese scientists are right.

 

 

 

 

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 corona 2019 be the answer of removing the disabled Kenyans under the bus by the policy makers? “WHY WE MUST ADDRESS STRUCTURAL INEQUALITIES” Guest Author Mildred Omino

 

World Health Organization declared Coronavirus Disease (COVID19) a pandemic on March 11,2020 following presence of 118,000 cases in over 110 countries and territories around the world with a sustained risk for further spread. At a media briefing, Dr. Tedros, The WHO Director General called upon sectoral and individual involvement in the fight against COVID-19.

Two days after the declaration of the Pandemic by WHO, Kenya recorded the first case of COVID19 amid panic and speculations among the citizens. Prior to the declaration, the disease outbreak was surrounded by myths such as “Children are immune to the Virus”, “The virus can’t survive in high temperatures”, and “The virus affects old people”. With all these myths, Kenyans felt safe since the myths presented a favorable situation to majority of the population. Some of the quick measures enforced by the government of Kenya were, closure of all learning institutions, establishment of COVID emergency response committees at both national and county level as well as regular media briefings on the situation of COVID19 as well as national guidelines on how to contain the virus.

As the virus made top agenda both globally and nationally with infections spreading pretty fast, there was little or no focus given to the impact of the virus on people with disabilities from basic actions such as access to information to critical measures such as emergency response measures to the pandemic.

Globally, the world is home to approximately one billion people with disabilities, eighty percent who live in developing countries and 2-4% experience significant difficulty in functioning. With the increased prevalence of chronic diseases this number is bound to increase. People with disability experience poorer health outcomes, have less access to education and work opportunities, and are more likely to live in poverty than those without a disability. The global situation of people with disabilities as outlined by WHO and World Bank is replicated in Kenya

 

Why We must address Structural Inequalities experienced by persons with disabilities:

In the Wake of COVID19, WHO and respective government ministries of health have developed and advanced key messages around hand hygiene, social distancing, quarantine, isolation of suspected cases and staying at home”.

Majority of persons with disabilities have been missing out on key messages on containing the virus for various reasons such as lack of sign language interpreters during media briefings, lack of information in accessible formats, complexity in messaging for people with intellectual disabilities and “complete cut off on information for poor disabled persons who can’t access television, internet, smart phones merely because the information channels has been social media, radio and television”.

Social distancing has proven to be the most difficult outcome for people with disabilities who are constantly and in fulltime need of personal assistance and personal guides for basic services such as self-care. Little or no information is available for personal assistants of persons with disabilities on best ways of offering care to persons with disabilities during this pandemic, thereby leaving people with disabilities to act in their own discretion.

More so, hand sanitization goes beyond hands all the way to assistive devices such as crutches, calipers, prosthetic limbs, wheelchairs and white canes just to name but a few. This aspect in itself compounds the cost of sanitizers used by persons with disabilities. And for those who do not have assistive devices and are forced to crawl or walk while touching surfaces, the situation becomes even more wanting! The whole aspect of sanitization is either compromised or too expensive if at all it is achievable.

 

The New Normal:

With the outbreak of COVID19 most people are working from home with exception of those who are providing essential services which must be provided on site. Companies/businesses and individuals have quickly adopted to “working remotely” as the only feasible way to contain the spread of the virus. Interesting enough, most jobs in both private and public sector which were presumed to be undertaken in office setting are currently being done from home with support of Technology. One would rightfully think that this “New normal” is the ideal situation for people with disabilities who courtesy of their disability would conveniently work remotely and on ‘’flexi schedules”.

The reality check reveals that majority of persons with disability are unemployed with key reasons for unemployment being inaccessible workplaces i.e. lack of elevators and ramps in office buildings, high cost of hiring sign language interpreters and personal assistants as well as the cost of making adjustments/modifications to office buildings to ensure that they are disability friendly. These scenarios have prompted most potential employers to hire people without disabilities and simply forget about the nightmare of “reasonable accommodations” that would create an employment opportunity for a person with disability.

Potential Employers have also lamented that persons with disabilities lack the requisite qualifications for various jobs. The case of structural inequalities is well demonstrated in education system where learners with disabilities struggles to get education that would adequately prepare them for the job market. The systemic challenges boil down to physical accessibility of learning institutions, inadequate adaptive technology to support disability specific needs, lack of assistive devices and limited or no resources allocated to meet disability specific needs. A small percentage of learners with disabilities make it to higher education whereas majority do not transition from basic education to higher education

Inequitable and socially unjust systems have led to underemployment and unemployment of persons with disabilities leaving most of them to work in the informal sector or to be totally unemployed and a few employed in private and public sector. Post COVID19 it would be important to offer equitable education and employment opportunities now that we know that most jobs can be done remotely without heavy investment on physical infrastructure. Policy makers should desist from policies that lump all vulnerable groups together but rather develop policy guidelines that speak to specific guidelines on how to mitigate the unique challenges of the different vulnerable groups, whether Children, Women, Persons with Disabilities or old people.

 

The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.

 

Mildred Omino

Founder,Women and Realities of Disability Society

Feminist and Disability Rights Champion

Will it be the “White smoke” from the 10 billion Cash transfer to the disabled Kenyans? Author Mugambi Paul and DR Siyat.

Over the last 3 weeks the Kenyan government has been excoriated on the measure it would avail to the poor due to the hard-economic times and the coming in of Covid-2019 pandemic. Talking of poverty,

several studies show disabled Kenyans are the largest minority who face this tragedy.

Kenyans with disabilities are disproportionately affected by the current situation, as we are by all-natural disasters and major crises. It is vital that our

voices are part of developing solutions, innovating, problem solving.

as 2 experts we are deeply concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on disabled Kenyans, chronic ill persons and the elderly. Bearing in mind that Kenyans with disabilities are among the Kenya’s most marginalized and stigmatized even under normal circumstances.

This requires us all to act, interact and communicate in different ways than we are used to. However, the social inequalities

degeneration COVID19’s impact on Kenyans with disabilities are not new. The risk in the response to the current crisis is that disabled Kenyans

will be left behind once again. The good news is that we already know what works. Fundamentally, we need social justice, equality of opportunities and

decent work.

According the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities “The pandemic is an unprecedented public health,

social and economic emergency that requires swift and effective action by Kenyan public and private sectors, and the society at large.

We know that COVID-19 is more serious for those with underlying health conditions and particularly those who are immunocompromised. What does this outbreak mean for the Kenyan Disability community?

Both national and county Governments should ensure they take

all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of disabled persons, aged and persons with chronic illnesses] Ilo 2020 WHO 2020 UN 2020 HI 2020 [.

 Legal framework:

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that people with disability have the right to health without discrimination

on the basis of disability, including access to population-based public health programmes (Article 25) and that governments also have a duty to take all

necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk (Article 11).

 

Facts to consider:

Providentially, even in non-pandemic circumstances, people with disability are more likely than the general population to have health issues, compromised immunity, increased

risk of morbidity, comorbidities and are more likely to die from preventable causes] Whiteford 2011 DFID 2013, HI 2015un 2012].

According to several studies Some disabled Kenyans will be unable to maintain social distancing

practices because they rely on support workers for vital daily personal care, such as eating, drinking, walking, mobility toileting and dressing.

in addition, disabled Kenyans often rely on family, friends and care givers to provide essential services. During the Corona pandemic, these people may not be able

to provide their usual support.   

Also, in different Kenyan social media platforms disabled Kenyans like many in the broader community, are expressing anxiety about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of course, this nervousness is exacerbated by the feeling that they are being left behind or ignored by Kenyan government, private sector and community Corona responses.

Background of social assistance programmes:

Current social assistance programmes include the Older Persons Cash Transfer Programme; the Orphaned and Vulnerable Children Cash Transfer Programme; the Persons with Severe Disabilities Cash Transfer Programme; the Hunger Safety Net Programme; and the Urban Food Subsidy Programme. The effective implementation of these programmes is constrained by challenges such as how to refine inclusion and exclusion criteria and how to determine appropriate transfer amounts.

 

Corona Rescue plan:

We acknowledge the efforts made by Kenyan government by the issuance of the additional 10 billion Kenyan shillings to the ministry of social protection for the vulnerable population in form of cash transfer.

Definitely in the coming days disabled Kenyans expect a white smoke at the NSSF building which houses the ministry of social protection in Kenya.

Most disabled Kenyans are highly expectant of the policy regulations and guidelines on the 10 billion promise by the executive order by the president of Kenya.

Unequivocally, with proper feedback mechanisms and regular consultation disabled Kenyans will be able to know if cash transfer policy programmed will meet their policy needs.

In other words, disabled Kenyans will comprehend how  the 10 billion cash transfer injection to the inua jamii will target the current registered severe disabled persons, elderly, orphans and vulnerable children or it will be meant  for targeting additional new  vulnerable individuals due to the effects of  of Corona 2019. Arguably, much of the debate about cash transfer among disabled Kenyans programmes revolves around the issues of targeting. This is because with the current strategy only severe disabled persons are targeted and considered.

https://labour.go.ke/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/MLSP-Strategic-Plan-2018-2022_17.09.2019.pdf

 

 

This will be a great test as different stakeholders and policy makers in the social protection department scratch their heads on the right footing on which to take in the implementation policy framework.

Will the policy makers ensure inclusion of other disabled Kenyans since they are also mostly vulnerable?

We believe the cash transfer will avert the short-term impact of the Corona crisis and attenuate its long-term negative effects on human development outcomes.

Nonetheless, it is one thing to say that Kenya with Inua jamii -like programmes are sheltering the more vulnerable from the worst consequences of the Corona crisis, and another to recommend that Inua jamii programmes be designed and implemented during a crisis Lehmann, C. (2012. Several steps are involved, political will is required, and funds must be committed. The ministry of social protection has a pivotal role to ensure coordination, operation and more resources even from development partners.

We observe, the Cash transfer programme will be effective if it will be implemented under a sustainable social protection strategy. Such a strategy should enable better coordination among programmes, between the national and county government ,and among the different international players in order to avoid duplication of effort and waste of resources.

For instance, Mombasa have already started a SMS service asking those who aren’t in the Cash transfer to register “widows, orphans, persons with disabilities, and persons with pre-existing conditions into the emergency plan

Has Mombasa county link up with the national cash transfer programme?

Data base and registration for the cash transfer:

Due to social distance directive as a preventive measure of spread of Corona. Will the ministry of social protection work on vigorous registration, collection of data and automation of all new persons with disabilities, orphans and the elderly?

Or will the ministry of social protection synchronize the current departments databases of children services, NCPWD and   department of social development under the strategic guidance of the National Social Protection Secretariat programme?

This will enable to identify the unmet needs through geographic, demographic and welfare status.

Furthermore, quite a lot of reports indicate the current enhanced single registry adapted through the social assistance programme has improved efficiency and reduction of bottlenecks experienced when the ministry of social protection had 3 separate registries [development pathways 2020[.

Through this policy integration the ministry has    a clear database and actualize its programmes effectively Bobonis, G. and F. Finan (2019).

Such database can enable the ministry to build an array of indicators on disabled persons, orphans and vulnerable children, elderly socioeconomic conditions. Therefore, this is a powerful tool for mapping the different needs. and they could be used to guide other policies. Like the current need of food, water, soap and hand sanitizers.  Moreover, Registries enhance monitoring of the poorest families’ access to social services and infrastructure in a more calibrated way than household surveys. The latter, though they are nationally representative, are often based on small samples that do not facilitate sound analysis for local-level interventions. This knowledge base allows rapid crisis response when programmes may need to expand in order to cover a larger proportion of those that fall into poverty.

Key considerations for the cash transfer:

We consider that the ministry of social protection will cast tis net wider in order to seek input from people with disability, leading disability experts, organizations of persons with disabilities and advocates

in developing their dedicated cash transfer strategy, and in particular, in its COVID-19 Coordination

secondly, Disabled Kenyans with disability, particularly slum dwellers and rural inhabitants, may be disproportionately affected by the pandemic due to increased risk of

infection, higher number of co‑morbidities and because of underlying health conditions such as chronic diseases and respiratory illnesses. Numerically speaking, most disabled persons in Kenya live in slum areas and rural areas without basic amenities. Some live-in solitude while others have been housed.

Most of the disabled population and other low-income earners live hand to mouth. This is to say, COVID-19 will spread rapidly and is especially dangerous to people living in close proximity to others in closed settings [WHO 2020].

Worse still, Thousands of adults and children

with disabilities in Kenya live in segregated and often overcrowded residential settings where they can face neglect, abuse, gender-based violence, and inadequate health care and lack human Rights.

Of particular concern are women and girls with disabilities.

This affirms that disable Kenyans are survivors in this country [KNHR 2015]

 

Thirdly disabled Kenyans continue to face barriers in accessing health care, including prevention, testing, screening and treatment for COVID-19. Fourthly, disabled Kenyans will be   unable to access regular and vital medications and therapeutic services due to low supplies and restrictions in access. Fifthly, disabled Kenyans may not have access to mental health services at a time when the need for accessible and responsive mental health is heightened. Sixthly,

disabled Kenyans will be unable to easily access essential health supplies to keep themselves safe, such as personal protective equipment, hand sanitiser and sterilising

Equipment.

lastly are worried that discrimination or unconscious bias could impact their access to critical and lifesaving health care during this crisis.

to we hope the measures taken will ensure the needs of all Kenyans with disabilities are included in

the response to the pandemic.

As experts we appreciate and acknowledges the challenges that national and county governments and private sector are facing during this pandemic.

 

We call upon all national and county governments to ensure that, in their responses, they include dedicated disability strategies to protect and support disabled Kenyans.

Long term solutions:

We opine that Kenya is still a developing nation We therefore suggest inclusion of one our BBI recommendations which we presented at the task force in February 7th, 2020 as a long-term solution.

  1. Ministry of social protection to establish a disability employment service department under the national employment authority since the authority is in charge of all Kenyans in need of employment. so that they are able to execute employment needs of persons with disabilities Through this agency real disability mainstreaming will be achieved. If this recommendation will be adapted, we believe rapid change will take place. We opine disabled persons won’t need to be in cash transfer for long since cash transfers are not meant for long term programming.
  2. We hope the ministry of social protection can take advantage of the Corona crises to execute of reasonable accommodation plans in all its organs and offer vital lessons to both public and private sector.

All in all, our policymakers will have to come up with a homegrown resolution for ensuring disabled Kenyans rights are protected. And this will not be easy.

 

 

 

The views expressed here are for the authors and do not represent any agency or organization.

 Mugambi Paul is a public policy, diversity, inclusion and sustainability expert.

Dr Siyat is a  independent  consultant and systemic advocacy service provider.

 

Why Social Isolation is a Greek term to the disabled Kenyans: Author Mugambi Paul

Several studies indicate that in an emergency person who are disabled, aged and who have chronic illnesses are mostly left behind and most at risk [Help age 2012, HI 2019, UN 2020, WHO 2020].

This is because persons without disabilities will be fighting and running away for their fate. As evidenced many Kenyans have started to go back to the rural places.

 

As a public policy scholar and with lived experience of being disabled and advocate for inclusive approaches in both humanitarian and development spheres.

I am concerned on the current and feature effects of Corona on lives of disabled Kenyans and chronically ill people who are currently falling into cracks.

In other words, they are

being hit and particularly hard by the virus outbreak and access to support services seem to be becoming scarce and finally

will be cut as the crisis worsens.

Evidently, in Nairobi and other major towns Panic buying of cereals, groceries, toilet papers, hand sanitizers and other protective equipment, which also disabled and chronic ill people need have suddenly doubled the prices and also have started to be scarce.

I  observe,  Kenyans without disabilities  and who can stockpile are the ones who are probably less at risk because they were able to rush out to the shops, whereas a lot of disabled Kenyans like  me,  elderly, e and persons with   chronic illnesses just can’t get these commodities.

This is coupled with high poverty levels among the disabled Kenyans.

On the other hand, the Cabinet secretary of Health gave a directive prioritizing the elderly and persons with disabilities in the queuing system in the supermarket [daily nation Friday March 2020[

This pronouncement shows that disabled persons have started to be brought in in Corona conversations though much needs to be done in order not to live us behind. If this directive will be followed, we are yet to see.

 

Could the Kenyan supermarket borrow a leaf from Tesco in the United Kingdom or supermarkets in Australia?

In both nations they have reasonable accommodation for ensuring disabled persons, elderly and persons with chronic illnesses are able to shop comfortable and provision of delivery for those with large shopping.

The Corona virus has equalized us all and it has led to the realization that what works for all works for disabled too] UN 2006 UNDP 2017 ILO 2019 Whiteford 2019].

 

Dilemma of social distance: you

 

Social distancing is not an option for disabled Kenyans. The Kenyan government and more so the ministry of health and disability stakeholders need to go back to the drawing board in order to address the needs and priorities of disabled Kenyans so that we can have inclusive corona interventions.

Of course, many Kenyans with out disabilities take things for granted. This is because most will never fit in to our shoes till when they join our disability club.

For instance, Kenyans    with a disability, who rely on care givers and support workers for daily living and sighted guide services including washing and dressing.

I am talking about people with spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, sometimes people with intellectual disability, psychosocial disability, the elderly, Down syndrome,

that might need assistance with showering, with going to the toilet.

Moreover, social stigma in Kenya is still ripe,

Shoppers who ar blind and vision impaired will not get sighted guided assistance in the shopping spree due to the continued pronouncement by Kenyan government that we should be one metre point five away and avoid handshakes.

in case the president issues an executive order of total or partial lock down, I observe the disabled will be worst hit even withing there local surroundings.

Did you know most of the local shopping areas are highly squeezed and have low ventilation?

How will my fellow wheelchair users avoid assistance not being close while many of the wheelchairs in Kenya are manual?

Furthermore, some disabled creep on the floors!

How will they shopwith out contacts?

Most Kenyan roads are inaccessible how will the Blind and vision impaired avoid falling in to ditches and trenches?

Our independence and self estieem by the use of assistive divides is being questioned!

How can this non handshake apply to mobility impaired persons like Blind, Crutch users, wheelchair users?

Does the Cabinet secretary of Health and policy makers know our devices are metallic?

What if the care giver is infected and need to self-isolate?

This will make Disabled persons become at higher risk,

Additionally, the actual time and effort of finding somebody else, finding the right person that’s going to fit, as well

as then training someone up from scratch again, is a huge effort for people with very high support needs who are going to be in that really high-risk category. The ministry of health needs to train its front-line staff on basic disability inclusion tips

 

Why are the disability sector and stakeholders silent as the lack of disability inclusive Corona continues?

Are they contributing to uninterrupted discrimination and injustice to the larger wanjikus with disabilities?

I suppose they are hiding and later after the Corona era is over, they will claim we were left behind!

The Kenyan media should rise to the occasion and speak on behalf of the disabled Kenyans and persons with chronic illnesses.

Contribution by disability sector:

The disability sector, human right bodies and other policy stakeholders have the role to monitor and report the government organs on the said implementation.

This is actually time for disabled experts, disabled persons organizations, human right bodies state organs practising disability mainstreaming should contribute to more inclusive Corona interventions.

What if the Kenyan disabled stakeholders changed tact and start to advocate for now the silent revolution of reasonable accommodation being implemented?

To put it differently why doesn’t the disability sector join the table instead of awaiting to be in the menu?

I opine, Kenya has great public policies on reasonable accommodation now is the right time to,

push for implementation.

let me illustrate

What if the disability sector and stakeholders pushed the national construction authority now to publish and implement real accessibility standards of buildings?

Most likely we shall have makeshift hospitals. Will they be accessible?

Why don’t the disability stakeholders within their budgets adjust and contribute to the ministry of health on inclusive approaches?

For instance, developing Kenyan sign language clip on how to prevent Corona virus then distribute to the mainstream media and social platforms?

Why don’t the disability stakeholders produce material into braille and distribute all over the country through the free matter for the blind service offered by poster corporation as entrenched in the persons with disabilities act 2003?

Does the disability sector know the time is now for implementing the Marrakesh treaty?

Could the global commitment made by Kenya government, private sector and disability stakeholders be revisited in the area of innovation and make non-metallic assistive devices?

 

All in all, this coronavirus comes with a silver lining. At least, it will pep up people to take normal civic sense to a higher status. So that besides coronavirus

we actually end up also fighting other issues like discrimination faced by Kenyans with this will lead to breaking some if not all the barriers that disabled Kenyans face.

 

 

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 are pregnant in the Corona era: Author Mugambi Paul

 

Generally speaking, The COVID-19 pandemic occurring in Kenya should be of utmost concern to every citizen. This is because we need to work together around the country in solidarity.

Ofcourse, the risen times are extra-ordinary. This is the times that will redefine Kenyan human spirit.

 Are we going to ensure disability-inclusive, accessible disaster-response?

On my own behalf and the disabled Kenyans

 We acknowledge the great leadership displayed by cabinet secretary Mutahi Kagwe of ministry of health under this difficult circumstance. Moreover, the CS is communicating in to minds and hearts of all citizens. Could this be adapted as the new norm to Kenyan organization culture of governance?

 

On the other hand, the Corona virus seems to have equalized all of us and the realization of the economic inequalities that exist among low income Kenyans

Amongst these is the largest minority “Kenyans with disabilities” of who make up more than 15 % of the population [WHO 2011]. we need to examine corona virus by waring the disability lenses.

On March 20th, 2020 during the daily updates a more disability inclusive approach was adapted.

This affirms that the CS is a great communicator.

though much needs to be done to realize disability Inclusive approaches.

As a  public policy scholar and a  person with lived experience of being blind I  opine that if what the CS health interventions were to be made long term policy execution the Kenyan  government will  overcome many challenges of including persons with disabilities and resolve the  unemployed citizens  mystery.

In other words, our policies must not discriminate. Disabled and low-income people must be included in every policy, every fund, every new law.

This is the real meaning of disability mainstreaming.

 

Background:

 

Kenyans with disabilities’ needs and concerns should be adequately addressed in existing COVID-19 Kenyan relief packages. 

I affirm that Disability impacts every community and occurs at every stage of life. In addition to impacting Kenyans with disabilities more disparately, the virus is also likely to create disability while people recover [WHO 2020].

Fact to consider:

I believe The Corona virus has awaken the public consciousness of what works for the disabled Kenyans can also work for all

Challenges faced by disabled Kenyans:

Unfortunately. Clean water and sanitation facilities aren’t always available or accessible, particularly for Kenyans with

Disabilities and the low-income earners [UNICEF 2017[.

Are the newly 500 water points in Nairobi accessible to all disabled Kenyans?

 Life-saving information often doesn’t reach those who are deaf, blind, using wheelchairs, illiterate, Deafblind or living in remote areas.

I uphold this global health emergency, the ability to read timely information in an accessible format is even more critical than usual. I   believe the more people access and act upon the information that Ministry of health leaders and public officials are

providing, the better we Kenyans can all cope with the rapidly evolving situation.

 

 

 Furthermore, the corona virus puts people with chronic diseases, Kenyans with disabilities, and the elderly most at risk. could the ministry of health issue a statement regarding rationing of care to ensure that when rationing treatment begins, decisions about how medical treatment should be allocated are made without discriminating based on disability?

 

 Worse still, the Kenyan health system is

not prepared. In China it is reported already some disabled persons have died due to starvation and nonattendance.

Information campaigns and medical care must include the needs of Kenyans with disabilities. It is pivotal that Kenyan state as a duty bearer identify and monitor people with

disabilities in their communities. Frontline staff need training on caring for people with disabilities in the crisis.  The ministry of health should also ensure protection of the front-line health workers by provision of the equipment which they need to execute their work safely

masks, gowns, shields, gloves, suits, and other equipment. Therefore, preventing further spreading of COVID-19.

I urge the Kenyan public policy makers and stakeholders to think boldly and broadly in their response to this pandemic and waste no time saving lives and have actionable long-term policies and regulations.

 

Different ILO studies have affirmed with proper reasonable accommodation execution productivity is high and brings diversity. For instance, If the ministry of public service, ministry of labour, federation of Kenya employers, employment authority, ministry of transport, disability experts can work together via video link can craft a reasonable accommodation regulation.

This is to say with flexibility and

creative solutions are more important than ever in this Corona era.

With this regulation, the president with his executive power ascent can save Kenya a great deal.

several studies and additional public health experts have stated that disabled Kenyans are more vulnerable to COVID-19. Beyond the specific conditions or diagnoses that may raise susceptibility to the virus itself, Kenyans with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to the broader social, civil, and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Thus life in Kenya will never be the same again.

will this be a turning point for Kenyan Parliament and senate to ensure a inclusive social protection cover for the marginalized?

  Outlined below are a series of expectations that could benefit Kenya in the long run:

  1. Prioritize and Expand Home delivery services. This can be done through acceleration of M-post services since most Kenyans have Mobile phones additionally more private delivery companies can also be incorporated with a particular county. This would reduce the social contacts since most Kenyans go seeking for goods outside there vicinities.
  2. 24 shift working economy: this can be accelerated by both public and private employers thus even reduction of man hour spent on traffic. Moreover, through shift working economy it would increase work productivity. Some best practises can be borrowed from the private sector. Could this be an opportunity for implementing 2030 vision? Additionally, if adopted in Nairobi, Kisumu, Meru and Mombasa can say by bye to the traffic menace. Could the new Nairobi Metropolitan team adapt this?
  3.  

Prioritize access of digitalized documentation: if this was to be adopted most government documents would be gotten easily. For instance, one of the best recently successful is acquiring renewal of tax exemption among the Kenyans with disabilities although now with the advent of Corona Kenya revenue authority and NCPWD needs now more than ever to decentralize the service. This would actually reduce the transport expenses incurred by Kenyans and also save working hours.

  1. Cash transfer uptake: As the coronavirus crisis has caused a significant economic downturn, I believe that it is essential for ministry o of treasury  to authorize an increase in cash transfer programme to the ministry  of social protection in order to reduce the economic shocks among persons with disabilities,  the seniors of Kenyans   and their care givers. Who are already vulnerable and not covered with the current cash transfer programme.

This move will enable government of Kenya to reduce vulnerability levels.

5 food access:

Regular access to healthy food is key to maintaining strong immune systems. I   encourage the Kenyan government to expand access to food distribution during this period especially to chronic ill persons, the low-income earners, disabled Kenyans, the slum areas and vulnerable populations.

Regrettably, many Kenyan families even before corona era were living under distress for lack of one meal a day.

 Sadly, many Kenyans ability to keep and maintain employment will be impacted by both the business and transit closures.

If short term measures are not taken this might lead to civil strife and increase of psychosocial disabilities among Kenyans.

6.Access to transport: the Kenyan government can support the public transport sector by having reduction of oil prices thus preventing Kenyans from paying extra charges.

Additionally, the government owned busses offer the services to support the private owned public transport services with the new half full caring capacity policy implementation. Where are the NYS busses?

 I observe there has been increased discipline in the Matatu industry by the reduction of congestion by the ministry of Health directive.

Environmentally speaking, drastic air pollution has reduced.

 

How I wish it was a daily Norm in the public transport.

Could the government offer tax wavers for public transport to acquire disability inclusive buses?

 

7. Implementation of accessibility standards.

The national construction authority and disability stakeholders should rally behind and ensure when makeshift hospitals,

isolation facilities and construction of new hospitals are fully accessible and equipped with accessible beds.

Therefore, Duty bearers should ensure disability civil rights protections are fully protected since rights   are not negotiable. I believe time is ripe to enforce and implement article 27, 54 of the constitution and persons with disability act 2003 for protecting rights of disabled Kenyans.

  1. inclusive economic stimulus: Kenyans with disabilities must be included in the economic relief proposals now under consideration by the private sector and Kenyan government. Given that COVID-19 poses unique risks for Kenyans with disabilities and other low-income earners that may make it more difficult for those who are not in any form of employment. This will enable people with disabilities and low-income earners to be able to survive during the current crisis. The economic stimulus should be easily and equitably available for all. Of particular concern are men, women, girls and boys with disabilities.
  2. All of these recommendations are critical to addressing the spread of COVID-19 and addressing our nation’s public health more broadly and ensuring we meet the SDGS by not living any one behind.

As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” The fragile state of this “network of mutuality” has become all too apparent during the coronavirus outbreak. Though we may be vulnerable, we are not dispensable. In fact, disabled Kenyans have critical experience to share in adapting to challenging and constantly changing situations affecting our health, employment, education, housing, and families–experience that all fellow Kenyans will need in the days and weeks ahead. We are grateful for the urgency with which the Ministry of Health is moving to make sure that the Kenyan people never feel the worst of this pandemic, and am seeking  only to protect Kenyan disability  community from the unintended but all too foreseeable impacts of discrimination.

especially during all phases of disaster preparation, response, recovery, and mitigation.

 

 

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 catastrophe of being Blind and Disabled in the Corona era “Lessons for Policy makers!” Author Mugambi Paul.

Kenyans living with disability are a vulnerable group; a larger proportion are older, and with underlying health conditions. Almost half of all people with disability
are aged 65 and above. And only 24% of adults with disability experience very good or excellent health, compared with 65% of without disability [world report 2011].
Apparently in Kenya, Disability is generally very misunderstood and very unacknowledged, even though 15 % of disabled Kenyans make up the population.
The world is paying close attention to the outbreak of novel coronavirus, following its emergence in December 2019 in Wuhan, China but the voice of disabled Kenyans is still inadequate.
This is because of lack of political influence, inadequate social services and lack of opportunities to adapt.
This indicates The rest of 85 % of Kenya’s population is engaged.
Over the last six years, the health sector in Kenya has exhibited significant developments, including the introduction of the Linda Mama (free maternity) initiative, the Beyond Zero campaign, efforts to revamp the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), as well as a multi-million dollar Medical Equipment Leasing scheme aimed at bringing advanced medical equipment closer to citizens across the 47 counties and in key referral facilities.
The inclusion of health in the president’s legacy priorities (Big Four Agenda) underlined this stated commitment to improving healthcare.
This obviously follows the Constitutional requirement, Kenya Health Act 2014 and Kenya Health Policy 2014-30. In addition, Kenya has ascribed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG No 3, that commits governments to provide quality healthcare for all.
Are these Kenyan Health regulation disability inclusive?
Data evidence:
According to latest data over 132,000 cases of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have been reported and 4,900 people have died. The virus has reached 123 countries [WHO 2020[.
How does the virus spread?

Epidemiological evidence shows that 2019 nCoV can be transmitted from one individual to another. During previous outbreaks due to other coronaviruses, including Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS CoV) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS CoV), human to human transmission most commonly occurred through droplets, personal contact, and contaminated objects (fomites). The modes of transmission of 2019 nCoV are likely to be similar.
The precise zoonotic (animal) origin of the 2019 nCoV is still uncertain. The virus has been identified in environmental samples from a live animal market in Wuhan, and some human cases have been epidemiologically linked to this market. Other coronavirus, such as SARS and MERS, are also zoonotic, and can be transmitted from animals (civet cats and dromedary camels, respectively) to humans.
On the other hand, With the outbreak of a novel coronavirus declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, people worldwide are working to address it.
According to the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a terse statement that this is the first time the world is battling a pandemic against a coronavirus disease.
This has seen nations executing travel bans to sport shutdowns. Meanwhile other countries like Italy, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia and rwanda have locked out their countries.
coronavirus is changing life as we know it. It’s tough to know who to trust – that’s why it’s vital to receive facts.
Disabled Kenyans are at higher risk due to the multifaceted related factors in addition of having a disability. WHO is warning people across the world to avoid contact?
But populations in less developed countries like Kenya are wondering how that is possible when they still need to go to search for food, work, purchase items, go to church or mosque or connect with family and friends.
Key factors:
Rise of stigma and discrimination.
Already in existence it will be Upsurge by the lack of shaking hands as announced by the ministry of health.
Of course, Many Blind and disabled persons require support when crossing the busy Thika superhighway or the Westland routes.
For instance, Crutch and white cane users tend to touch metal rails, touching escalator handrails, using traffic light buttons, reaching for train door opening buttons and holding safely
on to handrails on public buses and Matatus while crossing, some may require to be held while crossing.
how can we avoid handshake?
I observe many disabled Kenyans are anxious. This is because we can control what we touch, but we can’t control what
other people have touched.
Will the ministries of health or ministry of transport provide qualified volunteers?
Or will the ministry of health or transport provide protective products like hand sanitizers to the public transport providers?
I observe, With the Corona in place discrimination and stigma will rise in totality since citizens with out disabilities will be having social distance thus disabled Kenyans might stop seeking services or refuse to travel.
Coupled with poverty levels many disabled Kenyans will not afford the buying of the required protective gears like hand sanitizers.

Second factor is Isolation:
Several studies show disabled persons have lived in isolation for long and this will be a lesson for persons without disabilities.
majority disabled Kenyans are at increased risk of serious or fatal complications from COVID-19 (coronavirus). In an active community outbreak, the
safest option may be to self-isolate at home, perhaps for weeks or longer. In order to prepare for this possibility, I believe its high time the Kenyan ministry of health recommends
that people at high risk stock up on necessities, including maintenance prescription medication.
Worst still, many disabled Kenyans can’t take this advice because m95 % of the disabled do not have insurance.
This is a great chance of disability stakeholders to network with the national hospital insurance fund to probably register all disabled persons visiting the health service providers.
Moreover, the lack of insurance as a social protection measure has left many disabled Kenyans to be more vulnerable.
Solution for NHIF:
I would suggest NHIF recognizes and automates its system to include the disability card issued by NCPWD.
Absolutely this would increase the uptake of insurance among disabled Kenyans.
Will the Kenyan legislature enact an insurance regulation of eliminating the wait time for employment insurance payments?
Third factor is Logistics:
Unfortunately, accessing the pharmacy can be risky for some disabled Kenyans and people with chronic illnesses and even pregnant women.
. Some people with disabilities may also face logistical challenges in getting to the pharmacy if support services become disrupted
due to sudden rise of isolations and being left behind.

Moreover, the Kenyan pharmacy are yet to embrace the mailing services. This could have been a solution instead of putting all at risk.
Will the delivery companies in Kenya grab the opportunity?
The ministry of health has announced measures of
Of ensuring localized outbreaks and social distancing measures are observed.
Absolutely, in some countries already there is massive disruption of supply chains. What can Kenyans with disabilities learn?
Disabled Kenyans and persons with chronic illnesses can’t stake their lives on the assumption that the availability of medications will remain stable in the coming weeks and
months. They need to be able to stock up now.

I opine that Disrupting treatment always endangers patients, but even more so in a pandemic.
The need for inpatient treatment will likely exceed capacity in many communities. this is because Kenya and other developing countries we still have weak health systems and inadequate health infrastructure. COVID-19 is expected to heavily tax the resources of the Kenyan health care system.
Will Kenya now revisit the Abuja declaration on Health Budgeting?
Further Than, outpatient clinics are likely to have a high number of patients
seeking treatment for COVID-19 symptoms, making avoidable visits risky for those more vulnerable to complications. Additionally, patients whose chronic
conditions are destabilized are in danger of becoming more severely ill if they are infected with COVID-19.
Water access:
In Kenya water access is a major challenge for all. Will the Kenya government break the cartels in the water industry to ensure water is readily available?
In Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and other major towns its proven fact that many households go for several months without accessing running taps and forced to buy. According to UNICEF 40 per cent of the world’s population, or 3 billion people, do not have a handwashing facility with water and soap at home. Nearly three quarters of
the people in least developed countries lack basic handwashing facilities at home. Further, 47 per cent of schools lacked a handwashing facility with water and soap affecting 900 million school-age children. Over one third of schools worldwide
and half of schools in the least developed countries like Kenya have no place for children to wash their hands at all.
Forth factor nonvisual access:
Kenyans who are Blind or visually impaired do not have equal access to quantitative information including charts, graphs, and maps. For example, many of
us simply cannot perceive the data visualizations and dashboards that are regularly published by mainstream news organizations. As a result, we often have
limited or non-existent access to critical data, including information we aneed to make informed decisions pertaining to our work, finances and health. As
charts depicting the spread of Coronavirus and modelling how to flatten the curve are seen and discussed worldwide with Blind and visually impaired people
largely excluded from the conversation, we are starkly reminded that nonvisual access to data is vital to our equality and well-being.
The charts and graphics popularly known as “data visualizations” can – and should – be represented in formats that Blind and visually impaired Kenyans can
use.
Effects of COVID-19 on employment:
Centrally, my thoughts seem to be telling me a silent reasonable accommodation revolution in workplaces is being executed globally by Covid-19
as envisaged in the UNCRPD.
For instance, some tech companies Multinational like apple and google are demanding their employee to work at home. According to ILO 2017 with proper reasonable accommodations companies can benefit allot
This is to say that allowing employees to work remotely encourages more equality in the workforce by allowing more people with chronic illness and disabilities to participate and some studies show employees even report that they perform better in remote arrangements.
.
I believe working at home will assuaged persons with chronic illnesses and also individuals’ who are having low immunity.
Will the disability policy makers and employment gurus stakeholders rise to the occasion and present a reasonable accommodation legislation?
Now the people without disabilities we see your ableism tendencies being put in the right place
This shows implementation of disability related rights is possible. Should public and private sector await a catastrophe to implement disability laws?
It’s a fact that in Kenya after the road tragedy in 2002 by the Third president who was sworn on a wheelchair made the signing of the persons with disabilities act 2003.
Will public and private sectors reduce demand for office spaces?
Will public and private sectors in developing nations like Kenya adopt 24 hour economy by having there staff to work on shifts in order to avoid social contact?
Will companies in developing countries stop the analogue economy and switch to digitalization?
What does this mean to both employed and unemployed disabled?
What does COVID-19 mean to the almost 70 % of informal employment in Kenya who do not use digital devices?
All in all, we need disabled persons organizations to be engaged in advocacy on protecting people with disabilities from COVID-19 in both national and county levels.
This is by way of ensuring we have inclusive emergency plans and actions.

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.

Celebrating our super parents: Guest Author Odumbe Kute

It occurred to me yesterday after something I posted that prejudice and discrimination, whether conscious or sub-conscious is a very big deal in our lives.
I’ve been a disability and human rights activist for over 24 years and the one thing that rings true through all the work I’ve done around the world is
this. No amount of legislation, education and advocacy will ever cover for ignorance and prejudice about disability that is experienced every single day
by those affected.

It’s not just the general public. The worst offenders are family, close relatives and people who masquerade as friends. The thing is this. Most people
act the way they do, discriminate like they do, judge like they do, say really stupid and very hurtful things like they do, gossip like they do, show their
prejudice like they do because they’re afraid. You’d like to think that they’re just ignorant, but the truth is that they’re afraid. Afraid of what is
different, afraid of their own insecurities, afraid of how they would cope if they were ever in a situation where they would acquire a disability, give
birth to a child with a disability, have a spouse who acquires a disability or have to care for someone with a disability.

They go around calling themselves “normal”, whatever the hell that is. Here’s a wake up call. At least 1 of every 5 people in the world has a disability
of some sort, most of them hidden and not visible to people. It could be mental health, it could be chronic back pain, it could be sickle cell, it could
be a neurological condition ranging from autism to ADHD, it could be any number of debilitating conditions that people are shit scared to talk about for
fear that they might get labelled or judged. They refuse to look at it as a disability. They only choose to consider disability as a physical and medical
thing.

I haven’t even begun to talk about the hundreds of thousands of parents who have a differently abled child. Our society is brutal. Take the mothers of
kids with a disability from autism to CP, from physical to sensory disabilities. Those who stay in relationships and marriages after giving birth to a
differently abled child are considered the lucky ones. But are they really? Most mothers of children with a disability are single because they’ve been
abandoned at the traffic lights. They’ve been ostracized and become outcasts in their own families, in their marital families, amongst their friends and
relatives. They are seen as vessels of witchcraft, accused of bringing forth defective offspring that sully the gene pool of the family. They not only
have to deal with the challenges their child or children face, they are also as individuals, totally discriminated against and judged for every move they
make.

Let me tell you something about these women. They are amazing. They are Ninjas. They are super women, most of whom have to give up their entire lives,
their hopes and dreams and they sacrifice everything to give their differently abled children the best chance they have in life. They live isolated lives
because of the open and mostly hidden discrimination they face by people closest to them. But the one thing that will never be taken away from them is
their resolve, unconditional love, determination and sheer stubbornness in not giving up their default role as primary care givers to their children.

Most if not all these women go through hell every single day to make sure that their children have the best they can have in life, despite their individual
means. Some can hustle and get a shilling here and there, some don’t have that opportunity. Even for families who would ordinarily be financially stable,
the cost of therapy, medication, education, nutrition – you name it, is capable of bringing them to their knees. Some of these women cry themselves to
sleep every single night praying to their God and asking why he or she has forsaken them. And yet, the next morning, they wake up and do it all over again.

I submit to you that you “normal” people as you call yourselves; you people who have perfect lives that allow you to pass judgement over those who have
a different life; you people who stare and shake your head in disgust at a mother whose autistic child is having a melt-down in a supermarket and saying
that “what is wrong with that mother, her child is spoilt”; you people who have the luxury of not knowing the pain of a mother with a non-verbal autistic
child who is in unbearable pain and distress and unable to express themselves; you people who judge and come out with ignorant and stupid comments like
“that one was bewitched”, “that one’s dowry wasn’t paid and that’s why they have a disabled child”, “that one must have done something in a previous life”
– I submit to you that whichever God you pray to is kind enough to have spared you and gave you the right to be ignorant and stupid. Because if you were
ever in the situation that others are in, society has to be lucky that your not one of the ones who will be able to cope with the burden and responsibility
of caring for and loving someone who is different. Pray to that God of yours to never put you in a situation that you become disabled, a spouse or child
of yours becomes disabled, or you give birth to a child with a disability.

Why have I written this post you may ask. It’s because of the sheer amount of in-box messages I’ve got from parents of children with a disability, mostly
those on the autism spectrum, who were absolutely furious that I had to explain that my son is autistic to parents that commented on my post and took the
“your child is bloody spoilt” view. There is a parallel here to real life where the constant need to explain to those who are discriminatory and prejudicial
has become tedious for them and enough is enough.

Let me conclude with a simple example. A couple of weeks ago, a distressed mother on one of the support groups posted a question asking what they can give
their autistic child to calm them down when she has guests. Let me first say, many kids on the autism spectrum will be on medication, and this should only
be for their benefit and if it improves their development. But the thought of having to medicate your autistic child to make it easier for guests? I was
like – Fuck that. The only intervention needed is to bitch slap those guests out of your house. If your own guests cannot come to terms with the fact that
your child is autistic, they have absolutely no right to be guests in your home, let alone friends.

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 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.

Why the Kenyan census 2019 remains a mystery to the many poor and disabled Kenyans! Author Mugambi M. Paul

Over 1 billion people globally, including 494 million in Sub-Saharan Africa (roughly 45% of the population), lack government-recognized proof of identification [UN 2017.] This hampers their access to critical financial and social services and raises barriers to exercising political and economic rights. Obviously, several studies have shown that lack of desegregated
data among the disabled persons has greatly impacted negatively towards lives of the disabled community [world bank 2011].
According to [KBS 2009] Kenyans with disabilities make up 3.8 %.
However, these statistics are debatable and disabled persons organizations have argued that proper mechanisms were not in place.
Will the 2019 August census in Kenya be different?
The answer lies on the shoulders of the Kenya neural of statistics.
They have been able to adapt the Washington set of questions, but this will be put in to test during the data collections.
However, in the development of the censor’s committees still disabled persons organizations nor the county disability officers are not represented.
This is a great setback of ensuring inclusivity and raising the voice of persons with disabilities.
The policy makers need to adopt measures urgently at the ministry of interior to ensure disability representatives are added. This should not just be for quantity but provide quality and real representation in public participation.
Additionally, the county governments need to be keen on what the data of persons with disabilities mean in matters of service delivery and enhancement of proper support for persons with disabilities ]2010 Kenyan constitution]. It’s prudent to mention that the county governments are the service providers in their own counties.
persons with disabilities and thee organizations need to knock on the county government to ensure that the census collected becomes meanful in service delivery and planning.
At list a third of the counties have enacted county disability laws but are yet to implement.
I take note that Persons with disabilities face several challenges in receiving identification documents and presenting these documents to access services.
There is no exact information to show how many disabled persons have received particular government or private sector services.
What is emerging clearly as a public policy scholar I uphold Kenya should adapt to data driven analysis.
is in order to fight poverty.
Thus having need evidence-based thinking and plenty of good data.
The Kenyan census should be huge part of this phenomenon. Although it can be easy to overlook, it’s actually incredibly important because this data will inform the Kenyan government decisions that will shape millions of lives.
Recognizing this, I believe Kenya has a chance of its new census data to be more accurate, comprehensive, and granular than in the past. Will the Kenya beural of statistics switch to digital tablets? Will the Kenya bural of statistics use satellite imagery to make sure households in rural areas don’t go undiscovered and uncounted? The jury is out there.
I look forward for a disability desegregated data at the county levels.

I trust The government is now seriously committed to a “leave no one behind” ethic, which means counting every single person in the population. That includes people who are sometimes called “the invisible” — those who live in slums, disabled persons , who are homeless, or who are institutionalized.

These people are harder to reach, but without counting them and identifying which places they’re concentrated in and which services they lack, it’s difficult to design targeted interventions that will actually help them. Kenya and other African countries are increasingly treating this kind of data-driven approach as crucial to their development.
The Kenya bural of statistics must adapt many new ways which Kenya is leveraging data. That includes a biometric national ID system the so called Hudumanumber. (more than 30 million Kenyans have registered for it so far.
I suggest that Kenya adapts a digital address system (whereby every five square meters in the country will have its own unique address).
This way government can target services to people, once you know where they are.
How do you count “the invisible”?

Kenya’s census will take place in August 2019 for 3 days not a lot of time to survey a population of approximately 50 million people. But I believe the preparations begun well in advance, and this time, they will include a lot of help from new technology.

For the first time, will the enumerators use digital tablets to survey the population?I opine that through this they will be able to have answers to be checked for inconsistencies or omissions in real time. Will the Kenyan bural of statistics use Electronic maps?
This will help enumerators make sure they’re counting everyone in their demarcated area. GPS will pinpoint and record the exact location where each interview will be conducted.

Meanwhile, will the Kenyand government officials use satellite imagery to identify all housing structures in the country?
I affirm that if the enumerators go out into the field, an image showing which locations they’ve covered will be overlaid on top of the satellite imagery.
This will allow the officials to determine which areas may have been missed.

Usually it’s in rural areas, enumerators may not have known people are living there.
The Hudumanamba enrollment should be a wake-up call before the census begins.
Most developed and developing nations are increasingly looking to leapfrog challenges with traditional ID systems by moving to digital identification systems through the use of new technologies. Kenyan government has not been left behind since it’s a leader in digital Enovation in Africa.
The Kenyan government has introduced Hudumanamba system for its all citizens and the diaspora populations.
Digital identification systems are attractive to governments due to potential benefits of universal coverage and unique authentication. Were persons with disabilities, organizations for persons with disabilities consulted on the process?
It seems the government of Kenya denied its citizens the public participation
And say on this agenda. This has led to a court case making it voluntary to register for Hudumanamba.
On the other hand, Kenyans who need services might find themselves at catch 22 when the hudumanamba services will be rolled out.

Digital identification systems use a range of technologies include biometrics scanners, facial recognition, artificial intelligence, and other emerging mobile technologies.
The rapid moves towards digital identification systems raises both opportunities and challenges in ensuring that persons with disabilities can register for, receive, and use their unique identification. Will the disabled persons stop using the disabled cards?
Will the registration of newly disabled persons be conducted after the Huduanamba registration?
What’s the link between the registration for disabled persons and the hudumanamba roll out?
It seems the Kenyan government still stand accused of enhancing bureaucracy towards achievement of vital services to persons with disabilities with this unlinked processes and procedures.

Hudumanamba card is speculated it will offer alternative mechanisms to ensure that the lack of breeder documents (e.g. birth certificates) do not hamper individuals’ abilities to receive important credentials and open pathways to receiving economic and social services. At the same time, they need to be carefully designed to ensure accessibility and inclusion. Some of the Problems that emerged during the Hudumanamba registration included when persons with disabilities were unable to provide biometric data. e.g. due to lack of an iris or fingerprints), algorithms did not recognize certain facial features, or most hudumanamba centers fail to provide accessible accommodations and exceptions.
For instance, lack of alternative formats for the information, which was being gathered to the Blind, vision impaired, intellectual impaired and the Deafblind,
Another example is the inaccessible venues for the hudumanamba registration.
This was also coupled by Lack of staff training, and awareness of disability issues.
Furthermore, many disabled persons allegedly reported mistreatment during the process.
Thus, having significant challenges in the process of registration.
Will the Kenya bural l of statistics take lessons for the upcoming census?
The jury is outside!
All in all, the globe is embracing the digitalization of government services.
Disabled persons are not to be left behind.
Solution is to ensure we have inclusive policy and regulations
Thus, enabling the policy implementation to cater for the needs and priorities of disabled persons.
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.

Scientists Discover How Blind People Know So Much About Appearances guest author Sarah Sloat

The philosopher John Locke, who believed that true knowledge of the world could only stem from sensory experiences, thought that blind individuals could never understand the concepts of light and color. Locke, it turns out, was wrong. In a recent PNAS study, blind people demonstrate that they do understand what sighted people process through vision, proving that “visual” ideas don’t actually require sight.
In the study published Tuesday, scientists demonstrated how blind people make visual sense of what they cannot see. While previous studies suggested that the most efficient way for a blind person to know that, say, a flamingo is pink, is to memorize that fact, this study demonstrates that blind people instead look at the world like scientists and make sense of the visual world through a catalogue of clues.
“First-person experience isn’t the only way to develop a rich understanding of the world around us,” co-author and Johns Hopkins doctoral candidate Judy Kim explains. “People often have the intuition that we can’t know what we can’t see.”
This intuition is wrong, as Kim and her colleagues showed by testing 20 blind and 20 sighted adults, all around 30 years old, about their knowledge of animal appearances. The participants were asked to order a variety of animals by size and height and to sort the animals into groups based on shape, skin texture, and color. They were also presented with a group of animals and asked which one was not like the others.
The study design.
In most cases, the sighted and blind people performed equally well on the test. They sorted the animals in predominantly the same way, and both agreed on which physical features comprised the predominant description of each group of animals. For example, both blind and sighted people described dolphins and sharks to be of similar shape.
What the two groups disagreed about the most was, strangely, the factor that the researchers hypothesized would be the most agreed upon: Color. Sighted participants sometimes had trouble describing the shape of an animal, but they always readily provided its color. Blind people did not. This outcome refuted the “learn-by-description” hypothesis, which posits that blind people learn about objects by hearing the way other people describe them. If this were the case, then the blind participants should have been able to identify color easily, since sighted people seem to always include color in their descriptions.
But color is what blind individuals were least able to identify. And so, the researchers argue that the “learn-by-description” hypothesis must be incorrect and that blind people must gather visual information in a different way: By deducing it from existing knowledge about an object and details related to it.
“In the absence of direct sensory access, knowledge of appearance is acquired primarily through interface, rather than through memorization of verbally stipulated facts,” the scientists write.
How would you describe “pink” without having seen pink?
In other words, blind people take the scientific approach and infer appearances through other properties like taxonomy and habitat. This strategy works well for features like shape and textures; for example, birds have feathers and wings, so it’s implied that this holds true across bird species. Color is less easy to infer. Since there are a lot of animals that are the same color, it’s hard to deduce that, say, bears and ravens are black, based on the other things you know about animals.
But color inaccuracies aside, the research proves what blind people already know: You can have a rich and accurate sense of the world without actually seeing it.
And sometimes, the approach blind people take actually helps them be more accurate. Here, 55 percent of the blind participants and 20 percent of the sighted participants said that sharks have scales; the majority of that group said they have skin. In reality, sharks have fine scales — they are just difficult to see.
Abstract:
How does first-person sensory experience contribute to knowledge? Contrary to the suppositions of early empiricist philosophers, people who are born blind know about phenomena that cannot be perceived directly, such as color and light. Exactly what is learned and how remains an open question. We compared knowledge of animal appearance across congenitally blind (n = 20) and sighted individuals (two groups, n = 20 and n = 35) using a battery of tasks, including ordering (size and height), sorting (shape, skin texture, and color), odd-one-out (shape), and feature choice (texture). On all tested dimensions apart from color, sighted and blind individuals showed substantial albeit imperfect agreement, suggesting that linguistic communication and visual perception convey partially redundant appearance information. To test the hypothesis that blind individuals learn about appearance primarily by remembering sighted people’s descriptions of what they see (e.g., “elephants are gray”), we measured verbalizability of animal shape, texture, and color in the sighted. Contrary to the learn-from-description hypothesis, blind and sighted groups disagreed most about the appearance dimension that was easiest for sighted people to verbalize: color. Analysis of disagreement patterns across all tasks suggest that blind individuals infer physical features from non-appearance properties of animals such as folk taxonomy and habitat (e.g., bats are textured like mammals but shaped like birds). These findings suggest that in the absence of sensory access, structured appearance knowledge is acquired through inference from ontological kind.

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.

https://m.facebook.com/groups/782290015159886?view=permalink&id=1860411574014386&refid=46&__xts__%5B0%5D=12.%7B%22unit_id_click_type%22%3A%22graph_search_results_item_tapped%22%2C%22click_type%22%3A%22result%22%2C%22module_id%22%3A8%2C%22result_id%22%3A%22100000309023349%3A1860411574014386%22%2C%22session_id%22%3A%2294af8b3a8130b8cd80ffb146320fa7d7%22%2C%22module_role%22%3A%22FEED_POSTS%22%2C%22unit_id%22%3A%22browse_rl%3Abab2c8d9-58c6-03bb-6970-555f4984237d%22%2C%22browse_result_type%22%3A%22browse_type_story%22%2C%22unit_id_result_id%22%3A1860411574014386%2C%22module_result_position%22%3A0%2C%22result_creation_time%22%3A1539597936%7D&__tn__=%2As
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.