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,

What the Blind and vision impaired Kenyans can learn from south Africa. Author Mugambi Paul

Blind SA (South Africa) is an organization of blinds for the blinds in
South Africa
as most of top functionaries are visually changed persons. Launched as the South African Blind Workers Organization in 1946 to help the blind in finding
careers of their choice, it was renamed as the
Blind SA
in 2004.

According to an estimate of the
World Health Organization
(WHO) about 15 percent of people in
South Africa
are living with disability out of which 60 percent are visually impaired. In absolute terms about 250,000 children in
South Africa
are blind or visually impaired for whom only about two dozen schools are available. The
Blind SA
is dedicated in developing
braille pages
to facilitate visually challenged persons particularly children and youths to learn and live a meaningful and productive life. Besides, it also conducts
sensitization programmes, skill training and placement facilities for the visually challenged persons.

In an interaction with Devdiscoruse, the CEO of
Blind SA,
Mr. Jace Nair tells us about the challenges for the blind people and his organization’s efforts to make their lives easier.

Q.1. What are the main areas of operation of your organization?

Nair: Empowering blind and partially sighted persons to live a meaningful and economic productive lifestyle is the main objective of Blind SA. We are primarily
engaged in advocacy which involves commenting on policy and legislation, access to ICT, access to financial services and banking, access to Education &
ECD, access to employment and
Economic Empowerment
(EE), access to government services such as health, social security, housing and public transport.

To achieve our objectives, we conduct self-representation, production of accessible publications in braille script, daisy and audio, training in braille
and orientation and mobility, entrepreneurial and small business development, placement, skills program and employment in the public and private sector.

Q.2. How, according to you, your organization is contributing to achieving any one or more SDGs?

Nair: The visually challenged people are among the most vulnerable groups in society across classes, genders and communities. We are dedicated for their
overall empowerment. In this way we are contributing to the achievement of several
sustainable development goals
(SDGs). They are No Poverty (SDG1), Zero Hunger (SDG2), Good Health and Well Being (SDG3), Quality Education (SDG 4), Gender Equality (SDG 5), Decent
Work and Economic Growth (SDG8), Reduced Inequalities (SDG 10), Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (SDG16) and Partnerships for the Goals (SDG17).
This is achieved by the programmatic and advocacy initiatives.

Q.3. So far, what are the main achievements of your organization in line to the
SDGs
set up by the United Nations for the year 2030?

Nair: We have produced over 1.4 million
braille pages,
trained over 400 facilitators in braille, trained over 100 persons in orientation and mobility and trained 14 persons in small business development. Besides,
we also held 4 events for accessible, safe, affordable and integrated public transport for blinds in association with the SA’s national Department of transport,
four municipalities and Gauteng Province to create awareness for blind commuters and the use of the white cane.

Q.4. What are the recent initiatives of your organization has made in line to the SDGs?

Nair: Empowering blind and partially sighted people through programmatic initiatives are our prime focus. In the year 2018-19, we made a presentation and
conducted sensitization programs in 56 companies and four job placements. The beneficiaries of various categories include NSF project (88), Braille Training
(149), ETDP SETA (50), CoJ Projects (30), Study Bursary Project (55), World Read Aloud Day (14) and 645 learners.

Q.5. What is your strategy for further expansion of your organization?

Nair: We aspire to re-affiliate with the
African Union of the Blind,
World Blind Union
and Internal Council of the visually impaired. Besides, we are also working for a greater role in
SA Disability Alliance
and SA Braille Authority.

Q.6. Where do you want to see your organization by 2030?

Nair: By 20130, we aspire to emerge as a leading national disabled people organization in
South Africa
leading the mainstreaming of disability for blind and partially sighted persons.

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

Why the Blind Kenyans have Join the Drinking Nation Courtesy Of the society and Union for the Blind Author: Mugambi Paul

According to world health organization 2019 2.2 billion people, which represents 25% of the world’s population, have some form of vision impairment. Half of them do not yet have access to services,
80% in Africa alone

It’s estimated that about one and a half million Kenyans are either blind or vision impaired.
Furthermore, Many places within the City of Nairobi and other major towns in Kenya remain virtually and visually inaccessible to disabled persons.
These include restaurants, offices, entertainment joints, offices and health facilities among others.
Such public places; buildings, social amenities and facilities lack disability accessible infrastructure like lifts, ramps and designated parking.
Most entertainment joints in the city and major towns are nowadays located in back streets buildings. This makes their accessibility by the blind a nightmare, more so without the assistance of sensitive well-wishers.
The blind, vision Impaired and other disabled citizens in Kenyas’ fight for their rights has been met with hard resistance, ironically by the very systems that have put in place by the government and non state actors to uphold their rights.
In fact, these systems have disenfranchised the public participation in decision making processes like law making, putting the blind, vision impaired and other disabled at risk of serious injuries in busy public facilities, It’s terrifying, to say the least.
Unfortunately, The blind and visually impaired take risk move around every day in the shared spaces, some being so unlucky to have sustained injuries or killed all together.
It is hazardous even around car packs and buildings entrances.
As a blind person navigating such spaces, you are surrounded by loud noises, and large objects moving around you, always living in fear of getting crushed.
Sometimes you fear that you will get killed on road or car park with people in shared spaces never watching out for disabled persons, especially the blind and vision impaired.
I remember recently, a rogue driver crushed my white-cane; how far do you think the car was, from me?
Additionally, The County of Nairobi designed accessible traffic lights project which hardly meet the universally accepted accessibility measures, the project is a disappointed to the blind and the visually impaired.
Evidently, I tried to engage persons manning one of the trial traffic lights which proved to be futile, owing to the signature bureaucracy perpetuated in the management of county disability affairs in Kenya.
Disabled persons organizations and other stakeholders need to petition the Nairobi county government to ensure absolute access of the by the blind and the vision impaired to exact drop off points.
This will be reduce or avoid all together calamities associated with inaccessibility, and save the blind and visually impaired on the cost incurred in mitigation of the inaccessibility.
It is absolutely sad to note that the Nairobi county government banned the use of motorcycles within the city without providing an alternative for the vulnerable persons, which again boils down to exclusion of the blind in decision making.
This whole state of affair results to most blind and vision impaired persons having additional psychosocial disability, making them feel like second-class citizens.
The Kenya union of the Blind which is supposed to be the chief advocate for the blind and visually impaired persons is now busy creating and promoting “a blind and visually impaired drinking nation”
In the union’s Embakasi headquarters area, they have invested on butchery and a bar.
I won’t be surprised the Kenya society for the blind joining in the same breath since already they have commercialized its premises with garages and restaurants.

the Kenya union of the blind and the Kenya society of the blind have absconded their advocacy role in favor of investment.

The blind and the visually impaired persons in Kenya have been discriminated for far too long. Time is now that they ought to arise and claim their place in the public space.
The blind and visually impaired persons need to lobby policy makers and other community leaders to ensure accessibility for disabled persons is achieved.
The society and policy makers need to understand blindness is also a mobility disability.
The Persons with Disabilities Act 2003 partly states that persons with disabilities are entitled to a barrier free and disability-friendly environment.
The proprietors of public buildings and transport must endeavor to comply with this law, and the relevant authorities need to enforce compliance fairly and objectively.
When shall we ever move from theory to practice?
The views expressed here are those of the author, they do not represent any agency or organization.
Mugambi Paul is a public policy, diversity and inclusion expert.

Why the Blind in Kenya were duped on money identification! Author Mugambi Paul

Before reading any further, close your eyes, reach into your purse or wallet and fish out 1,000 Kenyan notes.
What comes in your mind?
Can’t do it? You now know what currency discrimination feels like.

Currently, over one million blind and vision impaired Kenyans depend on someone else — a family member, friend, cashier or bank teller — to identify the
denomination of each notes for them before they can organize their money to spend themselves.
How many Blind and vision impaired persons have been duped?
The latest statistics even includes the Daughter of the head of Africa infrastructure Rose Odinga.
Furthermore, central bank of Kenya had great aspirations, but they were also duped.
To put matters into perspective the real Blind and vision impaired persons were not engaged.
Thus, lack of public participation.
who is the disability rep on the central bank of Kenya board?

I observe that, there are sighted teachers who have served in Blind schools for more than 2 decades and they don’t know braille or interest in adaptive technology.
Additionally, there are persons working in the disability sector and they don’t know what reasonable accommodation nor universal design is! This is the root course of current acceptance of mediocre leadership in the Kenyan disability sector at large.
This is also coupled with the charity-based model where the disabled person is offered a token to justify the service.
I affirm that due to this most public and private sector will claim they don’t have the capacity while they have not granted the disabled a chance.
Casing point is the employment opportunities
.
No wonder even the Blind and vision impaired persons are the most highly discriminated in job advertisement.
For example the Kenya national youth service, police and army.
Why does the Kenya society underestimate Us?
Did the Kenyan blind and vision impaired Peak bodies speak out?
Did the any human rights body speak out?
The jury is outside.

During the Madaraka 2019 what the Blind and the vision impaired persons were meant to celebrate the newfound love of government commitment to accessibility as per the constitution
2010 and the UNCRPD on matters universal design was not achieved.
Although we got a token of the cash notes having different colours.

I know some of you will justify that we the “Blind and vision impaired” should accept the token.
This is not going to happen.
I foresee the Blind and vision impaired persons arising and demanding for better access of the money identification.
The small bit done for different notes on colour is highly appreciated.
The Central bank of Kenya should realize the advantage of accessible cash it’s not for the blind only, but it will assist the highly tech young persons, veterans and those facing eye problems.
As public scholar and my passion for advocacy I have evidently seen how the engagement of persons of concerns makes policy implementation easier.
Its now upon the central bank of Kenya and the blind sector to ensure we have accessible notes through consultations.
Can the real Blind and vision impaired persons stand up?
The central bank of Kenya needs to include a disability research component in its works.
Will the 2 Kenyan sleeping giants in the blindness sector arise and stand to be counted?

All in all, I opine, the blindness and vision impaired system in Kenya doesn’t just need to be ‘reformed’. It needs to be broken down, dissected, & re-built from the ground, up.
This will happen when the Kenyan Blind and vision impaired persons unite and have a common voice!

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

The two Sleeping blind giants in Kenya: author Mugambi Paul

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

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

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

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

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.