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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Needs of disabled Kenyans:

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

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

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

What’s Next? severe disabled wish. guest Author: petergibilisco Researcher, author and advocate. Bachelor of Business Accounting, PhD from Melbourne University. Dealing with issues involving disability.

I wrote and published this article on OnlineOpinion over 11 years ago. It is troubling to me that nothing much has changed over all that time.

I am still trying, even though I’ve got 1/4 of the abilities I had back then in 2008. That means now, I am constantly pushing the boundaries of my remaining
abilities to speak against injustices. I want to achieve so much in a personal, social and academic sense and all I ask is to be given the opportunity
to do so.

It is probable that everyone will get an itch somewhere, sooner or later. And so, when you get an itch, you do what comes naturally: you scratch it! It
is a simple process that itches are made to feel better when scratched. Or so it seems.

But what if you can’t scratch? I mean, what if you can’t scratch where it itches because you have nothing to scratch it with? It may be an itch that is
underneath your plaster cast that is in place to help with the healing of your broken knee-cap. What if the itch can’t be localised? What then? It is not
such a simple problem.

I happen to know a lot about the problem of scratching itches from a rather unique perspective How? Because I have a neuro-transmitter dysfunction that
simply won’t allow me to reach wherever it itches. So I have learned to cope, to block out the irritation. I have to admit that it is, indeed, a luxury
when I am fortunate enough to have a very empathetic support worker who can help me by scratching my back or my ear, but I won’t bore you with all the
details of my relief because I have only raised this with another purpose in mind, a purpose I might add which might help our society understand the itches
people like myself have to deal with.

I would like to draw attention to what disablement can mean to someone like me who suffers from Friedreich’s Ataxia. I’ve been attacked by this progressive
disease, since I was first diagnosed in 1976 when I was 14. Now I am confined to a wheelchair and need daily assistance with routine transfers, hygiene
and most of my daily activities. Living with a degenerative disease has broadened my thoughts concerning disablement and allowed me to focus on the need
for empathetic behaviour from those directly related to disability.

In 1981 I was 19. That was the year of the first United Nations International Year for Disabled People. You’d have to say that my life, with the progression
of Friedreich’s Ataxia, since then has tracked the development of public policy that has, in significant ways, taken seriously the problems that disabled
people have to continually and progressively confront.

In this sense mainstream society has begun to acknowledge disablement as a serious itch that needs to be carefully scratched with appropriate care, tools
and resources that are outlined in just policies.

And so there are policies, legislation, a wider social commitment, education and programs now in place that show, in this country, that we have a significant
society-wide compassion to assist those in great need. But, yet the itch is still not appropriately scratched!

Yes, we need ramps and railings that lead into public buildings. But, there needs to be something more. Let me tell you that I have received much, for
which I am very grateful. And have come such a long way with so many people to thank. I often wonder, how can someone like me have got this far? And with
a disease that has made a greater impact over my body as time passes.

I am now 45 and my care needs increase almost by the day. Yet despite this I have just completed a study tour in Hawaii visiting the University of Hawaii,
Center for Disability Studies. My social enquiry in the US focused on how many people with severe disabilities yearn for, and are capable of performing,
most human activities – with assistance from a support worker.

I was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia at 14 and then my mother died of cancer when I was 18. I was well and truly on a downward emotional and physiological
spiral. By 23, I was confined permanently to a wheelchair. But it was also around this time, with the encouragement and perceptive advice from a close
lady friend which lifted me out of a fantasy land of self-pity, that I began studying for an Associate Diploma in Accountancy at Dandenong TAFE. That inclusive
and happy learning environment gave me inspiration to tackle life with vigour and it still serves as a reminder to me when, like anyone else, I develop
the usual emotional itches which need scratching. That was my 1984.

But that year, 1984, reminds us of something else doesn’t it? Since then, my life has been not unlike the problematic world that George Orwell describes.
It is especially relevant to people like myself who are really very grateful for all the special consideration, no matter how insignificant, equal opportunities
and affirmative action we have received over the years.

But why is it problematic? It is problematic in an Orwellian sense because we know that if we raise a voice in criticism, even if we are trying to be constructive,
we put ourselves in an exposed situation. After having traveled so far, with so much kind assistance, it can too easily sound like we can never be satisfied
and can never get enough freebies.

It’s as if after graduating with my PhD, and then in 2007 when I was presented with the Emerging Disability Leader of the Year award, I developed a new
itch, but just didn’t know where so it could be scratched. My PhD thesis, my academic journal articles and my On Line Opinion pieces were all being applauded
but, somehow, the major issue I was trying to discuss was being ignored.

I think public policy towards people with disabilities, and in particular severely disabled or progressively disabled, has ignored some important factors
to the detriment of our society.

First, I will sound like a broken record by offering my analysis over and over again; and second, our society cannot be, or become, the compassionate solidarity
it claims for itself if it doesn’t hear what I am trying to say. I have a sense of obligation here to speak out. It’s not just for me, although I am painfully
aware of its application to myself and to my own situation.

The point is this: for some of us the special consideration, equal opportunity and affirmative action, designed to get disabled people into the mainstream,
paradoxically brings us to a more exposed and needy situation. This cannot be addressed without more special consideration, further and ongoing application
of equal opportunities after training is completed and further affirmative action once we have obtained our qualifications. It is a simple point that can
be readily illustrated.

This illustration of policy dynamism is based on the approach I have identified as pragmatic social democracy, advocated by Hugh Stretton and Marta Russell,
in my Doctoral Dissertation.

Once a person with a severe disability at TAFE, for example, receives a diploma then society’s responsibility to that person is not somehow fulfilled,
because at that point the obligations have actually increased. The person may need special support to attend interviews, and when that person is offered
and accepts a position of employment it may be necessary for technical and other assistance.

I could repeat this point for each of the steps I have made through my own higher education: TAFE Diploma, Bachelor of Business, Bachelor of Arts, Master
of Arts, and Doctorate of Philosophy. There are other facets to keep in mind as well. Somehow we need to find a way to view and support people with a disability
in pro-active methods of equal opportunity; rather than focusing on the medical model’s view of a sympathetic approach: people with severe disabilities
need an empathetic approach, aligned to the social model. My assertion is that society’s responsibility increases in specific ways oriented to professional
commitment and involvement, once the student with a severe disability graduates.

But, as my own needs, and possibly those of others, have increased or are increasing, support is not only to be seen in educational terms. The dynamic
of increasing support reflected in policy should also seek to meet the increased needs which the policy at an earlier point has also helped to bring about.
There are also increased needs of those who support, as well as, the increasing needs of the person with a disability.

For a TAFE graduate like myself, I was faced with a daunting prospect. I had a wonderful Technical and Further Education experience, which affirmed me
as a mature-age student, and I was no different in some ways from any other TAFE graduate: “What next?” we asked. Leaving TAFE for all of us in that year
was a life changing experience, but life moves on.

Life moves on. That is the irony that is central to my attempt to point to the dynamic at work here. But the paradox is that not all of us, and not all
disabled people, have to deal with a progressive disease. To apply for a job in an accountancy firm after my graduation from Technical and Further Education
would have been to ask the prospective employer to initiate a general policy change that we, as a society, were only just beginning to think about let
alone implement.

The political consideration of equal opportunity and affirmative action was still at an early stage. So, as I look back on it now, it is no wonder that
I was attracted to the higher education field which proved to be more advanced, and hence more hospitable to me with my particular needs, than most other
areas.

I am the beneficiary of higher education which has been required to make room for disabled people. But then, it seems that higher education was also being
re-oriented to make it compatible with job training for a post-industrial society. In such an environment, as Marta Russell has pointed out, a university
degree becomes the evidence that society has met its obligations to help disabled people compete. Equal opportunity was not always matched with appropriate
affirmative action.

In this respect I would suggest that affirmative action needs to be taken to a new level. And perhaps this new level cannot be reached without recognising
the ongoing obligation which a degree-granting institution has to its graduates. Understanding mutual obligation from the institution to its highly qualified
graduates is downplayed if not lost entirely.

In my own case, a university which takes a qualified post-graduate student with Friedrich’s Ataxia into its PhD programs, should not view itself as giving
a sympathetic expression according to the medical model’s agenda, which has the unfortunate ability of systematising disability policy pursuits. Although
that is, I am sorry to say, the predominant way in which Australian higher education under third way and neo-liberal policies tends to view such achievements.

That’s the itch I have wanted to scratch. We need universities that will recognise that their institutional mutual obligation is not transacted merely
by granting degrees and then every year thereafter sending out brochures inviting its highly qualified alumni to give generously to the university’s noble
cause.

In my case I am forced to ask: How is it that the university has not required me to give back by post-doctoral research and to be part of its ongoing research
effort? How is it that it can take on a candidate without expecting to maintain its responsibility to provide ongoing support after graduation, and also,
in order that its own research work is enhanced by my contribution?

Note, my point is not to ask that my work be judged before I do it. I am referring here to the lack of effort or empathy that seems to come from the side
of those administrating higher education institutions in Australia.

Writing On Line Opinion pieces, or developing my own Blogspot, are indeed satisfying experiences and I would not want them to be taken away. But such personal
satisfaction at getting a paper published is not the main game. What I am concerned about is the development of genuine policy for the severely disabled,
and in particular, policies that will seek to meet needs that arise from progressive disability.

I have always done what is needed to be done, and I only wish to keep bringing to light the individualism of people with disabilities.

PETER BOOK POSTER FINAL

I talk about social issues and disability in my book, 6 and a ½ Years on a Dunghill: Life in Specialist Disability Accommodation.

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 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.