Majority of Kenyans still see disabled persons as objects of pity. I believe with a collective paradigm shift of mindset we can do it [UNDP 2018]. With the new decade we can stand up and say no to discrimination and harassment of disabled persons. [UN enable 2019]
needless to say, as a totally blind person myself, I am all too familiar with such dehumanizing treatment. Often disabled individuals are treated differently, simply because we look, act, move or communicate differently. But should our differences, stemming from disabilities that we did not choose, be an excuse or justification for others to treat us as lesser individuals?
Unfortunately, many of us, the disabled Africans keep silent as this evil is perpetuated.
This is done by either family members, friends, employers and even in the public spaces.
In liberal democracies, citizens have the right to equal treatment under the law, which means that governments should not differentiate among people without good reason to do so. This is known as the principle of non-discrimination.
That’s because true equality requires a government to actually dismantle structures that perpetuate group disadvantage, either by providing preferential treatment or special protection to those on the wrong side of invisible barriers.
During my tenure as a student leader at Kenyatta university we pushed the policy agenda for affirmative action in university admissions for students with disabilities.
although we din’t get to enjoy the fruits of our advocacy.
Am grateful that the future generation of students with disabilities from 2010 din’t have to pay the price. there were great lessons.
Search as not everyone understand the journey for social justice.
Secondly as a leader you have to sacrifice for the people you lead.
camping at Professor Jude Ong’ong’a and professor Katana DVC academics and registrar academics respectively, was the order of the day.
This was to ensure no disabled person misses the exam card.
With this not withstanding the employers in both public and private sectors in Kenya need to borrow a leaf.
None of these preferential treatment policies are a magic solution for ending group discrimination and segregation, but without affirmative action policy the number of students with disabilities in both public and private universities would be far less than they are today.
On the other hand, In Kenya we have lots of disability awareness campaigns which have highly been of great improvement in the area of advocacy.
In other words, at list the mainstreaming media and social media in Kenya has highly contributed to the improved changes not like when we were starting fighting for disability space.
Additionally, we used to be chased like wild dogs when we approached media gates and other public spaces as we sort for services.
It seemed all along Blind persons were associated with begging thus the maltreatment.
Thanks to the UNCRPD the tide has really changed though we still have a long way to realize the dreams of our forefathers like EDDY Robert of the famous quote “Disability is a club.”
The reality check on Kenya is that we have adopted a more contemporary position on disabilities with accompanying policies and legislation, the general population remains rooted in the medical/charity model of disability.
I can site many examples of how Kenyans see the disabled as objects of pity who require sympathy, help or fixing. These interactions dehumanize and segregate PWDs. When one lives solely in a world of handouts and tokenistic gestures of goodwill promoted by corporate social responsibility initiatives, no dignity is earned, nor will any respect be gained.
as a Blind artist and also a professional diversity and inclusion expert many a times people want to pay less for my works in comparison with non-disabled persons [Riayan 2019].
Sometimes with out blinking they demand to be offered service for free.
You really wonder if a blind artist and consultant uses free energy and free provision of his or her needs in his or her life.
Another example is the corporate who allege to organize support for assistive devices or marathons. Do these events actually sustain the disabled persons? Do the activities benefit a few individuals with disabilities and then sing Hosana?
I vividly remember how a vision impaired was almost being lynched at a Muhindi shop in town. This incident happens when he was checking the prices of bags and shoes.
The owner thought the vision impaired individual was a thief.
As long as the disabled are viewed as lesser or alien, dehumanizing incidents like the one we experienced at the media gates, will continue to be a common occurrence. Many incidences of disability-related harassment and discrimination have gone, and will continue to go, unchallenged. Despite protective legislation, sadly, little can be done to address the dignity that has been willfully trampled upon.
As a public policy scholar, this leaves me to conclude that decency and respect for a fellow human being cannot be regulated through legislation alone.
I recognize and appreciate that my views on such matters are not
widely shared by everyone in disability movement nor in our society. I acknowledge
that there are many traditions in our society which reflect different
experiences and perspectives than my own. All the same, I am proud to be
guided by a strong code of conduct that embraces diversity with respect for
divergent differences of opinion, beliefs, identities, and other
characteristics. What I stand for demonstrates that as a blind person am from a diverse cross section of society.
As a global citizen who happens to be blind, I have had the privilege of travelling to many different countries. Of the many that I have visited, Australia and Israel stood out the most. Perhaps due to their experiences and effective implementation of the disability policies.
. In my many visits, I have yet to be discriminated against. I have been treated not only with dignity but have always been offered help respectfully
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.