My name is Brian and I had an accident in 2014 that changed my life. I became disabled because of the accident. Disabled people are supposed to be protected by the constitution but we face different challenges like the lack of accessibility and other challenges of which the biggest one is economic – Getting A Job When You Are Disabled Is Very Hard & You Can Get Depressed & Give Up In Life. People with disabilities have to navigate through a lot, and I discuss some of the issues here.
I have the worst memory in history, I don’t remember names, dates or even faces. I feel like this is punishment for all those fish vitamins I gave to my buddies in high school rather than take them myself. Though most of the information in my brain exists only in bits and pieces, I remember one thing clearly; the day I found out just how disabled I was.
I was in Kenyatta Hospital in one of the wards and I had recently come from the theatre. Dr. Ombachi had screwed eight bolts to my fractured spine in an attempt to rectify the damage that had been done and hopefully salvage whatever had been left.
Every day around noon, two doctors would walk into our ward and come to my direction. One was a physiotherapist and the other an occupational therapist. On that day, they suggested that I try to assume a sitting position. I was elated; I had been on my back for almost a month. When they tried to place me on a wheelchair, my world went black and silent. I had passed out midair before I even got to the chair. That’s when I realized that what I had wasn’t a common cold that I could nurse off in a few days. This was going to be a part of who I was probably for the rest of my life.
Kenya is classified as a developing country. This means that there are still important sectors in our nation that need to be improved in order to achieve globally accepted standards. In the case of disabled people, I believe that we still have a long way to go. Without sounding too critical, I think that as a nation we are trying to acknowledge all the disadvantaged groups, but I fear we are not trying hard enough.
The subject of equal treatment and rights rarely gets the attention it deserves which is quite saddening since the number of disabled people in our country is estimated to be over 2 million. The government aside, it is my belief that we as a people haven’t quite embraced diversity completely.
Disabled people are still treated like second class citizens with many falling victims to retrogressive cultural practices. We hear stories of people with albinism being brutally murdered to be used for witchcraft. Just a few weeks ago we read the story of a mentally challenged woman who was being raped every day at her home by passers-by. This shouldn’t be happening.
It’s hard to believe, but there are actual laws in our constitution that are tailored to specifically look out for disabled people such as myself. My favourite one states that any person with a disability has the right to be treated with dignity and to be addressed in a manner that isn’t demeaning. Take a moment and look within yourself, is this something you do? If yes, thank you for being a law-abiding citizen. If no, what a better day to change your ways.
Coming from rural Nakuru, I hear about laws been passed in parliament. Laws that are supposedly meant to change the lives of disabled people. I have heard about tax exemption laws, tenders for the youth, women and PWD, right to reasonable access to public places, right to equal opportunity in education and employment.
It’s easy to be carried away by the euphoria of hope and expectation but in the end, mentally challenged children in my village are still struggling to get proper education because of inadequate funds. If the government can build two streams of classes for the rest of the children, what is one proper class for the challenged children? I hear stories of a kitty set aside to help the old and disabled in the community. I went and got myself registered but five years later no funds have been received by either me or any of my disabled friends.
Every time around the election period, various factions rise to condemn the state of over-representation in our country. They see no purpose in having such a big government that costs the taxpayer almost half of our budget on salaries. When asked about possible solutions, the seat reserved for the disabled representative always comes to question. Well, the law states that at least 5% of the members of the public in elective and appointive bodies should be persons with disabilities.
There are very few notable leaders who represent our community in the right way. We need to be able to see our leaders fighting the good fight by passing bills and policies in parliament to try and empower the blind, deaf, paralyzed and mentally challenged population in our country.
I would be mistaken if I said that there are no proper representatives… There are some but they are not enough. Some of those in office rarely make their voices heard, they remain behind the doors of their offices until its “National Day For People With Disabilities” that’s when they come out to make brief appearances. Public service should mean more to them.
It’s not often that you encounter a disabled person in an employed position. We don’t have nearly half as many job opportunities as able people have. Employers seem not to believe that we can be as productive as anyone else. Think about it, is your dentist albino? Is your child taught by a teacher on a wheelchair or crutches? Have you interacted with an autistic cashier at your local supermarket? Chances are, you will only encounter one disabled person holding on to a stable job that pays well and has proper healthcare.
All this is strange since the law provides that the state shall take measures, including affirmative action programs, to ensure that Persons with disabilities access relevant education and training. They will also have opportunities to associate, be represented and participate in political, social, economic and other spheres of life.
All that being said, you can understand why I fell into a depression that day I passed out midair. Somehow I knew that I was going into a society where laws exist only on paper. Coming from rural Nakuru I knew that I wasn’t going to go return to school because my campus hadn’t adhered to the law that states every person has a right to education and training. The best they could do was suggest that I hire a lecturer as my tutor. Who were these laws written for?
After all is said and done, I hold on to the trust I have in the process. I and other disabled people continue to expect more from our representatives and government. We understand that change is a gradual process and though ours can sometimes be disappointing, society needs to adapt faster into a nation where disabled people are seen as people rather than broken things.