Despite the government’s laws to ensure the inclusion of Persons With Disability (PWD) in Kenya, what is being experienced in reality renders the policies practical disinformation.

The constitution stipulates that persons with disabilities are entitled to barrier-free and disability-friendly environments to enable them to have access to buildings, roads and other social amenities and assistive devices and other equipment to promote their mobility.

Accessibility and mobility of some PWDs to most buildings in Kenya are only made possible in paper rather than in practice.

Mr Mathias Tsuma Mwatsuma, National Council of People With Disabilities (NCPWD) coordinator in Kilifi explains how PWDs rights are instead exercised in the Kenyan constitution, unlike other groups like the female gender whom the government and various organizations have practically fought to defend.

Speaking to the media, Mwatsuma said that the buildings in towns like Kilifi still can’t be accessed with PWDs using wheelchairs because there are no ramps to ease accessibility.

“The laws exist but when it comes to matters concerning basic services, Persons With Disabilities are stigmatized whereby, they are not treated with the dignity a human being deserves. In such cases, they are isolated in receiving the basic services other people receive”, Tsuma said.

Additionally, Tsuma added that the hospitals in Kenya do not give equal opportunity for medical services to PWDs who are not able to hear or talk arguing that you will barely see sign language interpreters and assistive devices in the facilities.

“Other challenges are difficulty in the accessibility of places that offer basic services, there might be ease of accessibility of the social amenities but it happens that there are no sign language interpreters for patients who can’t hear nor talk”, he added.

The constitution states that the health program under the ministry should enable persons with disabilities to receive free rehabilitation and medical services in public and privately owned health institutions.

It further states that the health program under the ministry should avail field medical personnel to local health institutions for the benefit of persons with disabilities, and provide prompt attendance by medical personnel to persons with disabilities.

The question is, does the government impose a condition to all the hospitals to employ medical personnel with the ability to assist PWDs in prompt services or does it just advocate for this in papers?

According to Tsuma, advertisements such as job opportunities through the media especially the print do not favour PWDs who can’t see while the constitution states that every citizen has the right to information.

Kilifi County Disability Network(KCDN) during a meeting to enhance collaboration and strengthening mechanisms towards a more inclusive and disability friendly programming in the county. Photo by Treeza Auma, KTMN

The Chief Executive Officer of the Coast Association of PWDs Hamisa Zaja questioned the government why it can’t implement the employment act that advocates for at least 5% of elective and appointive positions to be held by PWDs.

After the last general elections, the community of PWDs across the country protested the lack of consideration in the various elective and appointive positions. It clearly indicated that the government rather disinforms the citizen by putting on the constitution what it can’t practice in reality.

“There are many different matters that to date are not being looked into for the well-being of the persons with disabilities. For example, the nomination of two representatives of persons with disabilities, some counties didn’t nominate anyone, some nominated one person”, Zaja said.

Zaja said she has lived to witness no member of her community, PWDs, appointed in any ministerial position as much the constitution advocates for it.

She further added that most PWDs are not able to access the basic services as it is mentioned in the constitution. She gave the example of Huduma centres from where the basic documents are obtained but even wheelchairs or tricycles can’t access them.

Douglas Mwadori, Youth’s rights defender at Matsangoni in Kilifi pointed out that the government policies protecting inclusion in Kenya only exist in the papers but rarely in implementation.

“Primarily the government does not have data on all the PWD even in the counties. For instance, Kilifi County does not know how many PWD is in the County and their precise location”, Mwadori said.

He suggested that the government should create a special unit to go deep into the local areas to address the challenges the PWDs are facing by first getting the correct data of the PWDs from the ground.

He said that PWDs face many challenges, which are only addressed by the constitution but not in reality.

Sikubali Kaingu, a resident from Kajajini in Malindi said that he personally has never benefitted from the policies created by the government to protect PWDs.

He is the chairperson of a group of PWDs in Ganda ward, which he says has never benefitted from relief food distribution.

He added that he only sees and hears on the television about the benefits PWDs are entitled to because they have never reached him or any person he knows.

Hannah Waniru, Policy advocacy and communications officer of PAMODZI project implemented by Kesho Kenya, confirmed that there has been a gap between the disability policies and their implementation.

She said that PAMODZI for inclusive education in collaboration with the government is bridging the gap by ensuring that the inclusion policies are implemented.

Wanjiru mentioned their aim is to work together with leaders, the county government and any other stakeholders to ensure that the PWDs attain quality and equitable education just as it is stipulated in the constitution.

The constitution under article 54 states that the government shall take steps to the maximum of its available resources with a view to achieving the full realization of the rights of persons with disabilities.

However, the question remains: Are these rights only right in papers but missing in Action?