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The government has laid down legal structures in the 2010 Constitution and a number of Acts of Parliament, to ensure that citizenry enjoy their rights, regardless of inherent limitations like disabilities in some. The factoring of disability aspects in existing frameworks, policies and structures is key. Legal structures that touch on the Bill of Rights and the giving of special attention to Persons With Disability (PWDs) to enable them meet their needs and aspirations are stipulated in Chapter 4, Section 54 of the Constitution, the Persons With Disability-PWD Act 2003 and the Kenya Special Needs Education [SNE] policy.  

Disability is any physical, sensory, mental, or other impairment including visual, hearing, learning and physical incapability, which impacts adversely on social, economic or environmental participation. Sadly, disability, a club often stereotyped as bad omen can without notice enroll anyone, anytime, as was the case of Anne Muiga, a teacher at Kilimani Primary School, in Nairobi who lost vision. For this reason, the government has set up in all ministries, the gender, disability and HIV mainstreaming committees among others, to fast track mainstreaming of related issues so that PWDs can be integrated into all development activities to achieve local and international development goals.

Disability mainstreaming enables institutions to come up with clear strategies of making sure that the needs, aspirations and interests of PWDs form an integral part during the designing, implementation and monitoring of plan of action/activities in accordance with legislations, policies and guidelines. These committees create awareness of needs, aspirations and rights of PWDs through sensitisation and training the public to change negative attitudes and perceptions toward these groups as well as teach disability etiquette and promote inclusion of PWDs in social activities.

Mainstreaming can be done for gender, disability or other related groups, such people living with HIV/Aids, who face stigma and discrimination.  

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Taking the lead in mainstreaming is the National Council for People Living with Disabilities (NCPWD). The council trains ministerial committees to better marshal the government’s agenda and ensure equal rights to citizenry. One such training, by NCPWD was conducted by Manyonge Simiyu Isaac and Batholomew Agengo, both with physical disabilities, to members of a ministerial committee to which I belong. It was elating to learn firsthand of the needs of PWDs.

Key principles

Among the lessons were the first steps in creating an atmosphere that allows smooth integration of PWDS into society. Foremost is to learn disability etiquette, that entails relying on common sense to guide interactions with PWDs and be courteous and respectful.Among the principles are: pursue respectful communication and equal treatment when interacting with PWDs, without feeling obligated to act as a caregiver to them.  Ask if help is needed, but always wait until your offer is accepted. Listen to any instructions the person may have. Share the same social courtesies with people with disabilities that you would share with someone else. If you shake hands with people you meet, offer your hand to everyone you meet, regardless of disability. If the person is unable to shake your hand, he or she will tell you.

Important to note is that PWDs have families, jobs, hobbies, likes and dislikes, problems and joys like everyone else, hence disability should not define them or make them disability heroes.  The onus is on the public to stand up and join government efforts in ensuring that each person lives a satisfying and fulfilled life.

- The writer is a member of Ministerial Gender, Disability Mainstreaming Committees. [email protected]

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Constitution Persons With Disability PWDs PWD Act 2003
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