Kenya has implemented various reforms and initiatives at national and county levels to address the rights and needs of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). These range from policy and legal reforms and frameworks to programmes, projects and activities that seek to mainstream disability and to offer support to PWDs. The policy frameworks targeting PWDs are anchored on the United Nation Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) while at the regional level, there exist the Protocol (1998) to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (1986) on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as well as East Africa Community Policy on Persons with Disabilities (2008).
At national level, the country has enacted the Persons with Disabilities Act (2003) and established the National Council for Persons with Disabilities to champion rights of PWDs as well as developed a plan of action on disability mainstreaming. There are also other national policies and plans that support disability mainstreaming initiatives including in gender, employment and procurement. Various sectors like housing, health, education and transport also have policies, plans, standards and measures that strengthen disability mainstreaming.
In the education sector, the Government has put in place various interventions to enhance special needs education key among them the development of the Education and Training Sector Policy that includes education needs for learners and trainees with disabilities (2019). The country has also invested in the provision of specialized human, institutional and community capacity development including; teachers, trainers, caregivers, parents, educational managers, learning support assistants and technical disability-related personnel, such as sign language interpreters, sighted guides, braille transcribers, readers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, counsellors, orientation and mobility trainers and information communication technology (ICT) experts at all levels of education and training for learners, trainees and trainers with disabilities.
Other interventions include review and reform of the curriculum to enhance creativity and problem solving skills among the learners with special needs; provision of enhanced capitation grants for learners with special needs; provisions for home-based and hospital intervention programmes to cater for children with severe disabilities who find it difficult to attend schools; establishment of Educational Assessment and Resource Centres (EARCs) to determine placement and suitable intervention measures for learners with special needs; establishment of the Kenya Institute of Special Needs Education (KISE) to ensure inclusion of PWDs in all levels of education; Development of the Special Needs Education Policy, 2009 and inclusion of special needs education in Education and Training Policy, 2019; training of special needs education teachers; and environmental modification for learners with special needs through construction of disability-friendly buildings in learning institutions.
In the health sector, disability has been mainstreamed into the Health Act No. 21, 2017. The Act stipulates that it is a function of the State to ensure the realization of health-related rights of PWDs. In light of these, the Ministry of Health has put in place frameworks to promote the disability-sensitive budgeting by health departments in counties. Interventions towards enhancing access to health services are classified into: service availability which focuses on presence of health facilities, drug supply; acceptability which focuses on attitudes of providers and quality of care; and enhanced physical access to health facilities and medical equipment. In the drive towards Universal Health Coverage, all public health facilities, including dispensaries, were accredited by the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) to cover needs of PWDs and other vulnerable groups. In addition, Community Health Volunteers have been commissioned in most counties to offer basic health services. The quality of service at health facilities are regularly assessed using the Kenya Quality Model for Health tool developed by the Ministry of Health. The government has also put in place regulations to ensure proprietors of health facilities adapt them to suit persons with disabilities.
Concerning social assistance, the national and county governments provide Cash Transfers to Persons with Severe Disability (PWSD-CT). Benefits for the programme are in the form of regular and reliable cash transfers to improve purchasing power or consumption among households with PWDs. The programme has been found to play an increasingly important role in the fight against extreme poverty by supplementing incomes in poor households, enabling them to increase their consumption of food and other basic items.
Besides these achievements, PWDs face various challenges in enhancing their welfare, including in social, economic and political areas. They face barriers to social, economic and political development of PWDs manifested through limited access to education and its attainment, high unemployment and adverse working environment, exclusion in property ownership and business opportunities, unfavorable built environment, hostile transport facilities and behaviour, limited access to assistive devices, negative societal perceptions, retrogressive cultural attitudes and practices, stigma, limited access to justice, limited political representation, and constrained participation in sports and art. These and other exclusions have resulted in high poverty incidence among PWDs, relative to people without disabilities.
Regarding participation in productive economic activities, PWDs tend to suffer a higher level unemployment and earn low as a result of employer perceptions and discrimination. The Government through the Constitution (2010) and Access to Procurement Opportunities programme has enhanced PWDs participation in entrepreneurship initiatives. The extent of exclusion varies based on type and severity of disability, with people with mental health difficulties or intellectual impairments being the most excluded.
To address labour participation challenge among PWDs, continuous empowerment and capability enhancement is necessary for them to have access to jobs and other available economic opportunities. It is also important to set up a national and county level data system to help seal any data and information gaps on PWDs towards strengthening planning and decision making in improving the welfare of PWDs. Furthermore, disability mainstreaming requires a multi-disciplinary approach.
The 3rd KIPPRA Annual Regional Conference under the theme “Enhancing Inclusivity by Empowering Persons with Disabilities” offers a platform for stakeholders to engage in policy dialogue on pertinent public policy issues, on inclusion of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in the development agenda.
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The conference is planned for 28th - 30th July 2020 through a Virtual Platform and targets various stakeholders including: national and county governments (ministries, departments and agencies); international and regional institutions; private sector; civil society and organizations mandated with disability issues; persons with disabilities; and other special interest groups, capacity building developers, policymakers, academia among other sector players.
The conference shall also explore interventions towards enhancing inclusivity of PWDs in various COVID-19 interventions.