Private sector firms have been urged to consider employing people living with disabilities (PWDs) as they have the potential and value to boost organisations.
The call was made on Friday during a breakfast meeting in Nairobi organised by Light of The World, Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa) and the National Council of Persons with Disabilities.
The meeting was aimed at exploring the value that people living with disabilities bring to the business value chains ahead of the celebration of the International Day of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) yesterday.
"Today, people with disabilities should not be given job opportunities based on their status and as tokenism but looking at the value they will bring to the company," said Light Of The World Country Director Stephen Njenga.
"Fifteen per cent of the global population is composed of people with disabilities by extension they have caregivers, family members who are living with them and if you look at the value these people bring in terms of purchasing power."
He said there is a need to contextualise the thinking on how PWDs are involved in product development and design and also become the next consumers of these products and services.
Court of Appeal Judge Dr Imaana Laibuta, who is also the board chairperson of inAble, said disability should not be a qualification for getting a job but one's qualifications and competencies.
InAble is an organisation that champions the digital inclusion of people living with disabilities.
The event saw over 20 private firms sign to commit to inclusivity in their business value chains.
They will be monitored by Kepsa on how they implement it as the association engages more to commit.
It also emerged that the lack of a disability mainstreaming policy for the private sector remains a hindrance to the inclusion of PWDs.
Kenya is one of the countries that has made gains with the Disability Act, 2012 which has provided opportunities like contracts for the disabled, and tax rebates to employers that hire the disabled.
However, the failure of enforcement by the government and lack of awareness of these benefits by PWDs are also challenges.
Mark Obuya, immediate past chairperson of the Federation of Kenyan Employers and Kepsa labour sector chair said companies stand to benefit from tax incentives like rebates if they come up with disabilities mainstreaming policy to ensure inclusion.
Eva Muraya, Kepsa board member and director of the gender and small and medium enterprises, said the association launched a gender mainstreaming policy in March this year.
The policy, she said, will guide and instruct on how the private sector can understand the value of including everybody to participate in the realisation of these benefits.
"This policy does recognise that there are disadvantaged groups of persons who include those abled differently and as a private sector, we want to use all the available data to work with other partners to realise that those groups of people get chances to exploit their various social and economic potential," said Ms Muraya.
National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) Chief Executive Hassan Harun said there is a need for the private sector to re-engineer the concept of corporate social responsibility and look at PWDs as people who can contribute to companies' growth.
Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Florence Bore called for collaboration with the private sector to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities.
She said the government is committed to disability inclusion and enhancement and accessibility of persons with disabilities in all spheres of societal existence.
In promoting the inclusion of PWDs, she said, Kenya has established a robust legal framework including Article 54 of the Bill of Rights.
''The Persons with Disabilities Act No.14 of 2003 was also enacted to secure rights of PWDs as equal citizens," Bore said in a speech read on her behalf by Dickson Oruko from the ministry.
"As you are aware, the ministry is currently working on the review of this Act through the finalisation of the Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2021."
She said the Bill has already gone through the National Assembly and was taken to the Senate during the previous parliament.
"The ministry intends to introduce it to senators as a priority Bill for finalisation so that we can have a new law for the disabled before the year ends.''
The CS also said the country is implementing a commitment to developing a new digital registration system of persons with disabilities through NCPD that will provide adequate socio-economic data on PWDs, which is critical in policy development and allocation of resources.
Already, she said, 4,000 cards had been distributed by last month to PWDs under the new system.