Want PWDs to vote for you? Here are their irreducible minimums
Dr Phitalis Were Masakhwe and Dr Tom Odhiambo
| May 10th 2022 | 5 min read
It was Harold Lasswel who said that politics is the art and science of deciding who gets what, when and how signifying that those who get the power in its absolute sense hold the key to various issues that are pertinent to the growth and development of a nation.
As we edge closer towards the next general election that is slated for August 9, 2022, aspirants from various political parties and those vying independently are criss-crossing the
country to hunt for votes that would propel them to the echelons of power.
The adage of all times reminds us that politics is about interests, the political class will come together to propel their interests in an effort to capture power. The notion remains practical even to those who understand politics remotely. The voters are equally aligning themselves to political parties that best suit their interests, and Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) are not an exception.
The Americans are famous for the "no free lunch”, slogan. But it’s the French that are more succinct and pronounced on matters interests. Their “quid pro quo” jingle or scratch my back I scratch yours comes to mind. PWDs can no longer afford to be flower girls or boys in these coming elections. As an organised interest group, they must put forward their cogent agenda in the arena of needs for analysis reflection and action.
They must acutely negotiate their interests, their needs and their concerns with prospective Member of County Assembly in their wards, their Member of Parliament and Senate and the next President. Those with their best interests and plausible proposal on how they will significant address their agenda should earn their votes and nothing else.
In as much as the Constitution guarantees some basic and fundamental rights to every citizen including equal and full participation at all levels of governance, to most PWDs this has remained a distant dream. This population remains at abyss of its own peril as leaders bluntly ignore their plight; making it difficult for them to fully participate in development, decision making and accessing their basic needs. The PWDs therefore, remain largely aloof as exclusion takes centre-stage with most policies and plans being overly opaque and insufficient to address their needs and concerns.
It’s not lost to most of us that legislations are in place, monumentally so; presenting an ideal situation that could improve the lives of PWDs, but implementation remains a mirage. As we ponder about the inherent biases and lack of engagement for PWDs, it is a clarion call to all aspirants to articulate the varied concerns that have remained systemic and perpetuated by unyielding discourse that seems not to go beyond mere talks.
It’s high time our leaders treated the plight of PWDs with the seriousness it deserves so that they are not marginalised and excluded from what matters to them. The political class should therefore step up their efforts through formulation of robust policies and plans that are adaptable and comprehensive enough to guarantee inclusivity.
In anticipation to a better future ahead, PWDs are therefore compelled to demand for the inclusion of their 10-point agenda in individual candidates and political parties manifestos and plans as some of the irreducible minimum for their votes.
Your manifestos and plans should adequately address education and training of PWDs. Meaningful empowerment of PWDs can only come when we make their education and skills development mandatory. To this end, we need to urgently revive and fund the Education Assessment and Resource Centres across the country to be able to assess children with various forms of impairments and to accordingly refer and place them, depending on their needs and degree of impairment.
It is also envisaged that your plans will guarantee conducive learning environment where we can adjust and adapt public schools and all training institutions to have the necessary enabling supporting environment for children and learners with various forms of impairments so as to foster integration and inclusion in the long run. You should also expand space and infrastructure for learners with severe disabilities who may not meaningfully benefit from regular schools. Your plans should equally put in place adequate mechanisms for effective and robust implementation of the accessibility clause in the Persons with Disabilities Act 2003. Those who fail to implement this clause should be sanctioned.
It is our expectation that your polices and plans have provided mechanisms for reviewing the Persons with Disabilities Act 2003 and the policy to make them relevant and in tandem with the 2010 Constitution and the present realities and needs of PWDs.
The policies should explicitly give direction on development of new social protection regime to cushion/support the unemployed PWDs and those with severe/multiple disabilities. Further, enterprise/economic empowerment entities should factor and focus on PWDs.
For inclusivity and adequate representation of PWDs, clear mechanisms must be put in place to effect the PWDs 2003 and the 2010 Constitution requirement of 5 per cent consideration of PWDs in both appointive and elective positions. Commitment to support the political empowerment for PWDs is therefore paramount.
We further remain hopeful that, your plans have elaborate strategies and means of mounting public awareness, education and sensitisation on disability rights and development in line with the Constitution which recognises sign expression as the key language to enable effective integration of the deaf in society. We need a robust plan for its development and utilisation in public discourse.
The National Council for Persons with Disabilities as well as the National Development Fund for Persons with Disabilities which are key in social economic and educational development of PWDs, yet they are grossly underfunded. This needs to be reviewed.
Finally, support for the development of robust Groups of PWDs and Parents of Disabled Children's organisations as legitimate vehicles for effective engagement with policymakers.
As we chant our political slogans, most of which depict a unified and peaceful Kenya for all, it is imperative to move together as one indivisible nation where everybody feels empowered to fully participate in every aspect of life. Persons with Disabilities must wake up from slumber and effectively use their votes to effect the positive changes they have been yearning for, it is possible, and it’s doable.
Dr Were Masakhwe is a Disability Inclusion Specialist. Dr Odhiambo teaches literature and performing arts, the University of Nairobi
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