For a long time, persons with disabilities (PWDs) have been perceived as desperate, illiterate poor members of the society. Their numbers on our streets keep rising because society has encouraged discriminatory tendencies against them.
In a report by the Kenya National Survey for Persons with Disabilities, at least 15 per cent of PWDs are affected by environmental factors daily and three per cent on a weekly basis with the most common cases of disabilities emerging from terminal illnesses such as cancer, and HIV and Aids. As a result, the percentage of attempted and successful suicides among PWDs keeps rising.
Constitutionally, they are entitled to fair treatment without discrimination. Article 54 of the Constitution states; “A person with disability is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect and be addressed and referred to in a manner that is not demeaning, access educational institutions and facilities for persons with disabilities that are integrated into society with the interests of the person, to reasonable access to all places, public transport and information.” It further states that they ought to access and use the appropriate means of communication, including braille and hearing devices.
On the contrary, there are less special schools, which mean fewer resources for learning. Such case scenarios force the people under their care to dig deeper into their pockets in a bid to admit them to "normal" institutions. It is in such institutions that they encounter more challenges.
Discrimination creeps in from not only their colleagues but also their teachers. Additionally, PWDs are perceived to be incapable of performing their work effectively compared with "normal" employees. Majority of them are denied internships and other job opportunities.
Employers should be impartial when conducting interviews. Both private and public institutions should ensure that they implement the rule of the thumb by hiring 5 per cent of disabled people as enshrined in the Constitution; “The state shall ensure the progressive implementation of the principle that at least five percent of the members of the public in elective and appointive bodies are persons with disabilities.”
The Government in its implementation of the Big Four agenda ought to budget for construction of more special schools, brimmed with sufficient resources, more interpreters within their areas of expertise, affordable hearing aids and most importantly, empowerment through words of affirmation and support. It is without doubt that anyone can fall victim, hence let us cut out any ounce of discrimination towards PWDs.