The State should do more to accommodate those living with disabilities
By Phitalis Masakhwe | January 29th 2016
Article 54 of the Constitution outlaws discrimination on the basis of disability.
It calls on the State and all its organs to do all it can to ensure equal opportunities for all citizens including those with living with disability.
This position is further reinforced by the Persons with Disabilities Act (2003) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), which Kenya ratified in 2008 making it part of our domestic laws.
Kenya has witnessed phenomenal growth of university education.
This growth has led to the training and production of the much-needed human resource making Kenya one of the few countries in sub-Saharan Africa with the requisite skills and labour even for export.
This process should be as inclusive as it can to allow all Kenyans, even those living with disabilities, to enjoy this expanded growth and development.
However, a serious appraisal of state of universities reveals institutions that are ill-prepared not only to support the educational aspirations of students and lecturers with disabilities, but more importantly to do research, teach, and champion the persons-with-disability cause.
Disability in Kenya, especially in rural traditional communities, is still not clearly understood.
These communities still associate disability with a bad omen thereby stigmatising it.
Universities can do a lot to help change this scenario.
By having a compulsory course on disability for all students joining their institutions, universities can support sensitisation of those young minds to help them appreciate the diversity brought about by disability.
The young folks can then graduate knowing that persons with disabilities are like anybody else albeit with mobility, hearing, sight and related challenges.
This will allow them to treat the disabled with the dignity they deserve.
The things that are least understood about disability could also be subject of debate, research and study in our universities.
But how many Master’s or PhD theses have our universities churned out on these issues?
How many of our universities, particularly public, are teaching disability studies as a development and human rights issue hence developing the requisite human resources for disability mainstreaming?
Most universities are still stuck in the past and only focus on special needs education (SNE).
While SNE is relevant and required, in other jurisdictions disability studies are more pronounced and have been upgraded in line with the global disability rights development.
Disability does not make one less of a scholar or intellectual and universities must endeavour to harness the talents and potential in disabled persons.
We must learn to incorporate people living with disability into the very fabric of our society.
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