MY STORY: I can see far despite my height
By PAUL KARIUKI
| February 1st 2017
The year was 1972 and we were coming from a wedding party in Kangundo, Machakos County. I was six-years-old then and was seated in the front seat with my parents in the hired matatu.
In those days, matatus looked like refurbished pickups where the back seats were two rows of bench and passengers sat facing one another. Safety belts were unheard of then.
My excitement about riding in the front seat, was, however, cut short when the driver lost control of the vehicle, which rolled several times after veering off the road. No one died but some escaped with injuries.
I was the one who suffered the most severe injuries that were to shape my life forever. My spinal cord was injured, affecting my height. I stopped growing in height at three feet, making many think I have dwarfism.
As a kid, it was hard to realise I was disabled and therefore I didn’t pity myself. That helped me to accept myself as I advanced in years. I was taken to Joytown School - a special school - in Thika for my primary education and part of my high school education.
I later joined Kericho High School, a regular school, where I passed with two principals before joining the Kenya School of Law for a diploma in law.
Upon graduation, I got a job with the Judiciary in 2000 and worked in Nakuru as a judicial officer until I was transferred to Molo recently.
However, the challenges I faced while growing up and even today have made me vocal on the rights of the disabled. I represent the disabled in Nakuru County.
Some in the society view persons with disabilities differently, with some parents hiding their disabled children because of stigmatisation.
Disability is not a curse, and no one wishes it upon himself or herself. Discrimination makes one feel less accepted or appreciated in the society.
It is important to remember that today, one can be physically healthy and strong, but tomorrow, the same person can find himself or herself confined to a wheelchair
That the society values able people and views the disabled as sub-humans or worse than that is what saddens me. Everything is designed in such a way that the disabled feels marginalised. Sometimes I walk into a banking hall and I cannot see the person behind the teller and he or she can also not see me unless I stand on an elevated platform.
The same applies to buildings. Sometimes you have an appointment with someone on the seventh floor yet the building has no lift. The staircases and side railings are placed in such a way that you could easily fall. More so, many buildings don’t have ramps to ease mobility.
It is very challenging and humiliating at times when it comes to public transport. Many are the times I flag down a public service vehicle, and it slows down but suddenly takes off when the crew notices my condition. It doesn’t help matters that even in my 50s, I am still taunted like a kid, though I stoically bear all the humiliation.
Disability does not mean one cannot live a purpose driven life. My height does not mean I have no vision or lack foresight. I have risen above discrimination and stigmatisation.
That is why I am fighting for the senatorial position in Nakuru County with able-bodied contestants this coming General Election.
Leadership is not a privilege for the select few or able-bodied people; anyone can lead despite their bodily size or height.
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