Even persons with disabilities have a right to equality


Persons with disability (PWD) face many challenges. They are just people and therefore, should be treated as such.

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Persons with disability (PWD) face many challenges. These are not limited to physical or mental health issues. Disabilities limit how a child or adult functions. These limitations include—depending on the disability—difficulty in walking or climbing stairs; hearing; seeing; or concentrating, remembering or making decisions.

A recent study found that adults with disabilities report experiencing more mental distress than those without them. Adults with disabilities report experiencing frequent mental distress almost five times as often as adults without disabilities. There are many barriers to independent living of PWDs.

In Kenya, these barriers are not limited to high illiteracy rate, unemployment, poverty and increasing number of new entries due to road crashes. Psychological barriers listed by PWDs include personal perception, lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem, negative body image and the perception of others.

Being a centre of attraction all their life, it takes courage to detangle themselves from the stigma and stereotyping. Young adults face a greater challenge since some are bullied by their peers. With teenage and peer pressure, this can take a toll on their mental health, leading to stress and depression, which can make some to drop out of school.

PWDs face a variety of structural and ideological challenges that have little to do with their actual limitations. These societal stigmas are often at the root of poor mental health among individuals rather than their disability. Adults with disabilities frequently lack access to healthcare due to high costs and are also more likely to live below the poverty line than those without disabilities.

Experience abuse and neglect

Additionally, PWDs experience abuse and neglect more often than the general population, leaving them at a higher risk of developing mental disorders that further limit their participation in everyday life.

Many people often associate physical disability with intellectual disability, making these people have to work five times as hard to prove that they deserve a chance and that these chances are not a favour or given out of pity. People often deal with PWDs in such a fragile manner and often describe it as walking on egg shells. They fear offending them in conversations, thus avoid it altogether.

Persons with physical disability desire to be treated normally. Apart from not being able to do a thing or two, they are just people and, therefore, should be treated as such. Getting into mental health treatment, counselling or therapy is crucial for PWDs with mental health issues—especially as a result of a newly acquired disability.

Along with pursuing mental health treatment, it’s important to pay attention to one’s emotional health. Taking time to connect with family and friends can greatly improve mental health. Joining other PWDs can help to share challenges and provide solutions, as well as have a good laugh about stories that they can relate to can greatly steer mental health into a positive way.

- Miss Nthiana is a sexual and reproductive health advocate at Naya Kenya. [email protected]