What you need to know:
- Part of the focus of this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities is a review of the status of the country’s progress on the rights of PWDs.
- The Ministry of Health has also developed a guideline and manual on the identification and referral of children with disabilities and special needs.
Some 15 per cent of the global population — and two per cent, or 900,000 people, in Kenya — are living with some form of disability. Their meaningful participation in all aspects of society is central to the idea of equality in all its forms.
Inclusion of persons with disabilities (PWDs) and the advancement of their rights is at the heart of the Constitution and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
During the 2018 Global Disability Summit hosted by Kenyan and United Kingdom governments and the International Disability Alliance, Kenya made eight commitments on disability. They focused on inclusive education, economic empowerment, ending stigma and discrimination, collection of accurate data on PWDs and harnessing of technology and innovation to drive national disability policies and programmes.
Part of the focus of this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPWD), to be marked on Friday in Nairobi under the theme “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-Covid-19 world”, is thus a review of the status of the country’s progress on the rights of PWDs.
As Kenya prepares to take part in the second Global Disability Summit next year, it is important to show that interventions are embedded in the policies and institutions that drive the development agenda. Milestones include a single registry by the National Social Protection Secretariat to coordinate data on vulnerable persons on state welfare.
The Kenya Population and Housing Census 2019 features data on disability, key to planning and decision-making. The Ministry of Health has also developed a guideline and manual on the identification and referral of children with disabilities and special needs.
PWDs can and want to be productive members of society; to do so, their right to achieve the highest attainable standard of health without discrimination is paramount. Women with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to barriers to sexual and reproductive health services access and information.
Health workers often wrongly assume that women with disabilities are asexual or unfit to be mothers. PWDs face increased vulnerability to gender-based violence, compounded by discrimination based on disability. A 2018 global study by UNFPA revealed that young people with disabilities are nearly three times more likely to experience sexual violence than people without disabilities.
Improving the capacity, knowledge and attitude of health workers on the rights and health needs of PWDs is, therefore, critical to achieving universal health coverage and increasing access to cross-sectorial public health interventions, such as water, sanitation and hygiene services. To deliver patient-centred quality health services, the infrastructure in all health facilities should take accessibility into consideration.
A disability is only disabling when it prevents someone from doing what they wish to do. The Covid-19 pandemic has illustrated the crucial role that technology and innovation can play in supporting disability-inclusive development and ensuring no one is left behind. Assistive devices and technologies have enabled PWDs to fully participate in education, employment and leisure.
These technologies must remain accessible to all PWDs, even in the post-Covid-19 period. Mainstreaming has also proven to be an effective strategy in ensuring that the concerns and experiences of PWDs are factored in the design, implementation and evaluation of policies and programmes. Organisations must work faster to adopt such processes that are geared towards inclusivity while removing barriers to make physical and digital environments more accessible to all.
When barriers to their inclusion are removed, PWDs are empowered, which benefits the entire community. Let us address exclusion in all its forms for a better society.
Prof Kobia is the Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Gender, Senior Citizens Affairs and Special Programmes. Dr Olajide is the UNFPA Representative for Kenya