Cries of visually impaired Kenyans unable to secure jobs
People with disabilities seeking jobs continue to grapple with discrimination and lack of inclusivity, running into obstacles that crush their hopes and ambitions.
Grace Ngili, born and raised in Kitui County, had her full eyesight until 2015, when she became blind.
The firstborn in a family of four, Ms Ngili was operated on in both eyes. She had to stay out of school as she recuperated, but she still worked hard.
Determined to pass her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam, Ms Ngili registered as a low-vision candidate and sat her exams as a large-print candidate.
But in high school, her sight problems heightened and she lost her ability to see. The transition was tough for Ms Ngili and her family, who could not comprehend the sudden change in her life.
“My parents questioned themselves. My siblings took time to adapt. I could not see and when I requested water they would place it on the table and leave it there,” she said.
She finished her training as a teacher, but she says getting a job has been an uphill task.
“I went for an interview at a private school and even though I was more qualified than the other interviewees, I never got the opportunity. Employers have the notion that I’m not capable just because I use a white cane.”
Ms Ngili urged private schools to consider increasing pay for the visually impaired so that they can hire assistants.
Ms Ngili’s experience is similar to that of Anne Njeri. Ms Njeri was born with normal eyesight but her world turned black when she was in Standard Three.
The 22-year-old admits that even though she was enrolled in a school for the visually impaired, she struggled to accept her fate.
“In my family, there is no visually impaired person. I am the only one. I felt alone,” she said.
Lead songs in church
Ms Njeri, whose talent is singing, says she is often discriminated against.
Though she has never tried to find a job, she says she always misses out on opportunities around her due to her inability to see.
“People, especially where I live, think that because I’m blind I can’t do anything.
Convincing even church ministers to allow me to lead songs in church is a hassle,” she added.
Newton Kinoti also lived in a world similar to that of Ms Ngili and Ms Njeri. Coming from a broken family, Mr Kinoti says he was born with his sight but his mother’s carelessness cost him his sight.
“My mother was not accepted by my father, so she sought help from witchdoctors. One day my mother used a solution she was given to wash my face and that is how I developed eye problems that led to my blindness,” he recounted.
Mr Kinoti, who had been living with his grandmother before her demise, says his family has always considered him an outcast.
Finding a job has also been difficult. He says he has been told that because he is blind, he cannot get a job.
“Everywhere I walk into and they see the white cane, the reception changes.
Stigmatisation is real, with employers judging us from our appearances,” Mr Kinoti laments.
To help visually impaired people find jobs, InAble, a non-profit group, organised a week-long boot camp where a group of 40 blind young people learned digital skills to promote their independence and ignite their entrepreneurship abilities.
Through assistive technology, they were taught computer skills that are compatible with the visually impaired.