Survey exposes Nairobi as unfriendly to people with disabilities

Over 600 buildings and their corresponding streets were mapped and rated

In Summary

• The study was to establish how easy it is for a person with a disability to independently navigate the city and go about his/her business

• The mapping covered buildings and streets in the Central Business District and Westlands

Most Nairobi buildings and streets are unfriendly to people with disability, a new survey shows.

The survey, by the Open Institute Ability Programme, covered the availability of ramps, lighting in corridors and braille in the lifts.

The other factors were auditory lifts (the kind that announces which floor one is in), the width of corridors and doors for wheelchairs and availability of special toilets for PWDs.

The mapping team also reviewed the availability of unobstructed ramps at street corners, auditory traffic lights that beep for pedestrians to cross, clear pedestrian crossings and strips that allow visually impaired people to know they are near a road.

The Open Institute collaborates with governments, citizens, civil society organisations and other players to find ways for citizens and governments to work together to make lives better.

The study was done between January and May last year in downtown Nairobi and Westlands.

"We are suffering in silence," Crystal Asige, the lead programmes director, said during the release of the report at the Serena Hotel in Nairobi on Wednesday.

Asige, who became blind at age 16, said the objective of the mapping (survey) was to establish how easy it is for a person with a disability to independently navigate the city and go about their business.

Over 600 buildings – both public and private – and their corresponding streets were mapped and rated as follows:  0-20 per cent inaccessible, 20-40 per cent somewhat accessible, 41-60 per cent moderately accessible and 61-80 per cent accessible.

Over 81 per cent of the buildings were very accessible. Most buildings in Westlands were accessible to PWDs.

The surveyors were chased away in some buildings.

Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi said there was an urgent need to address some of these issues.

Wanyonyi said Persons with Disability Act has been in existence since 2003. "We have beautiful legislation but it is not implemented," he said.

"Right now, it is not aligned to the (2010) Constitution," he said. However, the Act will soon be amended by the National Assembly.

Wanyonyi said those designing roads and buildings will have no excuse not to implement the law after the amendment.

The Disability Act is intended to (among other things) guarantee PWD  barrier-free and disability-friendly environment to buildings, roads and social facilities.

The Act required all proprietors of buildings to adapt their buildings as may be specified by the National Council for Persons with Disabilities within five years of the law being enacted.

The buildings should have been compliant by 2017.

“We released this map to urge the government to crack down on the non-compliant buildings and to encourage the public to audit and map out their own buildings on Map Ability," Asige said.

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