• Approximately 6.5 million Kenyans living with disability are facing accessibility challenges.
• Matatu industry says they are willing to ferry disabled persons but encounter discriminatory arrests from police.
Can people living with disabilities comfortably use public transport?
During the unveiling of disability-friendly public service vehicles on Thursday, persons with disability requested the development of a transport system inclusive of all people in Kenya.
They highlighted transportation, access to schools and highrise buildings as some of their biggest challenges.
Nominated MP David Ole Sankok said that approximately 6.5 million Kenyans living with disability were facing accessibility challenges.
"When you are on a wheelchair and it's rush hour, matatus will not pick you up because you are slow as a person with disability and when they do they charge you triple fare," he said.
Westlands MP Timothy Wanyonyi encouraged design of infrastructure that is disability-friendly.
"The issues we have are already addressed in our legislation but have not been implemented. We need to improve existing laws to enable us implement these issues faster," he said.
The MP, who is also chair of the Kenya Disability Parliamentary Association, said that accessibility was a right and not a luxury.
"The government should design roads that are adequate enough to accommodate ramps for persons with disability," he said.
Wanyonyi said those who licence construction should ensure they incorporate lifts and ramps for persons with disability.
National Gender and Equality Commission chair Joyce Mutinda said there is a strong urgency to accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities.
She cited lack of policy framework and incentives for inclusivity as reasons why transport services in Kenya have been less inclusive of the needs of the most vulnerable populations.
The gender commission vice chair Dr Joel Chomba said challenges facing persons with disability are multi-faceted.
Apart from physical challenges, Chomba revealed that persons with disability also deal with attitudinal barriers.
"The physically challenged are regarded as burdens and mishandled during travelling while the visually impairment are constantly disoriented when drivers changed routes," he said.
Acting director of Road safety Christine Ogut said that the national transport and safety authority has a curriculum for drivers and special content for persons with disability.
She added that the authority will launch an action plan in June to address accessibility and mobility.
"We are undertaking road safety audits that look at project design, planning, construction and maintenance to ensure safety needs of all users have been incorporated," she said.
She also revealed vehicle modification had been addressed and new vehicles will be user friendly to persons with disability.
However, Gerald Chengo, a representative of matatu owners association, said they faced discriminatory arrests when they tried to help those with disabilities.
He added that the industry was willing to ferry disabled persons but encountered challenges while dropping them off.