Visual disability didn't stop me from achieving my dream - James Mwangi

“If you want to go far, if you want to affect persons, affect them through education.”

In Summary

• He was born with a condition called glaucoma which was discovered when he was six months old. 

• Mwangi wanted to study medicine but because of his eye sight problem, he developed interest in business and wanted to study a course that would make him a business professional.

Political analyst and business strategist James Mwangi.
Political analyst and business strategist James Mwangi.
Image: JAMES MWANGI

Born in Nairobi in 1985, James Mwangi did not let visually disability stop him from achieving his professional goals. This, he attributes to having supportive parents who took him through normal schooling, instead of a school for the blind.

Mwangi was born with a condition called glaucoma which was discovered when he was six months old. He later lost his right eye sight as he sought treatment. He underwent several surgeries at the Kenyatta Hospital and later went to Kikuyu Hospital where doctors were able to save his left eye.

"My parents decided that I was capable and they were not going to take me to Thika School for the Blind. So long as I was able to read books, I could fit within normal school. This helped me fight emotional stress and trauma. I could compete with other and I defeated them," he narrated.

"In 2004 while in form two I went in for another surgery but this time around, I lost my left sight. I however struggled through until I completed form four."

Mwangi who is currently a PhD student in Business Management, Strategic Management option then had to begin a new life. A life of darkness and for two years he battled the visual impairment challenge and decided it was time to move on with life.

Political analyst and business strategist James Mwangi at Radio Africa boardroom.
Political analyst and business strategist James Mwangi at Radio Africa boardroom.
Image: JAMES MWANGI

He enrolled at the Kenya Institute for the Blind where he studied Braille proficiency and soon he was given a job as an assistant teacher after emerging best overall student and would be paid a stipend by the principal.

He later on received information that the institution was bringing in Teachers Service Commission employed teachers and that is when he decided to go enroll for university education.

Mwangi wanted to study medicine but because of his eye sight problem, he developed interest in business and wanted to study a course that would make him a business professional.

“When I got to campus I was told that they didn’t think people with visual impairment have the capacity to undertake such kind of a course. They allocated us history and law and those are the two professions I never wanted,” he said.

“But since I didn’t have my own university I had to enroll for one of the undergraduate courses, so I took education as a stepping stone.”

Mwangi said that he asked the Kenya Methodist University, Meru campus to allow him take history and business for at least a semester to prove that he could do it and they accepted.

James Mwangi who has made a name for himself in the political analysis and business strategy fields notes that educating a visually impaired person is expensive.

“A Brailler costs around Sh95,000, a ream of paper costs around Sh8,000. Those are like the basic things like a pen and paper. ”

Political analyst and business strategist James Mwangi.
Political analyst and business strategist James Mwangi.
Image: JAMES MWANGI

He, however, said he took the education direction because he wanted to be seen as a professional and not a person living with disability and from this, he’d be able to change the approach to thing related to People Living With Disability.

Mwangi added that despite efforts by various organizations to bring the changes, little results are seen because of lack of PLWD professionals in these circles.

“We have so many people we call disability activists and I didn’t want to fall under that line because we have a lot of activists who push for a lot of things but they don’t yield anything. I decided to take a different turn, I elevated myself so that I could advocate for PLWDs in professional areas that I was going to work with.”

In analyzing politics, Mwangi says he uses his knowledge in history and politics, and strategic management to put things into perspective.

He noted that many people currently know him as a political commentator but very few can point out that he is blind.

“Many people do not know that I have visual challenges when they hear me on radio they know James Mwangi,  the analyst or strategist but only few know that I have a disability. What they have been listening to is the professional capability I have, they don’t see my disability first and that is what I am capitalizing on. Putting profession first then actualize policies that can help people living with disabilities from inside,” Mwangi added.

According to him, very few counties have incorporated PLWDs in their work and it’s because there are thresholds that have to be met. He encouraged them to pursue education which is a gateway to this.

“You are going to invest in a PLWD today but 20 or 30 years down the line you’ll see the fruits of that investment. It may take time for PLWDs to adapt in educational issues, curriculum and careers, but after some time you’ll start seeing the fruits.”

Elderly people living with disability receiving food hampers donated by James Mwangi.
Elderly people living with disability receiving food hampers donated by James Mwangi.
Image: JAMES MWANGI

Mwangi noted that some employers have tried in incorporating disabled people, but lot more still needs to be done, and this can only be achieved through education.

"Political parties should now begin to look into merits when nominating persons with disability to Parliament or even at the county assemblies. One should not just be nominated because he is disabled. What is he/she bringing on board?"

Among the many caps he wears, Mwangi is a father two and also runs a charity where he provides food for elderly persons who are living with disability.

"I provide food to at least 700 people a month. Most of them are the elderly and with various disabilities,” he says.

Mwangi added that through education, so much can be achieved; “If you want to go far, if you want to affect persons, affect them through education.”

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