• Constitution recognizes that persons with disabilities are entitled to be treated with dignity.
On three occasions, we have had to either cancel, change room and physically carry our guests to the meeting room or podium, simply because they have a disability and the hotels didn’t provide space for such. This happened in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa, in leading hotels, and on all the incidents, the management seemed unbothered. Its not only embarrassing, but serious insensitivity to the rights of others.
Institutions must be held to account, and where necessary, a fund be made available to ensure buildings are made suitable for people with disabilities. If podiums, hotel entrances and staircases are such insensitive, you can only imagine what happens in the toilets. Most of buildings sampled were inaccessible with steep staircases and no ramps, some with very narrow doors that cannot accommodate a person on a wheelchair. In the Nairobi meeting, we had to carry our panelist to the podium after the hotel management disappeared on us, in Kisumu, we had to move the meeting from first floor to ground floor, in Mombasa, the delegates just walked away on us.
Its now a requirement that a percentage of participants in our events must be drawn from that sector, and in many occasions, we miss out on the brilliant contributions from such people because of failure to respect these rights. The Performance Contract signed by public agencies has a full section on what the pubic agencies have done to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities are not only respected and observed, but more importantly protected and promoted. I am not sure the repercussions of not respecting these provisions are though. A meeting on freedom of expression for example will greatly benefit from the contribution from Hon Dennitah Ghati, and Commissioner Lawrence Mute, the AU Special Rapporteur Freedom of Expression and Access to Information,
The Constitution of Kenya 2010 under the Bill of Rights recognizes in Article 54 that persons with disabilities are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect and not to be referred to in a manner that is demeaning, to access educational institutions and facilities for persons with disabilities, to reasonable access to all places, public transport and information, to use sign language, Braille or other appropriate means of communication and to access materials and devices to overcome constraints arising from the person’s disability.
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights conducted a study sometimes back of both private and public buildings across the 12 counties which showed that physical accessibility for persons with disabilities remains a far-off target in most cases save for a few noted health facilities which had made relevant improvements and adjustments on their buildings.
Several buildings that house national and county government offices, courts, hotels, public toilets, police stations among others do not comply with current accessibility standards.
Of key concern was that even houses of persons with disabilities were also inaccessible. Inaccessibility was mainly in the form of staircases (often very steep), steep ramps, objects in the way; very narrow doors and non-accommodative lifts especially for the visually impaired. Even where there is a ramp at the entrance of a building, there are no ramps or lifts in the interior which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to access other floors.
Relevant authorities including the Ministry for infrastructure should ensure that all buildings, through issuing guidelines on the same, both new and old are accessible to persons with disabilities. On access to assistive devices such as wheelchairs, eyeglasses, sunscreen, hearing aids, both persons with disabilities and institutions for persons with disabilities reported to be facing a lot of challenges when acquiring them.