October is the Blind Awareness Month. During this month, efforts are made to raise awareness and seek solutions to issues affecting those with visual impairment, such as reducing barriers to independent living and economic empowerment. As the quality of life keeps improving, there has been a boomerang effect of increase in the number of persons acquiring visual disabilities, owing to several factors including malnutrition and late detection of diseases like cataracts.
The progress in healthcare in matters of visual health has not been commensurate to the economic empowerment of persons with visual impairment. In Kenya for instance, it is hard to find a visually impaired person outside the teaching fraternity or in the disability activism circles. There are also a few artists, such as Reuben Kigame and Denno of the Mbona hit song. Perhaps the biggest breakthrough for the disability community and for those with visual impairment came with the appointment of Dr.K.I. Laibuta as a Court of Appeal judge having been turned down several times on account of his disability.
The economic discrimination of persons with visual impairment can be attributed to systemic factors that became so entrenched in yester years thus limiting those with visual impairment and the disability fraternity in general. In the past, persons with disabilities were seen as of little economic contribution to the country as most of the jobs were either physically demanding or required vision as a qualification to get the job. Add that to the poor penetration or almost non-existence of assistive technology devices and facilities, and economic empowerment of persons with disabilities seemed like a lost cause. With the coming in of faith based educational institutions focused on the ‘needy’ such as the blind and physically impaired, the obvious career path seemed to be education as a teacher. The end result is that the career pool was not as diversified as it is for those without disabilities.
Even so, all is not lost. With continuous advocacy efforts in the education sector more so with the coming of affirmative action mechanisms such as the 5% of job opportunities to persons with disabilities, organizations such as the Teachers Service Commission has gone to great lengths to avail an equal playing field to teachers with disabilities as well as ensuring there is reasonable accommodation in their workstations. Teachers with disabilities are technically spoilt for choice as they can work in disability focused educational instructions or the all-rounded schools, given that the ‘normal’ schools are legally compelled to admit students with disabilities. The Government has been availing funds and expertise to lead in inclusion efforts in schools such as by having wheelchair friendly classes as well as looking into ways to eliminate barriers to inclusive education. The private sector too has not been left behind. Safaricom, for instance, has been helping in inculcating technological skills to secondary school students with a view to reducing hurdles to learning for students with cerebral palsy. That way instead of writing, they can just type their own notes or read with ease what has been prepared in advance by the teacher.
While the heavy focus on education for people with visual impairment seems like a barrier at first, it could also be the stepping stone to liberalizing economic opportunities for them and ensuring that the loss of vision is the least of barriers to having dignified work and by extension living independently. As it is, the assistive technology field has expanded and there has been a lot of focus and progress in it. Case in point are disability friendly websites as well as browsers such as the Microsoft Edge. The availability of integrated text to speech tools in gadgets such as smartphones and laptops makes it a level field for IT jobs for persons with visual impairment. Moreover, with these developments, they could advance their knowledge to whatever field and take on the careers of their choice. For instance, with the fintech sector growing by the day and financial institutions looking to tap into more markets, a person with visual impairment would be the perfect fit to develop financial products that will catalyze more economic empowerment of persons with disabilities and entrench financial inclusion. They could also be crucial in developing user friendly platforms that are easy to navigate with no involvement of a third party.
With such developments, the spillover effect will be that persons with visual impairments are also financially empowered to be at a position to afford advanced assistive devices to help them in their daily lives. Alternatively, they could also contribute to buy these technologies for other persons with similar or multiple disabilities, and in turn ensure the sustainability of the organizations developing or distributing these technologies. Kilimanjaro Blind Trust Africa comes to mind with a more economically empowered population of persons with visual impairments, it's easier for them to make a case for those empowered to help in availing the modern brails to children with visual impairment in schools. Such an undertaking has the benefit of providing early exposure of children to technology, making it easier for them to advance their knowledge and get into the job market with ease, where opportunities abound, courtesy of the same technology.
MY DISABILITY INSPIRED MY CAREER TRANSITION
Employing persons with disabilities: fears and realities.
To create jobs, let us support businesses owned by Persons with disabilities.
CHANGE DISABILITY MESSAGING TO REALIZE THE FULL POTENTIAL OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
STEM ROUTE APPROPRIATE FOR SELF EMPLOYMENT OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
USE BLOCKCHAIN TO ENHANCE THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE 5% OF PUBLIC POSITIONS FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
DISABILITY IS A STRENGTH IN THE WORKPLACE NOT A WEAKNESS
TAX INCENTIVES A BOOST TO THE ACCESS TO ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGIES
DISABILITY BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS BEST PLACED TO PROTECT ECONOMIC INTERESTS OF PWDs.
WORK LIFE BALANCE FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES.
Drop some requirements to widen the disability workforce.
Accessibility Is Possible Through Empowerment
DEALING WITH WORK RELATED STRESS FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES.
Finally, inclusion becomes a yardstick for success
Let's bring Persons with Albinism to the table for long term sustainable solutions to Disability challenges.
INVOLVE PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES IN E-SPORTS TOO.
HOW TO INCLUDE PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES IN POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC MATTERS
Employers are already creating accommodating workplaces. Now it’s time to hire more people with disabilities.
DEAR INCOMING GOVERNMENT, EXPAND THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES.
RETHINKING DISABILITY EMPOWERMENT IN THE MIDST OF AN ECONOMIC CRISIS
PERSONALIZE BUSINESS TRAINING FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES TO CREATE MORE JOBS
TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION FOR INDEPENDENT LIVING