There are various categories of disability ranging from physical to mental. It is World’s Disability Day. Fewer people know this and few of that number are acknowledging it. It goes without saying that those facing these challenges are among the marginalized groups in Kenya.
I will refer to them not as physically challenged, mentally retarded, disabled but uniquely abled.
Take for instance Goldalyn Kakuya, the top female candidate in KCPE this year. She suffers from Albinism but that did not stop her from scoring all those marks, higher than those attained by other top candidates in previous years.
She overcame the all obstacles including the vision impairment most people with Albinism struggle with. Her success was made possible through the support she received. This is exactly what should be done for all these people with unique abilities.
She is the talk of town because nobody expected it to be a uniquely abled individual. And a girl at that, leaves everyone marvelled.
Why do we wait until it happens to us for us to feel it, to take action? Will we create friendly environments once one of our own is in the mix? Is this the right approach?
Take these scenarios and Wake Up!
You are a young parent. You have received your bundle of joy an year into your marriage. All is well until you realise your child cannot speak, they cannot hear. How do you go about communicating? Is that the time you rush to take up a sign language course?
Leave parenting aside. Let’s deal with something more practical. You walk into an organization confidently for the interview you are scheduled to take. You have pressed your suit, tie in place and the intense research you have conducted on vocabulary, wacha tu! If these guys don’t call you back, they don’t know what they are missing.
You enter into the conference room, remembering to use the door mat that reads welcome and almost leaving your shoes as the place is spic and span. The panel is there, all eyes fixed on you. Little do you know that the ‘Big guy’ there uses sign language. On and on you go. How do you pitch directly to them, huh? Why let an interpreter be paid for something you can do?
A team of investors heard of your impressive property and are coming to check it out. You have cleaned all the corners and got rid of all cobwebs. You wait. Your Mungu ndiye Baba ringtone alerts you of their arrival.
As you usher them in, you see among them one in a wheelchair. Your high-rise apartments have only a staircase and at the rooftop is where you had planned to host them for a tea break. Do you leave them behind and send videos while on top for them to admire the scenery? Do you tell them to go round as the rest of the team go upstairs?
Please tell me what you would do.
Do you help your neighbour with a special child? There is always something you can do. If you cannot help with the expenses, you can surely offer your car for them to attend their therapies. Or sit them whenever you are free.
Interact with them. Don’t pass by yelling out quick hellos from the other side of the world. Ask them how they are feeling. Invite them over. Plan inter-family picnics. Do not let them sink into frustration.
Be the one to make them feel loved when they try to isolate themselves. Show them that you will not abandon them. You might not offer them financial support but let them feel the basic human emotions. Make them smile because of you at the end of the day. Reach out.
Accept them. Integrate them into jobs they are able to handle. Do not lock them out. Support, support support them in whatever way you can.
The National Council of People with Disabilities statistics shows that the number registered is way lower than those who exist. How about you start by encouraging them to sign up with the council?
Finally, they are humans before everything else. Forget all that Swahili you learnt in school. Referring to them using names starting with ki which in plural translate to vi is vicious and outrageous!
Kwa nini umuweke binadamu mwenzako katika ngeli sawa na ya vitu? Tafadhali tuache haya mambo ya kipofu, viwete, kiziwi na kadhalika.
Kama unatumia Kiswahili kuwazungumzia, watambulishe kama mtu asiyeeona, mtu asiyeweza kutembea au mtu asiyesikia. Asante.
Be the Ambassador of Change. You cannot afford to wait.
As Nafisa Khanbhai signed in a copy of her book for me, Unbroken Wings, during it’s launch, Look Around You, If You Are Okay, Doesn’t Mean Everyone Is.