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Govt urged to implement Disability Act

NAIROBI, July 20 – Despite Parliament passing the Disability Act of 2003 to cater for the needs of persons living with disabilities the government has failed to fully implement key provisions of the Act, including the establishment of a National Disability Fund and mainstreaming of disability issues.

Speaking to Capital News Phitalis Were of Leonard Chesire International, listed the fund, affirmative action in public service recruitment and tax exemption as crucial issues that the government ought to have put on its priority list.

“The government has not found it fit to set aside even a penny for the fund; yet it has gone ahead to establish the women’s fund, the youth fund, which are not in any law,” he said “To mitigate the extra cost disability presents the law say employees with disabilities shall be given tax exemptions. The Ministers responsible five years down the road have not again seen it fit to make it possible.”

The over two million persons with disability in the country have time and again criticised the government for failing to treat them like other marginalised groups such as the youth, women and the girl child.

At a consultative workshop last week, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka under whom the department now falls promised to spearhead the full implementation of the Act.

The VP committed to gazette remaining sections of the Act and put on notice owners of buildings who are yet to install facilities that take into considerations needs of persons with disabilities.

Musyoka assured: “I will also look at the issue of the fund. Indeed it is useless to talk about the fund that never takes off.” 

Other sections yet to be enacted include one that requires the education ministry to mainstream issues to do with disability by introducing Braille and sign language in schools. Another one that requires the modification of public service vehicles to accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities is also yet to be enacted.

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Most of those with special needs in the country live in pathetic conditions and without access to basic social amenities like education and proper health care. Many are stigmatised with a good number locked indoors by their families.

It is such challenges that the UN Convention on Persons with Disabilities of 2006 seeks to address across the world.

Kenya became the 27th nation to ratify the Convention in May this year and Kalonzo has promised that his ministry would establish a secretariat to domesticate the legislation. 

The government has also in a bid to safeguard the welfare of the group established the National Council for Persons with Disabilities. The council has however failed to meet its expectations due to financial constraints.

State owned Kenya National Human Rights Commission has been in the forefront in championing for the rights of those with disabilities.

Speaking to Capital News on Thursday Commissioner Lawrence Mute called on the Education Ministry to inject more funds into special school programmes to enable them meet extra expenses of the disabled student.

“For a child with disability, you need much more resources. A child who is blind needs Braille or a computer with screen reading programme,” he observed.   

He however lauded the relocation of department of disability to the Home Affairs Ministry.

“In the past, we have been under the government of social services. But we thought that they needed to be in a more high profile ministry,” he stated.

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