Parliament inhospitable to MPs with disabilities

April 12, 2013 3:53 pm
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Westlands Member of Parliament Tim Wanyonyi told Capital FM News that the chamber is not easily accessible because there is only one ramp/FILE
Westlands Member of Parliament Tim Wanyonyi told Capital FM News that the chamber is not easily accessible because there is only one ramp/FILE
NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 12 – Members of the National Assembly with various disabilities have taken issue with the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) accusing it of failing to put in place special arrangements that would make it easier for them to perform their duties.

Westlands Member of Parliament Tim Wanyonyi told Capital FM News that the chamber is not easily accessible because there is only one ramp.

He explained that the ramp was set up at the back and there were numerous barriers that made it difficult for him and Kamukunji MP Yusuf Hassan to move around.

Wanyonyi further explained how difficult it was to access washrooms adding that the PSC failed to effect the recommendations made last September that would make it easier for those with various disabilities to cope.

“We can only access Parliament through one entry which means I have to go to the back because the other side has barriers and staircases. Even the washrooms are not accessible. There is something wrong with the way they are doing things,” he complained.

Wanyonyi further cited the instance when members were being sworn in, and he and Hassan were forced to sit at the aisle at the far back of the House because there was no room for their wheelchairs.

Things got even trickier for the duo when Members started voting for the Speaker and Deputy Speaker.

During voting, some parliamentary orderlies tried to take the ballot boxes to Wanyonyi and Hassan but the clerk Justin Bundi stopped them and requested the two legislators to come down to cast their ballots.

“I was very upset on that day and if they have to create a special sitting place for me, then it should not be at the back. It should be somewhere where I will be seen and are able to participate,” he demanded.

“We shouldn’t be in a position where we feel out of place,” he said.

Wanyonyi added that it would be even more difficult to catch the Speaker’s eye during sessions because the microphones are fitted in front of the seats.

Even if they use roving microphones, Wanyonyi and Hassan would still have difficulties raising points of order.

“The chambers were recently refurbished and they knew that the current Parliament would have members with various disabilities but they did not factor that into the new facility,” he argued.

Nominated Member representing persons of special needs, Isaac Mwaura, added that the Standing Orders should be amended to allow persons with albinism keep their caps in the House.

Mwaura, who has albinism, argued that the hats shield him from bright light and helps him focus his eyes.

“We use hats to help us adapt to bright light and I think we need a House that is accommodating; not one that excludes some by design,” he argued.

He also took issue with the restriction placed on the number of guests coming to see MPs at any given time saying it was unfair. MPs have also been complaining about the offices allocated to them with Mwaura saying his did not have any windows.

“That’s not fair. If I want to see someone who uses a wheelchair and the other one is blind, what will happen then because these individuals both need assistants yet the rules only allow me to see two guests at a time,” he observed.

Bundi however told Capital FM News that the PSC had made sufficient arrangements to accommodate such MPs.

He explained that the lifts would also be fixed to allow those on wheelchairs access the Speaker’s offices.

Wanyonyi had also complained of the inaccessibility of the Speaker’s offices and the Media Centre, where members are supposed to hold press conferences.

“But before then the Speaker will have to come down to see them,” said Bundi.

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