I remember a few weeks before I left Kenya going to church and during this particular service a man on a wheelchair was the guest speaker. I remember as soon as he got on the pulpit he started speaking with a lot of frustration, hurt and passion. He was very upset about the fact that neither the pulpit nor the churche were handicap accessible. He was upset because to get in the church and on the pulpit people had come together and lift him up on his wheelchair. He explained to the church how people with any form of disability want to live fulfilled lives without depending on other people. He also explained how language has a great impact on how we treat and view people, for instance in Kiswahili the name of person with a disability – kiwete – plural is Viwete the prefix for the name is a prefix used on verbs like chair, table, and spoon.
I really sympathized with this man; you could hear the hurt in his voice while he spoke. But I did not really understand how dire the situation in Kenya is, in regards to handicap accessibility, till I came to the states.
Here ever single place has an alternative for handicap accessibility, all doors have a button that you can hit so the door opens on its own, atm machines have an access point for handicap accessibility, all bathrooms have a handicap bathroom, water fountains have handicap accessible fountains, apartments have handicap accessible houses where light switches are lower and everything is easily accessible. Handicap people are able to live a more independent life here. I am sure it didn’t not happen overnight and a lot of people had to fight for this, and so we should all learn a lesson from them.
There was a story on Kenyan news a few weeks ago, where a popular musician’s dad claimed he had to crawl out of the aircraft after the attendants said ‘they could not carry anyone’. It is a shame if in this day and age where equal rights and human rights have come so far, we can still have that kind of discrimination. However, this was a good thing since it brought to the forefront issues handicapped people face. I know also Kenya has come some way in terms of handicap access, like handicap parking and toilets; however there is still a long road ahead.
Disability is not inability, and disability can happen to anyone at anytime, people want to be independent and contribute to the community and economy. We need to fight for all peoples rights and make things more accessible to all.