Kenya: Thoughts on the international day for persons with disabilities
03 December 2008

International Day of Disabilities was celebrated at the Mental Health Centre in Kakuma refugee camp. (Peter Balleis SJ/JRS)
It is important to ensure that disability is mainstreamed into all activities, plans and programmes and that persons with disabilities are included in consultation processes.
Kenya, 3 December 2008 The world marks the annual observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This is a day which aims to promote an international understanding of disability issues, to encourage support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities and to encourage their integration into every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

Around the world, persons with disabilities are denied their basic human rights. Many are prevented from participating in society, not because of their physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments, but by disabling environments. 

Physical barriers prevent many persons with disabilities from accessing buildings, transport, employment, medical facilities, information and education. Attitudinal barriers reinforce stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination. Many persons with disabilities are stigmatised, hidden, abandoned, neglected or their movements restricted. JRS has come across cases where children with mental disabilities are chained to posts.

International support for persons with disabilities

On 3 May, 2008, the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities entered into force. The Convention constitutes a unique opportunity to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities to be practically realised. The Convention is historic because it is the first legally binding instrument which explicitly offers comprehensive protection of the rights of persons with disabilities and it was drafted with a great amount of input from persons with disabilities. It is important that States now ratify the Convention and implement national legislation to ensure the rights become accessible in all countries. In the JRS-Eastern Africa region, only Kenya and Uganda have ratified the Convention.

The issue of disability is a regional advocacy priority for JRS-Eastern Africa. Whilst all persons with disabilities are vulnerable because of their exclusion from society, forcibly displaced persons with disabilities are multiply excluded. There is very limited research and no official source of data on the prevalence of disabilities amongst forcibly displaced persons. They are more exposed to protection risks than their non-disabled counterparts, such as exploitation, physical and sexual abuse, harassment, ridicule, discrimination and neglect. They are often the last in line to have their rights respected and are often left to fend for themselves. Many are unable to access emergency support or services independently. 

Everyone should promote persons with disabilities

Legislation alone is not enough to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities are respected. Everyone has a duty to promote the creation of inclusive environments in which the rights of all persons are respected and valued. It is important to ensure that disability is mainstreamed into all activities, plans and programmes and that persons with disabilities are included in consultation processes. 

Marginalising persons with disabilities and encouraging them to remain dependent does not benefit anyone. Empowering persons with disabilities to live independently and to contribute to society is both socially and economically rewarding for all countries.







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