National Fund for the Disabled of Kenya (NFDK) Chairperson Ms Christina Pratt- Kenyatta has called for public-private partnerships towards empowerment of Persons With Disabilities (PWDS) to enhance, enable and engage them economically to acquire decent skills and income so as to reduce their poverty.
Pratt noted that there was a growing need for PWDs to get education assistance, assistive technologies and devices, infrastructure and equipment grants to help them successfully run their start-ups and increase their employability prospects.
She stated that relevant agencies at County and National Government levels, donors, corporates and religious institutions among others should prioritize encouraging, promoting and supporting PWDs to become self-employed and develop their entrepreneurial capacity to make them economically independent and self-reliant.
The Chairperson indicated that NFDK had taken a lead role in economically empowering PWDs by giving them free of charge tools of trade such as, shoe making and repair kits, sewing machines, welding equipment, hairdressing machinery, farming implements, carpentry tools among others.
Pratt made the remarks at the Rift Valley Regional Headquarters in Nakuru when she issued cheques worth Sh13 million to 43 special needs institutions in the region to initiate income-generating activities.
During the occasion that was also graced by NFDK council member Professor Julia Ojiambo and Regional Commissioner Mr Maalim Mohammed and where PWDS benefited from assistive devices, 17 individuals received tools of trade valued over Sh500, 000.
“In Nairobi, we gave out tools of trade to 400 individuals. The figure is much lower in Nakuru because the fund gives out the tools for business start-ups by PWDs based on requests. More Kenyans need to be enlightened that NFDK is obligated to issue comprehensive tools of trade through application forms available at County Commissioners’ offices,” she added.
The NFDK was set up in 1980, declared the national year for the disabled persons in the country. The organization is steered by a Board of Trustees appointed by its patron who is the sitting President of the Republic of Kenya.
Nationally, Pratt said NFDK is funding a total of 160 projects through grants to build classroom blocks, ablution units, dining rooms and drill boreholes in learning institutions set aside for PWDs.
She urged financial institutions to consider providing interest-friendly loans and affordable credit to PWDs to start and expand businesses.
Pratt added: “Including PWDs in national political and economic conversations and mentorship programmes, to make them able and capable of running viable and profitable projects. That will be a significant milestone towards achieving social, political and economic inclusion of PWDs according to Kenya Vision 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
The chairperson urged county governments to dedicate some funds in their annual budgets towards improving infrastructure for persons living with disabilities in their regions.
Pratt said inadequate funding of special schools and units complicates the already existing challenges and called for review of the low resources allocated to persons with special needs.
“We therefore call on all the stakeholders to lobby for increased funding to special needs institutions as this will allow them put up accessible facilities which will encourage enrollment,” said the chairperson.
She expressed regret that persons with disabilities are among the most economically disadvantaged.
“Experience shows majority of them have inadequate or lack access to education, employment, health care and other necessities of life such as reliable water, food and clothing which are a basic means of livelihood,” said Pratt.
The chairperson said NFDK as a stakeholder in the disability fraternity is keen on implementing and raising awareness on the right to education of children with disabilities.
“Findings from research show enrollment and retention levels of persons with disabilities in learning institutions can improve, if special schools provide supportive facilities like modernized dining halls and kitchen, boarding facilities and well equipped classrooms,” she said.
Pratt called on everyone to join hands and empower children with disabilities with education saying that is the best sustainable gift that could be given to them for their future.
She thanked the national government for annual budgetary allocation to the organization, thus enabling them to sponsor and complete several projects for people with disabilities in the country.
“The fund is committed to ensuring that persons living with disabilities acquire high quality of life through support,” she said.
Maalim asked county governments to ensure public and private buildings were friendly to the disabled.
He said devolved units should not approve building plans that do not comply with Persons with Disability Act 2003 requiring structures to be built in a way that the disabled find it easy to access offices.
The Regional Commissioner lamented that most persons with disabilities, particularly those in wheelchairs, find it hard to access buildings that have no lifts, ramps, or that have steep access ramps.
In some buildings, he stated, switches, cooking slabs, kitchen sinks, kitchen cabinets and taps are too high for disabled persons who have to ask for assistance when using them. The washrooms too, he said, are not disability compliant while other buildings have no support rails and neither is there enough space to maneuver about.
Maalim said people also need to be educated on what the law says concerning accessibly rights of the disabled, particularly owners and developers who are the key decision makers.
According to the Regional Commissioner, this should include a building approval process that ensures that buildings under construction are disability-friendly.
He asserted that all buildings that have more than four floors must have lifts in accordance with the by-laws and architects should advise their clients to consider the needs of this special category by either incorporating the lifts or ramps in the architectural designs.
By Anne Mwale