People living with hearing impairment in Makueni County have decried lack of representation in both the national and county governments.
Charles Kimilu, Chairperson Pamoja Support Group for the Deaf said both levels of government had excluded the deaf from job opportunities despite them having the relevant education and skills.
Speaking over the weekend during the International Day of Persons with Disability at Wote town Kimilu appealed to both the national and county governments to involve people with hearing impairment in government activities as a way of empowering them.
“Our disability is not visible and most of the times we are left out. We have been sidelined in both government jobs and tenders. No one is fighting for our rights,” he said.
Kimilu also noted that the deaf had been excluded in major government initiatives including the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report.
“The mobilization of the deaf in Makueni to give their views was not well coordinated and we missed out, we actually do not know what the document says and whether our issues were well captured,” added the chairperson.
He also lamented over lack of sign language interpreters in government institutions and especially hospitals.
“We face a lot of challenges seeking government services. It is even worse in hospitals because there are no interpreters and we end up not being treated due to the communication barrier,” said Kimilu.
He called on the county government to recruit an interpreter at the Makueni County Referral Hospital to alleviate the suffering the deaf face.
Speaking at the same event Kee Member of the County Assembly (MCA) Isaac Munyao appealed to the county government to roll out a free medical cover for People with Disabilities (PWDs) in the county.
Munyao said many PWDs were not able to afford quality medical care due to lack of income noting that the situation had worsened due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“PWDs are vulnerable groups and meeting basic needs is very difficult. Health care should be made free for them,” said the MCA.
Munyao, a PWD challenged his counterparts to be aggressive and fight for their space.
“Let’s stop the self-pity. Let us believe in ourselves and grab opportunities availed to us,” he said.
Cheshire Disability Services Kenya Programmes Officer George Shimanyula said stigma remained a big challenge for PWDs.
Shimanyula said the society still looked down upon PWDs despite them possessing exceptional abilities.
“The problem PWDs faces is how people view them. They are important members of the society and if given the opportunity and space they can really shock people with their abilities,” he noted.
By Roselyne Kavoo