PWDs Reject Media Sympathy
By SCOVIAN LILLIAN
As the World celebrated the International Day of persons with disabilities (PWD) on December 3, 2021, a regional activist challenged the Kenyan media to actively and continuously highlight their stories that focus more on their abilities rather than their state of being only meant for attracting pity.
Fred Ouko, the Program Officer, at Disability Rights-Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa called out journalists to focus on PWD’s contribution to the development of the Country and their achievements.
“Our wishes for the media are that journalists cover us as part of the Kenyan diversity, give prominence to the person rather than the disability; avoid coverage that solicits empathy and use positive projection of disability and referencing of terminologies while humanizing our stories”, he said.
Important for journalists during PWDs reporting is also carefully minding the language as language has power and being respectful while using proper terminologies when reporting on matters of PWDs, for instance, a person with albinism instead of albinism.
President Uhuru Kenyatta observed that PWDs in the country are taking up various roles including the political sphere to foster development and asked Kenyans to embrace diversity and shun discrimination while eliminating all barriers that stand against persons with disabilities.
In 2018, the Kenyan government began the process to review the person’s disability act 2003 and align it with the Constitution 2010 and the convention on the rights of PWDs. The aim is to align it with realities, but the proposed bill is yet to be enacted.
Paul Mugambi, the first blind cricket player in East and Central Africa, however, says that the government has failed PWDs in the implementation processes of available policies and in communicating its disability agenda to PWDs at grassroots levels.
“The government only invites PWDs to its events for the sake of validation but not for meaningful consultations with them” he lamented.
Mugambi, who is also a public policy scholar, nonetheless acknowledged that the government has tried to support PWDs by low-hanging fruits in terms of special policies development. He cited the development of Kenya’s inclusive data charter action plan to help generate disability disaggregated data.