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My autistic son teaches me a lot about PWDS

By Stephen Ndegwa
Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020
Disability. Photo/Courtesy
In summary

The annual UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) was marked on December 3.

The day has celebrated annually since 1992. This year’s theme is “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post Covid-19 World”, which underscores the importance of fostering an inclusive culture and responding to the urgent needs of people with disability in all aspects of society, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

More than one billion people, about 15 per cent of the world’s population, live with disability, with 80 per cent in developing countries.

Although the IDPD is gaining credence in Kenya, more awareness is needed for more people to understand the meaning of disability, and the impact it will soon have on the country as the numbers of PWDs rise. 

There is still a lot of misunderstanding and stigma about disability, which has negatively affected the quality of life of PWDs.

According to the UN, disability is a condition or function judged to be significantly impaired, relative to the usual standard of an individual of their group. 

The term is often used to refer to individual functioning, including physical impairment, sensory impairment, cognitive impairment, intellectual impairment, mental illness and various types of chronic disease. 

As a result of their vulnerability, PWDs have generally poorer health, lower education achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities. 

Basically, this is due to the oftentimes personal and institutional challenges they undergo due to lack of customised services.

PWDs face many obstacles not just related to the physical environment, but also those that result from lack of legislation or policy, including societal attitudes and discrimination.

In Kenya, PWDs are protected in the Constitution under the Persons with Disabilities Act No. 14 of 2003.

Among others, the Act spells out the mandate of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities, and the rights and privileges of PWDs. 

In essence, the Act aims at creating an enabling environment for the rehabilitation of PWDs, and equalisation of opportunities for them.  

Well, PWDs in the country have come a long way. Over the years, attitudes have changed and society now views people with challenges with more understanding, than with helpless pity. 

People have realised that those without the use of some of their faculties could be genius in other areas of their lives. 

By law and in principle, PWDs are receiving the necessary help they need both at social and professional levels.

There is still more work to be done for PWDs,like other vulnerable people, to feel fully empowered. 

Personally, I empathise with the plight of PWDs. 

My seven-year-old son has been living with autism since he was diagnosed with the condition three years ago. 

Taking care of him everyday as he struggles with milestones other parents and children take for granted has been a challenging, albeit enriching experience. 

Even now he is still non-verbal and has to be helped to perform personal care. He cannot read and write, among several other tasks that children of his age perform easily. 

But  I am not complaining. Maybe I am paying back the effort my parents put in bringing me up or atoning for any sins that I might have committed!

 It is simply fate, since no one decides whether or not to be born with a disability.

But by trying my best to show my autistic son utmost love and care, I believe that it serves as an example to his siblings in case they sire a child with disability in the future. — The writer is an international affairs columnist

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