Right of access to information is a fundamental right accorded to every Kenyan Citizen as stipulated by the Constitution. Persons with disabilities are also eligible to these rights. Chapter four article 21 of the 2010 constitution clearly states that: persons with disabilities are entitled to exercise the right to freedom of expression and opinion which includes freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas on an equal basis with others.
Today marks the 4th anniversary since the adoption of the 38c/resolution 57, declaring every 28th September each year as International Day on Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) by UNESCO.
Despite information and communication technologies (ICT) having the potential for making significant improvements in the lives of these persons, allowing them to enhance their social and economic integration in communities by enlarging the scope of activities available to them little has been done to capitalize on these innovations.
This has impacted negatively in their lives as many fail to reach their full potential and become productive members of the society. Information are still availed in inaccessible formats that least favor persons with disabilities. News is commonly passed through newspapers, TV and the internet, yet few newspapers are available in Braille/audio format whereas website contents remain inaccessible too to PWDs.
Knowledge is power. This very power enables one to have the ability or influence to control others. Those with knowledge monopolize resources in order to remain in control while disadvantaged groups including PWDs remain ignorant and unable to give their input where it count most due to lack of access to information or accessing it too late. Therefore, they end up being left behind.
The visually impaired people need Braille for instance, to read and yet the Braille may sometimes be inaccessible for regular use due to bulkiness. Others may opt to have an aide to assist them acquire information and may incur an extra cost. The quality of information received may be compromised and even distorted since it is delivered in a secondary form.
Even as concerted efforts are being made to accomplish vision 2030 that anticipates to bridge the gap between developed and developing countries, PWDs should also be part of this train. The gap between them and persons without disabilities should be minimized or diminished through removal of barriers that hinders their participation in an equal basis since they are part of our great society.
This year’s theme “Leave no one behind,” should be marked with detailed measures on the strategies in place in ensuring access to information to all. The approaches in ensuring all digital innovation is inclusive, building an enabling eco-system through inclusive policy and regulatory frameworks, financial allocations and increased capacity of human resources as well as addressing quality and affordability of digital and assistive technologies and collecting data and evidence needed to deliver these innovations at scale.
Florence Wakio is a 3rd year Media student at Kenyatta University and disability champion for Voices for Change project.