- Ava Cargan
Untold Stories: Living with a Disability in Kibera
Living in Kibera poses significant challenges for an able-bodied individual, however living in Kibera as a person with disabilities can lead to a particularly difficult life. From physical to mental disabilities, it is difficult for anyone to live their life as a disable individual in Kibera. There are organizations in Kibera that have been created to support children with disabilities and help parents care for their children with disabilities; but are we doing enough to support those in Kibera who need us?
According to a survey by the United Nations Development Program, 2% of roughly 2 million children with disabilities in Kenya have access to education. The majority of disabled children with no education live in the urban slums. Children with a disability in Kibera have a very low chance of being able to create a positive life for themselves. On top of that, many of the parents with disabled children lock up their children, and consider their children to be a burden. Little Rock is the only childhood center in Kibera that caters to the needs of disabled children. They work with parents to help them accept disabilities and support them in educating their children. They also provide inclusive education and therapy to special needs children. They target children between 6 months and 10 years. The staff is trained in handling children with all types of special needs; ranging from Hearing Impaired, Autistic, Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome and Intellectual disability. This type of inclusive education is able to reduce discrimination through enabling children with and those without disabilities to learn and grow together. Educating children with disabilities will reduce dependency and allow them to increase employment or other productive activities. It also increases the disabled children's potential productivity and help alleviate the risk of living in poverty.
Living with a mental disability in Kibera can be challenging, but so can living with a physical disability. The terrain in Kibera is highly unsuitable for wheelchairs. A few of the major areas where people walk have been tarmacked in the past five years, however the majority of the roads still have not been made accessible. Most homes were far from the road, this means navigating tight alleyways of rough ground. Makeshift wooden platforms are built over areas leading to homes, regardless the paths to homes are not possible in a wheelchair, no matter what modifications are made to the land. Many in wheelchairs rely on others, usually a family member if they have one, to leave or return to their home; both them and their wheelchair need to be carried. If they do not have someone who is available to help them, then they are stuck in their houses. This usually causes great feelings of isolation Furthermore, much of Kibera has hills that go up and down. For people in wheelchairs, this means requesting help from people passing. Any one who helped them will often insist on payment. Any travel in or out of Kibera also means doubling the travel fare for the person and the wheelchair. Living in a wheelchair in Kibera means relying heavily on others, most cannot go anywhere without someone available for assistance.
Another problem with wheelchairs in Kibera is the weather, a serious problem for many residents. During the rainy season, flooding is a huge problem. For wheelchair users, any wet weather makes it difficult and generally makes going anywhere impossible. Wheels will just slide around in the mud, moving about is simply not an option in wet weather. Another issue is collecting water for drinking, cooking and washing. This requires someone else to do it for them. If they do not have a family member or friend who is willing then they will have to pay for help and water. Life in a wheelchair is extremely difficult in Kibera.
Are we doing enough to help those who are disabled in Kibera? People definitely seem to be doing their best. The Kibera Disability Group who comes together once a week for support and to educate on what resources are available. Through groups, provision of wheelchairs or other assistive technology is often how many individuals manage to get what they need. The Nairobi Family Support Services also supports disabled kids in Kibera. The organization’s staff provides their children with free rehabilitative care, clinical and educational assessments and therapy, while training parents how they can best support their children. The Perkins School for the Blind also provides aid for vulnerable families who can’t afford care for their children. Many state that in Kibera there is progress being made for disabled children “In Kenya, and throughout Africa, we’re making inroads, and that means we can serve more children. The perception of disability is changing. People are beginning to understand, in no small part due to organizations like NFSS, that everyone deserves equal access to the resources they need to live the most independent lives possible.”