New currency big leap for disability rights

Thursday December 13 2018

DISABILITY

Central Bank of Kenya launches the new currency on December 11, 2018. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

TIMOTHY AYUO
By TIMOTHY AYUO
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The Tuesday launch of new currency that bears features that are easily recognisable by visually impaired persons is proof that Kenya has made steady strides towards achieving the inclusion of all persons with disability.

Disability means a physical, sensory, mental, visual, hearing, learning impairment, which adversely affects someone’s participation in social, economic or environmental activities.

The disabled make a reasonable number and their concerns are human rights issues. According to a World Health Organisation report last year, 15 percent of the world population, including 1.7 million Kenyans, is disabled.

Accordingly, the new currency launch, especially coming on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was a stroke of genius.

The Inclusion Theory is the principle that guides disability rights. It advocates involvement and treatment of all persons equally.

Commendably, the new currency prioritising disability rights accords the campaign the necessary impetus.

EQUALITY

The Constitution requires that notes and coins issued by the CBK may bear the images that depict or symbolise Kenya or an aspect of the country but do not bear the portrait of an individual.

It also has equality and non-discrimination principles to protect vulnerable persons.

Passage of other laws that complement the Constitution in its inclusion endeavours confirm that disability rights are no longer a mirage but reality.

The Persons with Disability Act 2003 promotes equality for persons with disabilities and explicitly prohibits their discrimination in accessing services, admission to learning institutions and in employment.

On affirmative action, it reserves five percent of employment slots in both the private and public sectors to persons with disabilities.

The Employment Act 2007 provides for their protection against discrimination.

Besides being exempt from taxes on part or all of their employment income, they also get waivers of duty, VAT, demurrage and port charges on all materials, articles, equipment, including customised motor vehicles.

TAX

Employees are obligated to modify the workplace to be physically friendly to people facing challenges associated with disability.

Incentives are offered for employers who hire persons with disabilities like tax exemption on the salary or wages of a special employee and deductions on taxable income translating to half of the direct costs of the improvements, modifications and special services done in provision of reasonable accommodation for the staff.

Under international law, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities calls upon State parties to actively promote an environment in which persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in the conduct of public affairs without discrimination and on an equal basis with others.

It also calls for the adoption of legislation and other administrative matters and inclusion of disability in all relevant policies and programmes.

The Egyptian banknote with a currency recognition system for visually impaired is a classic case study to emulate going forward. Let the law not be said as a mere rhetoric but implemented to the letter.

Like the rest of the world, it’s time for Kenya to break the barriers that hold people back from achieving their potential.

Mr Ayuo is a legal researcher. [email protected]; @timothysamson1

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