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The Price of being different in Kenya!

“If there were application forms for one to have a disability, I would definitely not have filled them even under a gun-point”, this is the kind of thought that runs into my mind whenever I face an open and blatant act of discrimination on the grounds of disability. This shouldn`t be construed to mean that I also take it down lying with over 28 years of living this experience, it only means that I am disturbed to be reminded how different I am from my friend, my neighbour, my brother just because I have a disability; something that I didn’t have an authority over to overrule neither has it stopped me from being who I am.

Two recent incidences point to the fact that our society still believes that a person who has any form of disability is there just to be seen and has no use in society neither can they be successful in any field of specialization. This group of people can only be viewed as objects of charity epitomized by the usual scenes of begging individuals on the streets of our cities.

It is globally acknowledged that majority of persons with disabilities come from poor family backgrounds and thus tend to grow in an environment of lack such as non-inclusive education, seclusion, health-neglect etc.This makes their disability condition worse thus having a permanent impact on their lives.

As a Kenyan, having accumulated several bills that needed to be paid in cash, I set out to go and withdraw the said cash from my bank account which I have held for over five years now. In the parking lot, I manage to sweet-talk the parking attendant not require me to pay since I was sure it only needed me five minutes to get through to a teller at the bank and collect my cash, this is true because I am not required to queue whenever I go to seek a service in a bank or any other vendor. Such a nice gesture extended to any person who has a disability and expectant mothers because it is only common sense that this group of people, cannot manage to stand for long in a queue for services; I have however encountered scathing eyes from a number of people who don’t appreciate this gesture and would even start murmuring words like “why didn’t he come earlier?”

True to it, I was at the counter and this teller starts serving me, but I start seeing her look at me with scorn, she doesn’t believe what she is seeing and what follows is what eats into my being. “When is the last time your account received a deposit and how much was it?” the teller asks instructively. “I must have received some money this month but I am not sure about the amounts since I haven’t checked the account neither have I consulted my invoices”, I politely responded to her question. What I didn’t know is, that when a teller asks you this kind of questions-it means that they are not sure if the account in question is yours and thus need to verify by ascertaining through various details.

What I didn’t tell you is, I had already done several signatures and the cash was already out of the system and had also given this particular teller my original ID and Visa card as identification but this couldn`t prove anything to this determined teller. After my response, she again fired another salvo indicating that my signature didn’t look the same as the one in the bank system. I felt out of place with this particular teller and I could see even her colleague had started being concerned on how she was treating me, I was then asked to go and change my signature then come back but on reaching the accounts counter, the lady serving there informed me that two of the signing were actually correct and wondered why I was being sent to her, she immediately stamped on the signature I had signed and appended her signature as an approval.

Sigh! At last, I got my cash but putting that into perspective, this teller didn’t believe that I actually owned this particular account since that is unheard of for persons with disabilities to run a good balance on their accounts. I have heard also of such stories when you withdraw a sizeable amount of money from your account and the teller coordinates with people outside by doing delay tactics so that you can be accosted when you leave the bank and lose your money.

The second incident happened this week when I went to buy new car tires and on ordering five pieces of Good-Year Tires, the lady in charge was really shocked and even asked me if I was sure how much that was. I nearly asked her a rude question but chose to control my emotions and went on with the purchase leaving her in gaze.

These two incidences bring to fore the deep-rooted negative notions against persons with disabilities in our society that makes it even harder for them to lead independent lives devoid of discrimination. It is high time we begin to practice the provisions in our constitution that outlaws discrimination on the grounds of disability and work hard to ensure that the Kenyan society understands issues around disability and gives support to all Kenyans who have a disability since they are both Citizens of this beloveth country.

It is the price we often pay for being differently-abled

Fredrick Ouko