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How a Young Kenyan with a Disability used Litigation to Fight for His Rights

In 2016, Wilson Macharia, a person with visual impairment went to court seeking justice after he was discriminated against by his would-be employer. Despite passing the interview and being invited to sign a contract, Macharia was later informed that the job offer was made by mistake.

A young African man in his law attire with a black gown and white wig | © Bing Copilot

Justice Served (Bing Copilot)

This came about after the company realized that it could not offer Macharia the reasonable accommodation he needed.

The court ruled that Macharia’s right to human dignity as enshrined under articles 28 and 54(1) of the Kenyan Constitution was violated. In 2021, Mr. Macharia was awarded ksh. 6,000,000 (6 million) as compensation.

How Litigation Can Transform Societal Attitudes Towards Disability

Societal attitudes towards people with disabilities have evolved over the years, thanks to factors such as increased awareness, education, and advocacy. However, one powerful tool for change that often goes overlooked is the role of litigation in transforming these attitudes. Litigation not only seeks justice for individuals facing discrimination but also serves as a force in reshaping societal perceptions and fosters inclusive cultures.

So what is litigation? Litigation is simply taking legal action.  It is the process of solving disputes through the court system. Litigation can influence and transform societal attitudes in the following ways;

Shining a Spotlight on Discrimination

Litigation exposes instances of disability discrimination into the public eye. When cases are filed, they often gain media attention, forcing society to confront the realities faced by individuals with disabilities. This exposure can challenge stereotypes, debunk misconceptions, and start crucial conversations about the need for change.

Setting Precedents for Equality

Successful litigation cases set legal precedents that can have far-reaching implications. Such cases not only secure justice for the individuals involved but also establish legal standards for treating people with disabilities fairly. These standards contribute to a shift in societal norms, encouraging companies, businesses, institutions, and individuals to adopt more inclusive practices.

Educating the Public

Courtroom proceedings provide a platform for educating the public about the challenges faced by people with disabilities. Through testimonies and evidence presented during trials, individuals and organizations are compelled to explain and defend their actions, shedding light on discriminatory practices. This educational aspect contributes to greater understanding and empathy among the general public.

Creating Accountability

Litigation cases hold perpetrators accountable for their discriminatory actions. When individuals or entities are held legally responsible for discrimination, it sends a powerful message that such behavior will not be tolerated. This accountability not only provides justice to the victims but also serves as a deterrent, influencing others to reconsider their discriminatory practices.

Fostering Cultural Change

Legal battles have the potential to ignite cultural change. As lawsuits bring attention to systemic issues, they create momentum for broader social movements advocating for the rights of people with disabilities. The collective impact of these movements can lead to changes in laws, policies, and societal attitudes, contributing to a more inclusive and accepting environment.

Encouraging Proactive Inclusion

The fear of litigation can encourage organizations to proactively address accessibility and inclusion concerns. Knowing that discrimination lawsuits can have severe consequences, businesses and institutions may take proactive steps to ensure compliance with disability rights and laws. This, in turn, fosters an environment where accessibility and inclusivity become integral parts of organizational culture.

Litigation  plays a pivotal role in transforming societal attitudes towards people with disabilities by bringing attention to discrimination, setting legal standards, educating the public, creating accountability, fostering cultural change, and encouraging proactive inclusion. While legal action is not the sole solution, it serves as a catalyst for broader societal shifts towards greater acceptance, understanding, and support for individuals with disabilities.

People with disabilities should not shy away from litigation for one reason or another. Whether one wins or loses, change will be achieved.

As we continue to navigate the complex landscape of disability rights, recognizing the transformative power of one’s legal capacity and  litigation is essential in building a more inclusive and equitable future for all.

Article by: Emomeri Maryanne

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