Statistics and data should help governments to comprehend barriers that persons with disabilities face so that measures to ensure their full inclusion are holistic. The Covid19 pandemic is bound to bring a new face to the field of work and employment. For example, it has been such a relief for many persons with disabilities to work remotely and hence avoid the inaccessible public transport. But in any case, we must advocate for accessible public transport. But this is beside the point, rather, how are governments going to invest in data to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left further behind, post Covid19, in work and employment?
Data continues to show the small numbers of persons with disabilities who are in employment, and specifically formal employment. Unemployment or a lack of source of an income and resultant poverty not only undermines the power and agency of disabled persons but studies have also shown that dependence on families for support greatly undermines freedom to make own choices and to even exercise autonomy which subsequently impacts on their self-esteem.
How is data going to help both the public and private sectors in Kenya to ensure that they are living up to their obligations in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in ensuring the right of persons with disabilities to work, on an equal basis with others?
Various researches in Kenya have delved into the issue of work and employment for persons with disabilities. The National Gender and Equality Commission in a report on the Status of Equality and Inclusion in Kenya noted that a larger proportion of employed persons with disabilities are likely to be in informal employment or agriculture. A lower proportion of persons with disabilities are employed within the formal sector, indicating their relative disadvantage in accessing good quality jobs.
The Public Service Commission releases yearly reports on Public Service compliance with the Values and Principles mentioned in Articles 10 and 232 of the Constitution. Among others they address national values and principles of governance of human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non-discrimination and protection of the marginalised. They also address affording adequate and equal opportunities for appointment, training and advancement, at all levels of the public service, of persons with disabilities among other groups of the population.
The evaluation report for the year 2017/2018 showed that of five thematic areas evaluated in all the public institutions, diversity management was at 44% and was the least performing thematic area. Others included Accountability for Administrative Acts at 68.2% followed by Performance Management at 61.3%; Efficiency, Effectiveness, Economic Use of Resources and Sustainable Development at 57.6%; and Improvement in Service Delivery at 56.6%.
A resultant recommendation that catches my eye is that the Public Service Commission recommends the review of recruitment and selection and the internship policies; and development of affirmative action programmes. Very good on paper. It is especially painful to see the low numbers of persons with disabilities in public service. Even more painful to hear experiences of qualified persons with disabilities applying for jobs in PSC and not being selected, not once, twice but some even four times!
Consider the performance gaps: weak compliance with provision of customized facilities and services for use by persons with disabilities; national inventory of persons with disabilities not yet in place; progressive attainment of the 5 percent requirement for persons with disabilities in appointment not yet met.
In 2016, the PSC issued a Diversity Policy for the Public Service. The policy is a guideline for the public service on the mainstreaming and management of diversity issues in the public service. Are there any changes especially for potential employees with all diverse disabilities?
From the 2017/18 evaluation report, of the 251 institutions evaluated, there were 2,155 persons with disabilities represented accounting for 1.1% of the in-post. The performance gap therefore was 3.9% of the 5% requirement. An example given in the report shows this. The Ministries and State Departments have a total in-post of 86,145. The ideal number of persons with disabilities is 4308 but they have 680 which is a 1.2% of the 5% requirement hence having a gap of 3628 which is 3.8%. In terms of departments that are occupied by persons with disabilities, a small percentage serve at Senior Management and policy level.
The report notes that the Commission set targets for 241 non-compliant institutions to bring up their compliance levels in representation of persons with disabilities at the six levels of public service to 5% by the year 2022. How is this possible if still many qualified persons with disabilities are still being rejected in PSC jobs? If accessibility and universal design standards are not being adhered to? If public transport is not accessible?
In its commitments during the 2018 Global Disability Summit, the Kenya government made a commitment to improve the lives of persons with disabilities and to enhance opportunities for the development of their economic potential. Combined with data from many sources, the government must walk an extra mile to ensure that this commitment is realized by the year 2022, at least in the public service commission.