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Why Kenya’s First Ever Disability Assessment Guidelines Are a Win for Persons With Disabilities

The new guidelines developed by the government through the Ministry of Health (MOH) for assessing and categorizing disabilities in the country are a win for persons with disabilities.

The first of their kind in Kenya, the Disability Medical Assessment and Categorization Guidelines are a win for persons with disabilities as they provide a standard process for assessing and categorizing disabilities.

Before developing these guidelines, Kenya did not have credible means of conducting disability assessments, much to the disadvantage of the estimated 900,000 persons with disabilities  in the country.

Consequently, many deserving persons could not access various benefits accorded to persons with disabilities by the government, such as assistive devices, educational bursaries, tax exemptions, etc. These benefits are only accessible by those who have undergone the assessment and obtained a disability card.

The guidelines are also a win for persons with disabilities in Kenya since they devolve the assessment and categorization process to the counties, including the signature of the Director of Medical Services (DMS), thus saving time. 

Previously, once the assessment was done at a government hospital, one had to submit the medical reports to the Ministry of Health (MOH) headquarters at Afya House to be signed, making it a straining venture for persons with disabilities.

However, with the new guidelines, the Director of Medical Services' signature is now available at the county level, making it easy for persons with disabilities to obtain a disability card and access the benefits that come with it.

In addition, the County Directors of Health now have the mandate of verifying and finalizing the assessment reports, leaving the national office (Afya House) to handle appeals regarding assessments done at the county level. In addition, the national office will also provide technical assistance to the counties. It will also participate in the vetting of persons with disabilities for tax exemption at the request of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).

Further, the guidelines developed by MOH in partnership with other stakeholders are also a win for persons with disabilities in the country as they allow the formation of Disability Medical Assessment Committees at the county levels that will oversee the assessment and categorization process.

The Medical Superintendent or officer-in-charge at a government hospital will be the Chairperson and will appoint the Disability Assessment Committee members and a secretary. The membership shall include physiotherapists, occupational therapists, orthopedic technologists, ophthalmologists, ENT specialists, and psychiatrists. 

Other members may include dermatologists, orthopedic surgeons, general surgeons, oncologists, pediatricians, dentists, physicians, medical social workers, etc. The guidelines allow the Chairperson to co-opt other members when the need arises.

However, the committee shall have a quorum of three members for an assessment to take place. At least one of the members shall be a specialist in the disability domain being assessed. In addition, at least one member shall be from a rehabilitation department-physiotherapist, occupational therapist, or orthopedic technologist.

Suppose a specific health facility does not have a line specialist. In that case, the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) –based guidelines allow for the appointment of a specialist nurse or clinical officer to the committee.

The committee's roles and responsibilities include assessing and categorizing persons with disability  based on the ICF classification, booking and keeping client records, and acquiring conducive and accessible assessment premises.

Additionally, the committees are tasked with acquiring, availing, and ensuring the proper use of necessary tools and equipment, referring clients for appropriate interventions where necessary, and submitting the duly signed assessment forms to relevant authorities.

To ensure transparency, the 155-page guidelines require the committee members to indicate their professional numbers and specialties in the assessment forms, with a disclaimer on the legal implication of providing false information.

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