By Mr. Paul Kimanzi, Ms. Jane Kaguta and Dr. Melckzedeck Osore
The welfare of the visually impaired was at the center of partnership talks that happened in May 2022 between senior management of Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) and Kenya Society for the Blind (KSB) at KMFRI, Mombasa headquarters.
The talks that were spearheaded by the Deputy Director in charge of Human Resource and Administration Dr. Irene Githaiga, on behalf of KMFRI management, focused on potential areas of partnership that would help in the prevention of avoidable blindness for the members of the staff. KSB was represented by the Executive Director Mr. Samson Waweru, who was accompanied by his team comprising of Mr. Johnson Riungu-in charge of Education and Rehabilitation, and Ms. Annah Kiilu, from the Advocacy and Corporate Affairs department.
Other mutually beneficial areas discussed included the provision of training opportunities for KMFRI staff to be facilitated by KSB which will focus on the welfare of visually impaired communities, provision of assistive devices (visual aids), and consultancy services. KMFRI has aggressively embarked on mainstreaming disability at the workplace in accordance with the Persons with Disability ACT No. 14 of 2003. In recognition of the fact that anyone can aquire a disability at any time, the Institute is determined to leave no one behind whether staff, partners or customers that visit the premise. It is in this regard that KMFRI management has been in the forefront to support construction of ramps for users of wheelchair and crutches, introduction of braille for the visually impared at the Customer Care Department and the acquisition of various assistive devices for use by people who are differently abled.
The KSB team agreed to establish a working framework that captures the terms of engagement with KMFRI and will present it within two weeks to allow for additional deliberations.
KSB mobilizes resources to support the visually impaired. Mr. Waweru appealed to KMFRI to factor in the blind in its Corporate Social Responsibility activities, Employment as well as economic empowerment through the access to government procurement opportunities (AGPO). The partnership will also enable KMFRI staff to benefit free of charge during eye screening medical camps. Ms Kiilu said that the officers will be advised on the next course of action if the screening detects a problem that requires further attention.
KSB is advocating for organizations to mainstream disability in the workplace and to train employees to understand disability issues to coexist with PWD.
KSB relies heavily on membership subscription fees. Ms.Kiilu suggested the body uptake corporate membership. Corporate and individual membership is open to all.Currently, the society has over 10,000 members.
Membership subscription fees are of paramount importance to KSB.
KSB is planning to conduct a training session at the Kenya National Library Service in Mombasa this is in collaboration with KSB partners.
The objective of the training is to train visually impaired persons on how to access digital content through computers and assistive technologies, screen readers and screen magnification.
This will provide the necessary skills to persons with visual impairment to access government websites and services.
Following continuous improvement of accessibility and mobility at the KMFRI premise, including introduction of suitable infrascturcure for ease of mobility and communication with people with various challenges whether visual, physical or otherwise, the Institute will be an ideal location for KSB to consider hosting such training in the future.