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Disability is Not Inability

Never Never Ever Give Up

I want to inspire people. I want someone to look at me and say, ‘Because of you I didn’t give up.’~Paul Mugambi

Have I got a treat for you today! Hold onto your seats because this post is going to be a unique Fierce Friday.

Earlier this year I briefly talked about some of the emails I receive from readers around the world who visit my blog. I was especially touched by one reader from Kenya who is a soft spoken determined activist working to change attitudes within the community as it relates to the social issues that affect people with disabilities.

Typically on Fridays I write about blind and vision impaired women who are making a positive impact in the community through their careers, art, photography, writing, advocacy, poetry, and leadership. Today it give me great pleasure to introduce you to Paul Mugambi, Disability Rights Practitioner and musician from Kenya.

Paul, who abruptly lost his vision at 15 years of age when he got caught up in an altercation, has a remarkably positive outlook on life that’s positively contagious. Admittedly the initial loss of his sight was very challenging but his faith in God and ultimately acceptance of the situation helped him to adapt and move on.  An move on he did–he has been featured on several TV programs (third link) and has received multiple awards, among them the Disability Champion award by CBN International for being a role model to those in the employment sector and ensuring policies are inclusive and working for better services for people with disabilities.

We want to be mainstreamed alongside others and share the experiences which we have to to tell our story. ~Paul Mugambi

Educating people and bringing awareness on issues concerning disabilities are very important to Paul but there is one project he told me about that’s very close to his heart–bringing white canes to Kenya. According to Kenya’s 2009 census survey, people who are visually impaired makeup the second largest group of impairments after those with physical impairments. However, since white canes are not manufactured locally they are unaffordable to many people who would greatly benefit from these mobility devices.

Paul is very passionate about his cause and it shows in his music. So what makes Paul’s music stand out from the rest? Aside from the upbeat tempo, if you take a peek at the two music videos you’ll notice almost immediately that he uses his white cane. I don’t know about you but I’ve never seen this done by a musician in a video. He goes further by showing someone reading Braille, and showing people with other disabilities.

You never really appreciate your independence until you find yourself in a situation where you have to rely on others. A white cane may seem like a simple tool but it can be a virtual lifeline to a visually impaired person who otherwise would not be able to navigate safely by themselves. It is a device that when used properly, not only helps the user to become oriented to their environment but it also serves as a beacon to those who are sighted to let them know the user has a vision impairment.

What keeps many blind people in dependency is not so much the blindness itself, but the lack of opportunity. Blind people need the chance to become educated, to develop their own interests and abilities, and the opportunity to seek employment on a fair and equal basis with others. ~Paul Mugambi

The other key pieces to Paul’s efforts in obtaining white canes in Kenya are orientation and mobility training for people with vision impairments and awareness campaigns for the general public. Paul understands the need for awareness and education for the safety of vision impaired people and the public at large.

http://bit.ly/17F905C

No one who is blind or vision impaired should be subject to remaining wholly dependent on others when a white cane can open the door to inclusion and opportunities. If you know of any services or programs that could help Paul achieve his goal please leave a message in the comments or you can send me an email at boldblindbeauty@gmail.com or email Paul directly at shamgpaul@gmail.com.

I hope you enjoyed Paul’s news and music videos. Even though I don’t speak the language I love the music and was so moved to see first-hand an inclusive music video.

“I am an artist who has created awareness through music on the usage of white cane, road safety and disability awareness.” ~Paul Mugambi

2 thoughts on “Disability is Not Inability

  1. Steph, another excellent article and inspiring story! I know that the NFB (NFB.org) does give out free white canes, but I don’t know if they have an international outreach for that program. I’ll dig around and see if I can find out.

    _____

    1. Oh Donna, I could just hug you!! Thank you.

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