My name is George Okumu Asimba, I am 27 years old and I have been paralyzed on the lower limbs since 2007. Living with disability in Kenya and other developing countries is quite a challenge that requires a strong wave of social support and acceptance in order to rise above the stigma and discrimination from society. I acquired paralysis of the lower limbs at the age of 14, which brought forth a whole new world, an unprecedented challenge that I was compelled to grapple with in order to position myself like any other regular individual in this competitive society.
My disability came as a shock both to me and my family members, which eventually called for sudden necessary financial, emotional, and physical adjustments in order to make my life comfortable while staying at home. However, some members of the community viewed my sudden disability as an outcast that symbolized a bad omen. I later learned that my friends were avoiding interacting and visiting me due to fear of contracting my disability.
My social network was consequently curtailed and I could no longer access my favorite football club and other peer games that used to bring me together with my friends. Losing my friends and the feeling of being an outcast because of a condition I did not apply for was indeed a bitter pill to swallow. This stigma of disability consequently isolated me from the rest of the world, and I had to learn to rediscover my world from within my inner person.
Finding education was the second challenge since most schools in Kenya are not disability friendly and subsequently inaccessible. There are a few special schools that exclusively accommodate people with a physical disability such as Joy land and Joy Town Secondary Schools. Conversely, I did not wish to be disintegrated from the regular schools just because I could not walk, I wanted to study in a school of my choosing. This was a wish that my wheelchair couldn’t just let me achieve due to accessibility challenges that I encountered in most learning institutions.
Eventually, I enrolled in this unique community and further discovered that I was not the only one that was battling these disability challenges. This amazing discovery awakened my potential which eventually led to successful graduation at the United States Internal University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and Psychology. I wanted to prove to the world that humans are not defined by just the ability of their legs but by the ability of their brains and a dying desire to win.
Challenges in the Job Market
Ultimately, I faced numerous challenges in the job market that made me question my disability one more time. I was on the verge of getting used to my disability when I came to terms with the harsh reality of stigma and discrimination in the job market.
My desire to work in a field of my choice and career path was thwarted by the mere fact that I was a wheelchair user. The difficulties that I encountered while accessing various interview rooms with my wheelchair eventually discouraged me from seeking other prospective employment opportunities even though I had the right qualifications for most of these jobs.
Most employers subtly thought that I was a liability, therefore my physical disability inherently limited my job abilities and skillsets. Finally, I found hope through Stepwise LLC which is one of the leading impacting sourcing companies globally. Through Stepwise employment opportunities, I have been able to complete the ultimate step in the ladder of disability challenges which is access to employment.
I believe that there are more that needs to be done in order to promote accessibility, inclusivity and curb discrimination in the social, educational and employment sectors to improve the lives and welfare of people living with disability globally.