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People living with disability deserve a chance, not pity

Mercy Mugure was left with a fused knee after suffering from Osteomyelitis when she was nine. But she never allowed this to kill her vision and went on to co-found Ability Society of Kenya. She shares her story

Tell us about yourself

I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Education arts (English and literature) and I am currently pursuing a masters degree in Gender and Disability studies at Kenyatta University. I also have a leadership certificate from University of Arkansas, USA. I am a trainer of trainers on disability rights and monitoring both locally and internationally.

What inspired you to work with the disabled in society?

I was mentored by my predecessor and co-founder of Ability Society of Kenya, Paul Mugambi who was representing students with disabilities. Later I was elected as the special needs secretary at Kenyatta University where I advocated for inclusive environment at the institution and sensitised the entire community that disability is only an aspect within persons with disabilities and does not define us.

What would you term as your biggest achievement as a student leader at KU?

My greatest achievement was to push for the adoption of Disability Awareness Day proposal in the University alumna calendar. This day has been celebrated since 2010. Today, Kenyatta University is the benchmark, with the highest admission of students with disabilities. Currently, the number stands at 385.

Do you feel you achieved your best in having students with disability recognised?

By the time I was graduating, I felt I had done my best. Most of my friends with disabilities who had graduated ahead of me were jobless despite the fact that they had graduated with good grades. So, the concern I needed to address was to find out why they were jobless.

What was your first step?

I discussed with my friend Mugambi who had sent out 385 CVs to different companies and was not called for a single interview. When he sent out the 386th one he was invited for an interview. However, they couldn’t offer him the job because they didn’t know how a totally blind person would work.

Systems were not adapted to suit his disability. We therefore agreed to come up with the Ability Society of Kenya, with one message: See the Ability Within Persons With Disabilities. We registered the organisation in 2009, the same year I graduated from KU.

What does the organisation do?

We write to organisations and institutions reminding them what the Constitution says about the employment of people living with disabilities. We also collect CVs of these people through Facebook. Currently, we have over 100 people living with disabilities who have been employed or at least appeared for interviews and career fairs through us.

How do you track their progress?

We often do career talks, visit them in schools and encourage them. So far, we have reached over 200 children with disabilities in different schools in the country.

Who funds your activities?

Our first funding was from AkiliDada. For our activities we fund our activities ourselves because we are employed. We also have volunteers who make our work easier. I work for my employer full-time and all my free time I work for Ability Society Kenya.

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