JKUAT Marks International Wheelchair Day

Hon. Tim Wanyonyi flags off the Walk to Mark International Wheelchair Day at JKUAT

International Wheelchair Day, dedicated to increasing awareness and celebrating the resilience of individuals who depend on wheelchairs, while also promoting inclusivity within communities, was commemorated during a ceremony held on Friday, March 1, 2024, at the Wheelchair Learning and Service Centre located at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in Juja.

The day, characterized by a walk led by students pursuing degrees in Physiotherapy, Medical Social Work, and Occupational Therapy, also featured the distribution of locally assembled and customized wheelchairs to several individuals with disabilities, courtesy of JKUAT’s Wheelchair Centre.

Since September 2023, JKUAT has been operating the Centre, which stands as the first of its kind in the region, dedicated to providing suitable locally assembled wheelchairs to persons with disabilities.

During a tour of the Wheelchair Centre, the Chief Guest Member of Parliament, Westlands Constituency, Hon. Tim Wanyonyi said the government through the legislators is working towards initiatives that can support persons living with disabilities (PWDs) through an Act of Parliament which has been reintroduced and is scheduled for debate.

He urged the University’s faculty to contribute to the Bill, which is currently in its third reading once it is open to public participation.

Hon. Wanyonyi also said that there was a need to devolve the government functions on PWDs to reach those at the grassroots and therefore achieve inclusivity.

“There are PWDs who have never benefitted in any form, and they are not even aware whether assistive devices such as these wheelchairs exist, or whether they are affordable. We therefore need to formulate and implement policies that support the devolution of these functions and ensure that we have more appointed over elected positions for PWDs,” said Hon. Wanyonyi.

Hon. Tim Wanyonyi MP Westlands Constituency meets Gakure Nzaria at the JKUAT Wheelchair Centre

Former Nominated Senator (PWDs) Dr. Gertude Musuruve Inimah, a lecturer at JKUAT also called upon the government to implement policies that support the economic empowerment of PWDs, who are often denied opportunities despite stellar academic qualifications from Universities. This she said was critical in ending the cyclical nature of poverty among PWDs.

JKUAT’s Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Ngumi, who was represented by Principal College of Engineering Dr. Hiram Ndiritu, reiterated JKUAT’s commitment to supporting PWDs not just through the Wheelchair Centre, but also serving as a valuable hub for education, supporting, and empowerment for wheelchair users in the region

The JKUAT disability-adapted Wheelchair Centre, whose wheelchairs have been carefully selected for the African terrain, follows a unique model of assessing, prescribing, fitting and offering aftercare training to patients to ensure proper treatment and sustainability.

Simon Murimi, who received an assessment and was provided with a wheelchair, endured a stroke in 2018 and has faced prolonged recovery due to inadequate treatment. Despite his frequent visits to clinics, he has not received essential physiotherapy care, crucial for restoring mobility.

For Gakure Nzaria, born with Cerebral Palsy, obtaining a more suitable wheelchair brought immense joy. This is because the mobility requirements of individuals like him evolve, necessitating adaptations and modifications to their wheelchairs to accommodate changing physical abilities and lifestyle needs.

Aligned with the theme for International Wheelchair Day 2024, ‘Access for All,’ which underscores the significance of inclusive design and accessibility in the built environment, Dr. Mwangi Matheri, Chairman of the Department of Rehabilitative Sciences, shed light on some of the challenges encountered by Persons Living With Disabilities (PLWDs) in need of wheelchairs.

These include pressure sores, isolation, loss of postural control, dependency, anxiety & depression, dual loss of income, and loss of employment opportunities.

“The partnership between JKUAT, Motivation Charitable Trust, and Hon. Tim Wanyonyi is significant as it highlights the collaborative efforts needed to address the challenges faced by wheelchair users. Our goal for today was to highlight the importance of appropriate wheelchairs, inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities.”

Dr. Matheri’s recommendations include the inclusion of assistive technology (AT) devices in the list of medicines which NHIF covers, tax-exempt ATs including wheelchairs, Government to support the local manufacturing of ATs, compensation of PLWDS for loss of income/employment, as well as disability inclusion in industry and governmental organizations.

JKUAT students from the Department of Rehabilitative Sciences March to Mark International Wheelchair Day

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