Disability Rights Activism in Kenya, 1959-1964: History from Below
This article examines the early history of disability rights activism in Kenya. The transitional years from colonialism to independence were a period of great expectations. For persons with disabilities in particular, decolonization held addi- tional possibilities and potential. National independence promised not just major- ity rule but also an all-inclusive citizenship and the commitment to social justice. Among the visually impaired of Kenya, such collective aspirations led to the birth of the Kenya Union of the Blind in 1959. In 1964, after years of futile correspondence with government officials, the Union organized a street march to the prime minis- ter's office to attract attention to its grievances. The result was a government panel, the Mwendwa Committee for the Care and Rehabilitation of the Disabled, whose published report became the blueprint for social and rehabilitation programs. The government possessed limited resources, and the reforms that ensued were long overdue. Yet the sociohistorical dynamics behind the march are of particular signifi- cance. From the social historian's point of view, they affirm not only the historical agency of persons with disabilities, but also the need to recast and broaden the scope of African social history.
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