About Ability

The Ability Project aims to gather data around the Nairobi Central Business District and clearly mark out how accessible these every day environments really are, by using the globally recognized concept of Universal Design as our compass. As explained by the Center for Excellence in Universal Design at the Irish National Disability Authority (NDA),“Universal Design is the design of a building, place, product Service or technology so that they can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.”

The Challenge

According to research gathered by the Ability Programme, Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, is highly inaccessible. The programme set out to record what we believe are the most basic factors that prevent the disabled community from functioning within their environments on a daily basis like:

  • How easy is it to walk around the CBD if you have a disability?
  • Is it easy to enter and move around throughout private and public buildings/ spaces?
  • Do these places, at the very least, have simple accessibility features that are in good enough repair for someone with a disability to use on their own?

Together with a team of 40 volunteering university students trained, equipped to collect accurate data inside and outside every building, of every street in the 17 zones that were covered in Nairobi’s Central Business District, the spaces were mapped and the data compiled into an OpenStreetMap. The map outlines the level of accessibility of each of these zones.

MapAbility also shows that while some buildings may have accessibility features such as ramps and lifts for instance, they still have a long way to go in terms of making these features user-friendly. Some ramps were too steep, lifts did not work or have auditory prompts and braille, hallways had no clear signage and stairwells were not safe for all. While many streets had pavements, these pavements had uneven flooring, potholes, obstructions such as business sign boards, no tactile paving or working traffic lights.

Our Goals

The Ability Programme exists to advocate for the rights of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), as well as SDGs 10 and 11. The aim of the programme is to show the challenges in bite-size chunks surrounding accessibility, or lack thereof, in the Nairobi CBD in order to prompt the start of a much wider discourse about sustainable solutions. Ability seeks to use data to eradicate the discrimination and inequities faced by PWDs in three main focus areas:

Accessibility

The mobility of PWDs has a significant impact on their quality of life, safety, livelihoods, education, community participation, confidence, dignity, and at its very core, their basic human rights. The Ability Programme, through accessibility audits, maps out the rate and quality of universal design across the built environment and transport infrastructure in Kenya. Working with the general public who volunteer with us, we have been able to audit over 600 buildings and streets across Nairobi and assess how accessible they are to PWDs using universal design principles and put our findings on a digital interactive open source map.

Behaviour

Using unconscious bias training, the Ability Programme conducts sessions with organisations to help them become disability-confident employers; empowering them with the tools and training they need in observing diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. This is done through Speak Up Sensitivity Training sessions, which are curated to suit each organisation's needs and objectives. With the added complexities that COVID-19 brings to PWDs regarding employment, it is important now more than ever for employers to educate themselves on how to become more accessible and inclusive, as research shows that ensuring diversity in the workforce as a long-term strategy improves productivity, creativity, healthy work environments and a sense of belonging amongst employees.

Citizen Awareness

With a growing online presence, the Ability Programme also seeks to raise awareness and mainstream disability rights issues to the general public to reduce discrimination of PWDs. We do this through speaking at a range of conferences, workshops and seminars, interactive social media campaigns, radio and TV show interviews, online blogs and on the Open Institute’s YouTube channel.

Outcomes that we hope for

  • To continue working toward the realisation of the rights of persons with disabilities through advocating for safe, inclusive and sustainable infrastructure and transport in Africa.
  • To submit recommendations and collaborate in the development of laws, policies and best practices within the private and public sector that can be scaled up, implemented across urban and rural areas then replicated across different parts of Africa.
  • To lessen the barriers faced by persons with disabilities in the built environment, so that every person no matter their ability or disability, can freely enjoy their human rights and live a dignified life without fear of discrimination.

The Ability Team

I lead and consult on projects surrounding universal design and accessibility best practices in order to achieve inclusive transport and infrastructure. With a focus on how SDG 10 (reduced inequalities) and SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) disproportionately affects PWDs.

Crystal Asige

Programme Manager, Ability

I have been responsible for establishing the Data scraping and wrangling division at the Open Institute, as well as contributed to the creation of grass-roots data literacy training modules. I believe that an informed person makes better choices.

Benjamin Charagu

Operations & Programme Director

I am a human rights and development professional with over 5 years experience in advocacy and supporting the coordination and implementation of donor funded projects in human rights, governance and development in Kenya. I am passionate about active citizen participation and advancing the rights of women.

Ivy Gathu

Programme Officer

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+254 721 327 511

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hello@openinstitute.africa​

MAIN OFFICE LOCATION

209 State House Road,
P.O Box 50474, Nairobi 00100, Kenya