In the 2022 presidential elections, Reuben Kigame, a visually impaired aspirant, had his presidential bid quashed even though he had met all the requirements. According to him, Wafula Chebukati, who was the chairperson of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) admitted to him that the commission had no systems in place to cater for the needs of candidates with disabilities.

The United Disabled Persons of Kenya (UDPK) recently released the Audit Report on 2022 Elections From a Disability-Inclusion Perspective and there were accessibility and inclusion gaps. Some of the representatives from UDPK and Disability Inclusion Coordinating Committee (DICC) went to present the report to IEBC Secretariat. IEBC CEO Mr. Marjan Hussein Marjan and his two deputies Ruth Kulundu and Obadiah Kaitany led their teams which included all the nine (9) directors in receiving the report for a whole day session.

In a bid to improve the accessibility for candidates and voters with disabilities, the IEBC leadership set the standard for how top management can effectively contribute to accessibility and disability inclusion in their places of work and areas of jurisdiction. Besides showing up themselves, they also showed their commitment to making the next elections which will be held in 2027 inclusive for people with disabilities.

Strategies for Inclusion for Top Management in the Workplace

Using IEBC as a case study, here are a few strategies that the top management can utilize in its accessibility and disability inclusion plan.

Developing and Implementing Disability Awareness Initiatives and Policies

When it comes to policies, the top leadership should be at the forefront at both the development and implementation processes. Policies that touch on recruitment, hiring, promotion, performance evaluation and the provision of reasonable accommodation should be developed with inclusion in mind.

They can also be part of the process by allocating resources for policy implementations, committing to prioritizing the implementations and by seeking meaningful partnerships and collaborating with stakeholders to ensure compliance. The collaboration between IEBC, UDPK and DICC is a step in the right direction.

Obadiah Keitany, the Deputy CEO-Support Services, promised that IEBC will enhance ongoing initiatives and trigger areas that require policy or legal reforms and engage the DICC to enforce the recommendations. The DICC promised to review IEBC’s policies and manuals and make them more disability inclusive.

Overseeing the Provision of Reasonable Accommodation

Providing reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities not only increases productivity and employee satisfaction but also contributes to a positive work culture. It demonstrates the company’s commitment to social responsibility and to fostering diversity, inclusion and equal opportunities.

During the meeting, Chrispine Owiye the director, legal and public affairs at IEBC acknowledged that the electoral body needs to acquaint themselves with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) specifically on reasonable accommodation and procedural accommodation.

Being Role models

The top leadership are naturally the role models of any system and if it doesn’t have a solid structure, the strategies won’t help much. If the top management disregards people with disabilities, others will look at them with the same set of opinions. The leadership should be the disability and inclusion champions. They should seek to be more informed on disability and inclusion matters and promote opportunities for other employees to interact with employees with disabilities to foster empathy.

During the meeting, IEBC’s CEO noted that he had gone through the audit report and he saw the need to have all attend the meeting.  He lauded the efforts by UDPK and DICC in holding a briefing session with IEBC and he committed that the IEBC would engage with and work closely with the DICC from the planning, technical, and implementation levels.    

Encouraging Communication and Feedback

People listen to their leaders more than anyone else in the workplace. The top management should leverage on their communication and educate others on the importance of disability inclusion and its benefits. Communication being two-way, they should also give their employees with disabilities opportunities to speak and they should listen to what they have to say and learn from each other. The meeting held by IEBC, UDPK and the DICC was a good example of this.

Mr. Marjan promised to create a platform for the DICC to engage with the IEBC commissioners once the new commissioners take office.

Attending Disability Awareness Trainings

There will always be something new to learn and the leadership should never be ignorant of this fact. Disability awareness training should not just be for the employees only but also the top management. Most companies only conduct awareness training for human resource managers and junior employees and the top leadership rarely attend. Given that they may be busy, separate training sessions can be organized for them.

Ruth Kulundu, the Deputy CEO-Operations, stated that there is need to continuously train IEBC staff on disability awareness and etiquette to curb attitudinal barriers. 

Setting Expectations and  including Metrics and Targets

The expectations and how progress will be measured and achieved

should be clearly defined from the onset. This will make each team be accountable  and encourage them to work towards the goals. For the departments which fail to meet the set targets, the gaps and challenges should be addressed through other innovative solutions.

IEBC, UDPK and the DICC each developed action points on how they were going to work on the recommendations. Some of the recommendations included:

  • UDPK and DICC to come up with an Abridged version of the Audit Report with an Action Matrix with recommendations for each institution
  • On legislative reforms – the DICC needs to unpack the recommendations and create a work package will clear timelines and begin roll-out
  • IEBC should share their data on persons with disabilities, the 8%, with NCPWD and compare the individual databases, since the NCPWD statistics on disability are quite low
  • UDPK and DICC to use the findings to help election management bodies to come up with charters on Disability Inclusion

Demanding Accountability

The top management should demand accountability from their juniors but before they do so, they have to make sure that they have done their part. This can be achieved by encouraging transparency and reporting on inclusion efforts through periodic reports or updates and recognizing and rewarding departments that make progress on the same.

All the three entities have a responsibility of holding each other accountable in fulfilling their end of the bargain. The 2027 general elections will be the scorecard on whether these efforts will bear fruit or not.