We, the undersigned organizations committed to the full and equal enjoyment of human rights by persons with disability, express our deep concern over the recent trend and practice of denying deaf persons the issuance and renewal of driving licenses and provisional driving licenses by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA). We firmly believe that this amounts to a violation of the rights and freedoms afforded to deaf persons by the Constitution of Kenya and more so Article 54 which provides that all persons with disability are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.
The World Federation of the Deaf stresses that deafness does not in any way limit a person’s ability to drive a car or other vehicles. Globally, there are no reports that show that deaf drivers are a threat to other road users or that they are involved in more traffic accidents or injuries than the general population. In fact it is common practice the world over to issue driving licenses to deaf persons unconditionally.
Recently, the NTSA rolled out and introduced the smart driving license. Deaf persons who already have driving licenses have applied for these new licenses to no avail. We note that NTSA has created a novel policy that requires all deaf persons to obtain a recommendation letter from a government gazetted hospital before attending driving school or obtaining or renewing a driving license . Only the Kenyatta National Hospital has the equipment required to conduct Brainstem Evoked Response Audiometry (BERA) assessment on deaf persons. This makes it inaccessible to deaf persons from other parts of the country who are forced to travel long distances to obtain the recommendation letter. Worse still, this test is economically inaccessible to the majority of deaf persons as they are required to pay a fee of Kshs. 6,750/-. Unfortunately despite incurring these expenses the Kenyatta National Hospital is still denying these persons positive recommendation letters despite research showing that such persons are well capable of driving. Consequently the NTSA denies the applications submitted by these persons for provisional driving licenses to join driving school or the issuance or renewal of driving licenses despite some of them having driven for over ten years and passed the driving test.
This policy and the actions resulting therefrom are a violation of the provisions of the Constitution of Kenya and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that Kenya is a party as:
These incidents corroborate the systemic issues affecting persons with disabilities in the Country. For instance, research by the World Bank shows that the economic status of persons with disabilities is much lower compared to those without disabilities with data showing that 80 percent of them acquire disability at age 18- 64 which is the average working age. Their economic situation is getting worse and this can be attributed to the myriad of barriers similar to the actions referenced above that persons with disabilities face as they seek to pursue livelihood opportunities.
We thus call for better protection of the foregoing fundamental rights and freedoms of deaf persons. To realize this we;
7th February 2024.
Amka Africa Justice Initiative
Kenya National Deaf Women Peace Network