Hawkers and other entrepreneurs living with disabilities in Nakuru can rest easy after the devolved unit rolled out business license waivers targeting physically challenged persons.
However, the beneficiaries will only be spared the wrath of license enforcement officers and askaris while plying their trade from designated public markets or private outlets that have been cleared by the county government as business premises.
Governor Lee Kinyanjui said the move had been initiated to encourage and empower persons living with disability (PLWD) to venture into business.
The strategy, he said would also shield the marginalized group from ‘undesirable display of unwarranted force’ from law enforcement agents.
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The announcement comes just two months after the county government launched a Sh 278 million disability fund aimed at aiding PLWDS start income generating activities.
The Programme was officially inaugurated on Monday when Chief Officer Gender, Culture and Social Services Tumme Abduba, issued out business License waivers to persons with disability in Gilgil Sub-county.
Kinyanjui affirmed that his administration will continue to advocate for the welfare of people with special needs and ensure they get facilities and services as envisaged in the Constitution.
“We are the first county government to waive business license for PWLD. Nakuru is also a pioneer in establishing the disability kitty after the county assembly provided a legal framework to guide the fund,” said the Governor.
He challenged the private sector to partner with other stakeholders in providing interest-free seed capital and intellectual development programmes meant to boost the empowerment programs for PWDs.
The governor distributed cheques worth Sh. 720,000 to PWDs groups in Molo, Kuresoi North, and Kuresoi South-Sub Counties. Each Sub-County received cheques worth Sh.240, 000.
Ms. Tumme noted that the devolved unit had initiated various activities aimed at improving the wellbeing of persons with disabilities.
“We have distributed mobility and assistive devices including wheelchairs to disabled people in various parts of the county in conjunction with the National Council of Persons with Disabilities.
The governor has further directed the Physical Planning department not to approve construction plans for buildings that lack disability friendly facilities such as ramps, lifts and special toilets” stated the Chief Officer.
Ms. Tumme said the devolved unit was working closely with Regional Commissioner George Natembeya and County Commissioner Erastus Mbui Mwenda to ensure that public buildings also comply with the directive.
The devolved unit has also had consultations with stakeholders in the transport sector to embrace and accommodate people with disabilities by ensuring they travel with ease.
“Our PLWDs must be handled with dignity with regard to access to public transport and public buildings. A unit within the Department of Social Services will be formed to inspect existing buildings and give notice to those lacking these facilities to comply within a specified period,” she added.
Ms. Tume also revealed that the county will hire 55 sign language interpreters who will be stationed in all public hospitals across the 11 sub-counties and other public facilities in the region.
“A society that disregards its persons with disabilities is on the path of self-destruction. We want parents to bring out their disabled children and offer them educational opportunities,” said Ms. Tume.
She however expressed concern that significant proportion of people living with disabilities in Nakuru County, do not know their tax exemption status leading to reduced savings from their income.
Ms. Tumme explained most of PLWDS were unaware that the law had exempted them from paying taxes for monthly earnings of Sh150, 000 and below and Sh1.8 million annual income from organizations owned by people with disability since the exemption policy was implemented in April, 2010.
“If you are a person with disability you get up to the first Sh150, 000 tax free but only few are aware of this. We are enlightening them on this,” said Ms Tumme.
She urged the PLWDs to ensure that they are tax compliant to make them eligible for the Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO), the programme that facilitates persons with disability to participate in government procurement.
“With the AGPO programme PLWDs are entitled to get 30 per cent of government tenders. You cannot get them if you are not complaint on various things with tax compliance as one of them. We are working to put them on an equal footing with others, probably more empowered than they are,” she said.
To benefit from the tax exemption Ms. Tumme pointed out that individuals have to first register with the National Council for People with Disability (NCPWD) where all tax-relief applications will have to be reviewed before they are forwarded to the KRA’s domestic tax department.
“You have to get a certificate from the National council for people with disability and then you bring it to KRA to enjoy the exemption. Thousands of people with disabilities still pay tax on their income while unaware of the exemptions they are entitled to,” She stated