Empowering Inclusive Living for All People: Insights from the 2023/2024 Kenya Housing Survey

Written by: Robert Buluma, Freelance Consultant and Volunteer for Southern & Eastern African Regional Disability Statistics Group

The 2023/2024 Kenya Housing Survey (KHS) is a cross-sectional survey designed to gather information about, and generate estimates for, housing indicators in Kenya. Embarking on a groundbreaking mission to better understand the diverse housing landscape of Kenya, this survey aims to address the extent to which current housing infrastructure meets the needs of all persons in the country including those with disabilities. This is the first survey of its kind to collect data on disability. This article highlights the innovative methodology adopted to ensure that the survey accurately collects data that is also representative of the challenges faced by the disabled community in terms of access to housing.

A distinguishing feature of the 2023/2024 KHS is the use of the Washington Group Short Set on Functioning (WG-SS) questions and the inclusion of environmental questions on multiple aspects of housing infrastructure, especially as they relate to functional difficulties and limitations. To prevent stigmatization and foster accurate responses, the survey refrains from using the term "disability" during interviews, opting for the phrase "difficulties” in asking questions and therefore focusing on measuring functional difficulties and limitations.

Conducted by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, in collaboration with the Kenyan State Department of Housing and Urban Development, the KHS provides up-to-date statistics on housing and the construction sector. By concentrating on housing indicators, the survey seeks to generate insights for creating truly inclusive living spaces, acknowledging the varied needs of the population, including persons with disabilities.

Recognizing the diversity in types and characteristics of dwelling units, the KHS incorporates a wide set of questions on housing that can be used to highlight areas for improvement and ensure that infrastructure development considers the needs of persons with disabilities. This includes questions on the type of dwelling, floor materials, exterior walls, roof materials, access to drinking water and toilet facilities. By identifying barriers to accessibility in housing units, such as the lack of ramps, narrow doorways, or inadequate facilities, the survey results will provide the essential data needed to pave the way for strategic improvements. This includes retrofitting existing structures and incorporating accessibility features in new constructions to accommodate the diverse needs of persons with disabilities. It is worth noting that accessibility features such as entrance ramps, lever-style door handles, elevators, and sensory-friendly alarms, play a crucial role in empowering the independence of persons with disabilities. These features eliminate barriers, enhance convenience, and create living spaces that facilitate autonomy.

The survey also obtains information beyond housing. It also collects data on  difficulties faced in daily activities by household members, and information on education and employment that are instrumental in developing tailored support services, including inclusive education programs, vocational training, and non-formal education initiatives that empower individuals with disabilities.

The survey delves into multiple dwelling unit characteristics, recognizing the diversity in housing structures. The results will highlight specific challenges contributing to the development of inclusive infrastructure standards. This, in turn, will ensure that housing facilities cater to the diverse requirements of persons with disabilities. The survey  assesses whether homes have wide doorways and hallways to accommodate wheelchairs or mobility aids, entrance ramps, lever-style door handles, elevators, sensory-friendly smoke alarms, accessible light switches and outlets, and kitchen accommodations. It also assesses people’s satisfaction with their current housing.

It is acknowledged internationally that safety is paramount, especially for those with mobility challenges. The safety indicators in this survey will help to identify potential risks and emphasize the urgency of addressing safety concerns, reflecting the Kenyan government's commitment to a secure living environment for all, including persons with disabilities. Crucial safety features, such as adequate lighting and grab bars in bathrooms, are a key focus for the well-being of all residents, especially those with mobility challenges. Understanding the safety concerns and risks faced by persons with disabilities is crucial for implementing measures that enhance overall safety. The survey results will guide initiatives to address potential hazards, ensuring that housing environments are secure and conducive to the well-being of individuals with disabilities.

The KHS will also provide a comprehensive assessment of environmental factors, including waste disposal practices and risk assessments related to floods, mudslides, terrain, and pollution. This information is vital for supporting environmental responsibility through sustainable waste disposal practices and implementing eco-friendly practices and mitigating environmental risks, safeguarding the well-being of persons with disabilities living in these areas.  In addition, survey results related to neighborhood and estate association memberships will contribute immensely to a sense of community engagement and belonging. Understanding the level of community integration is essential for promoting social inclusion and ensuring that persons with disabilities are active participants in community life.

This never before collected information, tailored to the needs of individuals with disabilities, can help policymakers revolutionize residences and promote inclusive living with a goal of ensuring that every dwelling becomes a haven for those living in it.

The 2023/2024 Kenya Housing Survey is reflective of a growing commitment to the inclusion of people with disabilities. By adopting a careful approach to disability-related questions, the survey aims to provide a holistic understanding of Kenya's housing landscape, ensuring no segment of the population is overlooked.  The Kenya Housing Survey can be used to move towards ensuring that every residence is an inclusive haven, signifying a dedicated pledge to mold a future where each dwelling becomes an inclusive sanctuary.

We urge every country to join us in this transformative journey toward a more accessible, safer, and harmonious living environment for everyone. The results of this Survey carry profound significance for persons with disabilities, reflecting a crucial step toward enhancing their living conditions, ensuring inclusivity, and fostering a more accessible and supportive environment. By translating survey findings into actionable initiatives, Kenya can foster positive change and set a standard for promoting the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in the housing sector. The survey results will provide policymakers with invaluable insights into the specific challenges faced by persons with disabilities in the realm of housing. This information is vital for crafting targeted and effective policies that address their unique needs, ensuring a more inclusive approach to housing development.