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Disabled no less human

Members of today’s panel.

The theme for this year’s United Nation’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities is “Removing Barriers to Create an Inclusive and Accessible Society For All” — but local officials say the barriers are as much mental and they are physical.

President of the Barbados Council for the Disable, Senator Kerryann Ifill, said the biggest barriers faced by the differently able community in Barbados are attitude and ignorance.

She was speaking this morning at UN House in Marine Gardens, Hastings, Christ Church as Barbados and the rest of the world recognised the day. Barbados also launched its Sexual Reproductive Health Training Workshop.

Ifill said that according to the World Health Organisation’s World Report on Disability, more than a billion people live with one form of disability or another, 80 per cent of them in developing nations, yet many of the public service announcements produced did not take the “most vulnerable group” into consideration.

So as part of the workshop, two PSA aimed at demonstrating to people with disabilities the importance of valuing their lives, were premiered. She said that it was another step to heighten public awareness and to increase the knowledge that people with disabilities have the right to be included, the right to a life and the same needs, rights and desires as all other members in society.

Manager of the National Council on Substance Abuse, Yolande Forde, echoed Ifill’s sentiments. She described the disabled community as “a high risk group” in respect to both substance abuse and to risky sexual behaviours, adding there should be information targeting them as well.

“President of the Senate of Barbados, Kerryann Ifill, who is blind, has highlighted that the disabled community needs to be educated about HIV/AIDS and the dangers of drugs since information is not simplified for them to understand. She also mentioned that the blind and deaf population would be the first choice for intervention because most institutions in Barbados do not cater to them when attempting to sensitise the population on social issues; … information is not done in sign language or Braille.†”We often make the mistake of thinking that the specific physical incapacitation that an individual may have makes him or her a different human being ?– a lesser human being. A person who has one foot, no sight or who cannot hear is no less a person than one who has both feet or who can see or hear.

“He or she has the same range of human emotions, the same needs and desires and by extension the same rights and entitlements to information that would allow them to make wise choices in life generally, and particularly when it comes to their actions in relation to those human emotions and desires.

“But this is a real problem, as a rule, when information on critical social and health issues is disseminated, the material is usually not in a format that could be readily absorbed by the so-called disabled community, particularly those who cannot see or hear.”

Minister of Social Care, Steve Blackett, reaffirmed Government’s support for any initiative which seeks to promote and encourage an accessible environment for all.

He said: “We are reminded that a disability is not the same thing as an illness and many persons with disabilities can and do lead otherwise healthy lives.†However, disabilities can present a broad array of challenges, including challenges in accessing health care services and programmes to maintain good health and to lead as productive lives as possible.

“In this regard, the Ministry of Social Care Constituency Empowerment and Community Development, through the National Disabilities [Unit] will do its utmost to assist any effort geared towards overcoming such challenges.” (KC)

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