Decline in discrimination

by Emmanuel Joseph

Acting Director of the National Disabilities Unit, Lloyd Springer
Acting Director of the National Disabilities Unit, Lloyd Springer

The stigma and discrimination encountered by persons with disabilities in Barbados is on the decline.

Progress was reported this morning by Acting Director of the National Disabilities Unit, Lloyd Springer, during an interview with Barbados TODAY at his office in the National Union of Public Workers complex on Dalkeith Road, St. Michael.

Springer, who was speaking as a joint Barbados Council for the Disabled and Disabilities Unit Employable Workshop was underway, said that while the battle continued against societal discrimination, much had been achieved in reducing the negative attitudes and stigma faced daily by differently able persons in the island.

“Persons with disabilities, like most minorities, are discriminated against. We have to battle this discrimination and this stigma, and we have been doing quite a good job; because education is the real thing that can get persons to be treating persons with disabilities equally as they should. But it takes time,” asserted the acting director.

“We have been continuing to do as good a job as we can and we have been seeing improvements.”

However, Springer identified education as the biggest challenge standing in the way of acceptance of disabled persons in the work place.

“The education needs to be of such that they are able to get the job that they would want and to be suitably qualified, either academically or technically,” disclosed the head of the disabilities unit.

“So when we get the aspect of the education correct, or as far as correct as possible, then we would see many more improvements,” pointed out Springer.

He was asked whether there had been a rise in the number of persons with disabilities, operating their own businesses.

“There was a survey done recently … commissioned by the National Disabilities Unit and done by the University of the West Indies, with respect to employment for persons with disabilities; and what it did show was that employers are keen to have persons with disabilities working for them, but they were concerned about their safety,” he noted.

“So when we can assure them that, once the right things were out in place, persons with disabilities are safe and work very hard once their acquire the job; then part of the apprehensive would have been reduced,” continued Springer.

The acting director suggested, though, that once disabled persons started a business, they became “invisible” in the work force.

“It is only with the majority of persons who find it difficult to start their own business or to get employment that we might have a record of, more of less.”

He also reported “quite a lot of success” in the campaign to make Barbados fully accessible for the disabled.

“Physically,” he continued, “we’ve seen businesses ensuring that when they do retrofitting, that they have the ramp rather than the steps. We’ve seen an increase in the number of disability logos.

“But unfortunately there are some members of the public who seem to think that persons with disabilities should not be out at night or they shouldn’t be driving; and it is these attitudes we want to be part of the past rather than the present.”

As far as parking for disabled persons was concerned, he said he was hoping the appropriate laws would soon be introduced to prosecute people who used the specially designated areas for the differently able.

“Some people say, ‘Okay, I’m here only for a few minutes’, but it is wrong,” observed the spokesman for the disadvantaged community.

Using the theme, Creating Employment Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, the workshop today was aimed at equipping them to become more employable or to improve their abilities, capabilities and capacities to better operate their existing businesses.

The presenter, Wendell Callender, covered such topics as the business plan, marketing the business, choice of business location, costing and record-keeping, the main sources of finance and customer relations.††

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