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COLUMN-UN and rights of the disabled

equal butIn my profession, I come across quite a few people who are ignorant of things which I live and experience almost on an everyday basis. I have to constantly remind myself that not everybody is aware of the world around them, and that they are those who honestly need to know and understand all that is happening out there.

However, there will always be “those” among us. I’m only giving this human “worthy mention” in this article to show that not only will everyone not be convinced of a thing, but mainly to show that there is life outside of Barbados, and we need to catch up when it comes to equality.

Just a couple of weeks ago I met someone who told me he sees no reason why the deaf or anybody with disabilities should work. The very thought seemed to have him repulsed as he continued to let me know that they should be –– in 2014 –– prohibited from doing so. His one reason? They are a huge liability.

Even schools which cater to children with special needs got a tongue-lashing. Children he said should never be afforded rights, and if we allow them to think this way, they would grow up thinking they are “normal”.

This made me smile. That’s the only thing I could do, save telling him something which I would regret; because as I look around I continue to see people who think that the disabled are “rights-less”.

Well, it’s one thing to say and believe that the disabled aren’t entitled to any rights, even if you are seriously misguided, but it’s another thing to see them in black and white, accompanied by a preamble and 50 articles, as declared by the UN Convention On The Rights For Persons With Disabilities.

I haven’t yet read them all, because I was going through them carefully and taking note of how explicit and detailed they are. However I just wanted to draw your attention to a few, and hope that we all take note of them.

Article 7 –– Children with disabilities. States Parties shall ensure that children with disabilities have the right to express their views freely on all matters affecting them, their views being given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity, on an equal basis with other children, and to be provided with disability and age-appropriate assistance to realize that right.

I think we need to recognize that persons with disabilities need to be given an ear and be allowed to express views, even if it takes them a while to articulate these said views. We must never be so callous and unfair as to not take into consideration those who need to take their time bringing their point across and disregard them as being too slow or incapable of being on par with those who are able bodied. They all deserve the right to be heard.

Article 9 –– Accessibility. Provide forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including guides, readers and professional sign language interpreters, to facilitate accessibility to buildings and other facilities open to the public.

Persons with disabilities have the right to access. In light of Barbados’ push on becoming a Fully Accessible Barbados, this is something that is very doable by entities such as hotels, restaurants and places of interest, and it’s also very important that we start singing the inclusion song loudly to fully allow our disabled to be integrated into this society.

We also need to remember that although we love this rock, we don’t exist on just a rock. Remember we have visitors who travel here for both business and pleasure and are used to having wheelchair access, all necessary print in Braille and interpreters for the deaf.

Not only that, but seeing that this also crosses over and touches our tourism market, it would be wise for us to do all that is necessary to catch up with the world and their thrust to include the disabled at every level.

Article 24 –– Education. Persons with disabilities can access an inclusive, quality and free primary education and secondary education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live.

I believe the key word here is “access”. We must be cognizant of the fact that there will be those who want to be included or mainstreamed into regular classrooms. They should not be denied such if they can adequately keep up with the rest of their able-bodied classmates.

Although we have had inclusion in schools in both primary and secondary, it is important to make sure that the classroom setup is done with the disabled child in mind so that there is a “level playing field”.

Article 30 –– Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport. To ensure that children with disabilities have equal access with other children to participation in play, recreation and leisure and sporting activities, including those activities in the school system.

I love this one because lots of good and progressive things happen when children play together. They learn to accept so much when they are allowed to socially interact with each other in sporting activities, whether formal or informal.

I was heartened when I learnt about the inclusive play initiative which is now going full steam ahead and is very close to recognizing the goal of a play facility that would include children with all levels of abilities.

In light of all that is said for human rights and the rights of the child, I think it is important that we understand that the disabled are entitled to every one of these rights; but in case you were unsure, you now know that the United Nations has a list of rights for persons with disabilities.

I think that in itself has its merit, as any entity that pushes equality has the world’s interest at heart.

(Bonnie Leonce is a sign language interpreter with an Associate of Arts degree in interpreting training. Email

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