Another Month of the Disabled is about to be recognized without any comprehensive legislative framework in place in Barbados to advance the cause of persons with disabilities. There continues to be the crying need for the enactment of laws addressing all forms of discrimination on the basis of physical and mental disabilities and hearing and visual impairment in our society. There is also a need for laws providing for equal opportunities to be granted as of right to differently-abled persons so that they may have a greater chance to realize their full potential, live as independent and active a life as possible and participate as worthy citizens in the development of our country.
We recognize the fact that the Government did finally ratify The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 27th February, 2013, albeit after a delay of almost five years after the Convention entered into force and only after stakeholders serving the cause of persons with disabilities presented the political administration with a petition calling for ratification.
We also take note that the Ministry of Social Care finally in July last year established the monitoring committee as provided for under the Convention, with its mandate being to submit a comprehensive report by early this year on measures taken by the country to give effect to its obligations under the Convention and on progress made in that regard.
However, the Government needs to now go the ultimate step and bring to Parliament disabilities legislation penalizing the discrimination of persons with disabilities in our country and providing for the full and effective participation by, and inclusion in society of, persons with disabilities. We also need to legislatively provide for an equal opportunity for their participation in aspects of society relating to their educational, health, employment, entrepreneurial, cultural, sporting, recreational and political development. There must also be full accessibility, supported by legal rights, for differently-abled persons to the country’s natural and built environment. It is noteworthy that the Jamaican Government four months ago passed disabilities legislation through both of its Houses of Parliament.
Furthermore, the Government needs to restore the subvention for the disabled during next month’s Estimates Parliamentary Debate to its pre-2013 general elections level, after it was cut by 10-12 per cent last year. The 2010 Country Assessment of Living Conditions Study indicates that a large percentage of the almost 20 per cent of persons living below the poverty line in our country are differently-abled. We cannot continue to severely jeopardize the quality of life of those persons who are the most vulnerable in our society by depriving them and their caretakers of the basic necessities which are required for their existence.
Dated the 25th day of February, 2015
EDMUND G. HINKSON
Attorney-at-Law, Saint James North Member of Parliament and
Director of the Council for the Disabled