Senator Kerry-Ann Ifill is suggesting that people with disabilities have not benefited much from legislation when it comes to finding employment.
And while she does not blame the policy framework, Ifill, who is also disabled, said what was needed was a change in attitude in the communities and workplaces.
“The biggest part of our discrimination is not the legislation,” she said, adding that since the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act in the United States over 24 years ago, unemployment among people with disabilities had not changed in terms of percentage.
“It has made no difference. [The] disability discrimination act was enacted in the UK in 1994, unemployment records, still the same. In the Caribbean 80 to 90 per cent of persons with disabilities remain unemployed,” said Ifill.
“It makes no sense if they are putting legislation in place and it is not making a difference,” she added.
Ifill was speaking on the topic Equal Opportunities in the Workplace, as part of a recent panel discussion at the 17th annual conference of the Barbados Association of Office Professionals. The seminar was held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
Ifill said people with disabilities should not be seen as just those who benefited from the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) but as residents who were willing and able to make a significant contribution to the country’s development.
She added that employers needed to be more “broad-minded” and accepting, stating that people with disabilities, and those who were aging should be given the opportunity to still be a part of the workforce.
“Equal opportunity to employment can still be provided. [Even] if that means making your workplace more accessible, providing technology that will aid that, allowing for flexi-time . . . whatever the case is. These are considerations. But most of us we think in terms of employment from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 8:30 [a.m.] to 4:30 [p.m.] and that is about it,” she said.
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