“While we are here this evening celebrating the Empowerment Card, do not look at my cane, my wheelchair, my hearing aid, my speech challenge. Do not listen to any of those things! Listen to the power of the spending that I have as a person with disability.”
With these words, visually impaired President of the Senate, Senator Kerryann Ifill, on Monday evening launched a special card for use by disabled persons in Barbados – The Empowerment Card.
“We chose the name ‘Empowerment’, because this is what we want. This is not just a discount card. We could’ve called it the BCD Discount Card, the Disabilities Discount Card, but that is not what this is all about,” Ifill told the ceremony at the Harambee House head office of the Barbados Council on Disabilities (BCD).
She added: “This card is to give to its holder, the chance, opportunity to use their dollars to exercise their decision to spend here or to spend there”.
Ifill, the president of the BCD, pointed out that persons with disabilities have an effect on the national economy. The facility of a dedicated shopping card for them was long due, she added.
“We recognize that persons with disabilities and their families may not have large disposable amounts of income, but we do have income,” she said.
The card is not intended for purchasing discounts only, but also any other concession or individual treatment that can be offered by a company.
Speaking directly to members of the disabled community who account for about five per cent of the population, the BCD president said, “We’re giving you the opportunity to choose where and how and with whom to spend it. This card is empowering you to show to others, don’t look at my wheelchair, look at what is in my wallet. That is why we call it the Empowerment Card”.
Besides the usual shopping card features of name, serial number, expiry date and disclaimer, the Empowerment Card is enhanced with a symbol for sign language for the deaf; a method using touch for blind persons to recognize and differentiate it from other cards in a wallet; a ringed hole to accommodate a chain or lanyard for persons with dexterity challenges; and the name in Braille for the blind.
“This is not just for people in wheelchairs, not just the visually impaired, but all persons with disabilities,” Ifill said.
She explained that the idea of a card to empower disabled persons, came out of a recognition that such persons needed to get out on their own, wherever possible, and away from a protective environment.
“So many persons with disability out there live under the shadow of their families. There are some families that try to protect us. They care, and so they try to protect us and shield us, but in protecting us, and shielding us, they also prohibit us from living. The Empowerment Card is to give you the opportunity to be empowered, to decide for yourselves,” she told members of the community.
Persons with disabilities over the age of 18 are eligible to use the card along with caregivers, guardians or parents of those under 18 who can hold the card in their name. Organizations representing the disabled are also eligible to use the card.