With the recognition of this week as International Week of the Deaf under the theme With Sign Language, I Am Equal, St James North Member of Parliament and Director of the Council of the Disabled Edmund Hinkson is concerned about the continuing failure by the Government of Barbados to bring to Parliament for debate a Disabilities Bill.
Hinkson laid a Private Members’ Resolution in Parliament in March last year calling for the legislation.
The passage of a Disabilities Bill would provide for non-discrimination of persons with disabilities in Barbados, for their full and effective participation and inclusion in society, for equal opportunity in their educational, health, employment, cultural, sporting, recreational and political development and for their full accessibility to the environment, both natural and built.
Hinkson said the need for such legislation, in compliance with Barbados’ international obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which the former and present political administrations have respectively signed and ratified, is even greater with the launch last week in Barbados of the Caribbean Human Development Report, 2016 by the United Nations Development Programme. That report stated that in the Latin America and Caribbean region, including Barbados, about 82 per cent of persons with disabilities live below the poverty line. In Barbados, about five per cent of the population has some form of physical, mental, visual or hearing disability.
Hinkson is therefore appealing to the Government to bring to Parliament legislation and establish a national policy which will, among other initiatives, institute: free primary and secondary education as a matter of right for all children with disabilities; wider programmes catering for their employment creation, including special vocational training followed by internships; monetary grants and technical support to assist their self-employment; and a quota system reserving a percentage of public sector jobs for qualified persons with disabilities.
“Government has a responsibility to introduce these and other similar policies and legislative programmes in view of the fact that persons with disabilities, who already fall into the most economically vulnerable category of people in our society, also confront the burden of a higher cost of living, as they invariably need to purchase aid devices and personal assistance services,” he said.