The President of the Senate Kerryann Ifill has issued a 50th anniversary wish list on behalf of members of the disabled community.
Topping that list is legal protection for persons with disabilities, as well as more opportunities for them to get jobs and housing.
Delivering a lecture on at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination Thursday night, Ifill further called for a Barbados that was inclusive to all.
Reflecting on this island’s first 50 years since its achievement of political independence from Great Britain, she acknowledged that there have been many achievements for persons with disabilities.
However, Ifill, who is blind, said, “We have not reached the zenith of inclusion, by no means”.
The lecture formed part of a series presented by the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus in recognition of Barbados’ 50th.
Ifill said she would not dwell on examples of progress for persons with disabilities since independence, because there was a far way to go towards inclusiveness.
“I could also highlight the achievements of many . . . persons with disabilities, but I don’t want to give you a false perspective,” the President of the Senate said.
She went on to speak of, “the Barbados we want, building on the Barbados we have” while suggesting that several characteristics were still necessary for there to be a truly inclusive Barbados.
Among them, “the passing of legislation which further enshrines the rights of persons with disabilities, and guarantees a recourse when we are confronted by discrimination”, she said.
She acknowledged that such legislation was currently in the draft stages, adding that when it finally gets to Parliament it would be a signal that all Barbadians have a contribution to make to the development of the society.
“An inclusive Barbados also requires creative solutions that address the dire need for employment for persons with disabilities,” she said, complaining that “too many of our young persons with disabilities are faced with an almost impossible task upon graduating from our secondary and tertiary institutions – those that are able to make it that far.
“The improvements in inclusive education have facilitated more students with disabilities entering and thriving in the mainstream, but all of this is overshadowed by the difficulties they face on trying to find work upon their graduation,” Ifill stressed.
She gave the example of a woman with a disability who had graduated from UWI but for about a year now was unable to find a job, “because when she goes to persons [employers], they do not see her ability, they forget what her CV looked like. They don’t pay attention to what she has achieved.
“All they can see before them is a young woman with limited mobility,” Ifill said.
“An inclusive Barbados requires guaranteed housing solutions, which are designed with recognition that disabilities must be provisioned for, and not be made afterthoughts,” she continued, adding that while persons with disabilities were now being embraced in new housing communities, “it’s not enough”.
“We also require greater access to transportation that meets the needs of persons who have the right and the desire to go into society and transact their business and interact with their communities, when and how they choose,” she added.