There is an increasing number of young people presenting with vision problems in Barbados.
That’s according to Senator Kerry-Ann Ifill of the National Disabilities Unit and the Barbados Council of the Disabled. She was speaking to the media at the eye clinic of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital this morning, during Community Outreach Day, one of the activities marking Month of the Disabled.
Ifill said the increase in vision problems was due to a rise in the number of diabetes cases in the country.
“Diabetes leads to diabetic retinopathy, so we are seeing a lot of persons who are manifesting with diabetes earlier and with that you have the added complications. Other people . . . don’t get their checks and so glaucoma can develop younger in their 30s and that’s what we are seeing a lot of,” she said.
Ifill, who is blind, explained that the rise in such cases was the reason for events such as the open day, which are held to bring more awareness to Barbadians and to show them that they were many opportunities even while living with blindness.
“There are many persons in Barbados who are developing visual challenges and after medicine has done its work, we want to show persons the opportunities and the different ways that they can manage life with blindness,” she said.
Ifill, who is also President of the Senate, said she was glad to see many of the younger people paying close attention to what was on offer during the open day.
“People are showing a lot of interest, more so the younger ones than the older ones. People think that blindness means the end. A lot of them don’t think about these things because they don’t see how they can help,” she said. Another thing is [that] a lot of persons would say they just have bad eyes or their eyes just give a little trouble and they think coming over to something like this stamps them as being blind. We are just trying to get people to understand that it’s ok . . . if you’re living with this challenge. We can show you the way to live with it effectively and efficiently.”
Adjustment to Blindness Officer at the clinic, Marjorie Watson, said they tried their best to assist everyone, especially young people who become blind.
“With younger persons, it’s difficult. I always tell people, ‘when you are born without something it’s no problem, but as soon as something is taken from you suddenly, of course that’s a big problem’. Usually I have to do a little counseling with them and then I use most of my guys here as inspiration to get them back into regular society. They vow that they would never do anything on their own but eventually they get back into society,” she said.
Senator Ifill, meantime, said she wanted to see employers more accepting of people with disabilities.
“Some business places are apprehensive, but I think with more education they would be more willing to understand. Legislation, of course, would help greatly. But the reality is a lot of the challenges we face is due to ignorance, persons who don’t know that this is possible. People say ‘I didn’t think that you could’, so they limit you, or ‘if I bring a person with a disability to work, I’m going to have to get someone assigned to assist them’, and that’s not true. With the right training, you can get the job done quite efficiently,” Ifill contended.
There will be several other activities to mark Month of the Disabled. A fundraising walk under the theme Walk A Mile in My Shoes will be held on March 25.
People are encouraged to come out to the walk blindfolded, on crutches or in wheelchairs to identify with the disabled.
Friend of the Barbados National Organization of the Disabled (BARNOD) Tony Olton said the association was trying to raise $30,000 through the fun walk.
“We are hoping the public will come out and join us on this walk so they see how disabled people get around daily. Persons with disability want to be accepted and treated equally,” he said.
A number of local celebrities, including Eric Lewis, Stabby and Aziza will be joining the walk, encouraging people along the route.