Seizing the opportunity to eliminate the stigma associated with disabilities, the Barbados Physical Therapy Association held an evening of activities aimed at sensitizing primary and secondary students.
Under the theme Everyone is ABLE, students from 15 public and private schools across the island learned first-hand about some of the challenges faced by people with disabilities.
St Angela’s, Providence, St Paul’s Primary, Trinity Academy, Deighton Griffith Secondary, St Giles Primary, Queen’s College and the Derek Smith School and Vocational Centre were some of the institutions represented as students gathered outside Massy Dome Mall, manoeuvring through the car park in wheelchairs and attempting activities in which their vision and movement were impaired.
Organizers of the event, Dr Nicola Yarde and Dr Rhea Clarke, told Barbados TODAY that ABLE was an acronym for Accept persons despite their differences, Believe we are all equal, Learn to include, and Embrace.
The duo chose the Month of the Disabled to educate children about how to be considerate to persons with disabilities.
“We thought that if we could encourage children to accept children with disabilities, then they grow up to be adults that accept adults with disabilities, then they can co-exist together, work together, hire persons with disabilities, work for persons with disabilities and so forth,” Dr Yarde explained.
She said that due to a lack of education, most children were unsure about how to interact with persons with disabilities.
“Children don’t understand. . . . They stare, they are not sure what they can ask or what they can say and that is the major problem, and because adults are unsure themselves, they can’t even ask their parents questions about persons with disabilities,” added the resident doctor at the Barbados Physical Therapy Association.
Co-chair of the project, Dr Clarke noted that people were indirectly engaging in bullying towards the disabled and affecting their self-esteem, because of their ignorance.
“I’m not sure it is on purpose a lot of the times but . . . the persons are not sensitized so they do not know how to approach people, they do not know that staring is rude. Maybe it is not direct bullying, but I think for sure it has an impact on the kids and it make them feel uncomfortable,” she said.
The sensitization effort will continue on Wednesday when students who participated in Sunday’s activities will describe their experiences at their schools, and principals will host educational seminars.