The Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) is making a strong case for greater opportunities for people living with disabilities.
BLP parliamentarian Edmund Hinkson has charged that disabled people here were facing discrimination at virtually every level.
Speaking this week at a seminar on Empowering and Engaging Workers with Disabilities, the Member of Parliament for St James North did not spare his own party, saying both the BLP and the Democratic Labour Party had neglected the disabled for much too long.
“There are certain constitutions in the world . . .which have specific clauses preventing discrimination against persons with disabilities, giving them equal rights and opportunities to realize their full potential. Jamaica, for example, has disabilities legislation on their statute book. Barbados is yet to pass such legislation.
“In Jamaica there is a policy that three per cent of all government jobs are reserved for persons with disabilities. We have no such policy in Barbados and in fact we have the reverse – Government is happy to send you home once you have a disability,” Hinkson told the seminar sponsored by the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados.
In 2014 Jamaica passed the Disability Act to promote and protect the rights of people with disabilities.
The Act promises to reinforce and promote acceptance of the principle of equal fundamental rights for people with disabilities; promote individual dignity and autonomy of people with disabilities; ensure full and effective participation and inclusion of people with disabilities in society; and prevent or prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities.
Speaking at the very event where Senate President Kerryann Ifill had said that there was an increase in job opportunities for the disabled, Hinkson complained that too many hurdles were put in the way of disabled people gaining employment.
“This is so sad because some of those people with physical disabilities have brains that are better than most people who do not have any physical disabilities,” the BLP legislator said.
“Because you are visually impaired it does not mean that your brain is bad . . . . What is stopping these persons who are mentally capable of performing a job as good or better than most? My contention is that persons with physical disabilities or who are visually impaired are better employees in most cases than those who do not have those disabilities,” he stressed, while complimenting business that provided employment opportunities for the disabled.
Hinkson charged that even in the educational system children with disabilities are discriminated against.
“Why can’t there be vocational and technical schools for children with disabilities? We have to be visionary in Barbados. Why couldn’t the Government exempt children with disabilities from paying the tuition fees at the Cave Hill Campus? It is a significant voting segment,” he said.