By Anesta Henry
The National Disabilities Unit (NBU) will soon be moving into a new home at Maxwelton, Collymore Rock, St Michael.
This announcement came this morning from Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde, as she delivered remarks at the Unit’s 21st anniversary church service, held at the St Barnabas Anglican Church.
“For many years, the National Disabilities Unit was up quite a few foot steps, upstairs of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) building, and of course, it would have been a terrible inconvenience,” Forde said.
“We have heard much about it, but nothing has happened. But the retrofitting and so on of the building has started, and the Ministry of Housing and Lands are the ones overseeing the project. We were ready to have just a few final sliding doors installed, before we moved in, because we have done two or three visits previously to make sure that everything was in order, to make sure that the handrails and the bathroom facilities were in order.”
However, Forde explained that while the National Disabilities Unit was ready to move into the building since two months ago, the move had to be delayed because the Personnel Administration Division (PAD), had to be temporarily relocated there, because the institution the Division occupy was experiencing environmental issues.
“So I believe that by that time, the institution that they occupied before [will be] available. We will then just make sure that we do the proper manicuring and take in those persons with disabilities,” she said.
“It is a safer place, it is going to be fenced around, and there is adequate space for staff and those persons who have to be there to be able to receive their training and everything else that has to go on. So, I believe that in another few weeks time, when PAD staff goes back, we will be able then to occupy, having done the cleaning and making sure everything is in order for the folks. I believe that they are really special people, who deserve the same kind of proper treatment that all of us receive. So we are working assiduously to make sure that that happens, to make their lives a little easier at this time.”
The Minister noted that while much has been done at a governmental level to protect and improve the lives of persons who are differently able, she believes that there is more to be done, but has not be done, due to limited resources.
She stressed that in order for Barbados to become a country that fully meets the needs of the differently able, people in the communities and homes would be required to ensure that these persons are giving a better chance through access to social care, and education.
“I believe too that it is time that Barbadians reach the stage where they remove the stigma and discrimination of persons with disabilities, and that they come on board to assist in every way possible. Some of them have excellent skills, because their brains are sharp. Their mobility might be the biggest challenge, but the technology gives them the opportunity to be apart of the workplace, and to be able to maintain and to fend for themselves. So I would encourage all other persons, whether it is in the public sector, or the private sector, to give them that opportunity for them to be able to shine in their own way,” Forde said.
Forde also called on able bodied persons, to report any cases where disabled individuals are being abused, as she explained that not only the elderly are being abused.
“We get a lot of abuse of persons with disabilities. There is verbal abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, you name it. So I would want to ask those persons living in communities, and in institutions where such is perpetrated on persons, that they would come out and speak out to make sure that it is stamped out. And I would want to be one of the first to speak to further legislation that would be able to combat that kind of unreasonable and uncaring kind of activity that is meted out on those persons who cannot help themselves because of whatever their disabilities are,” she said.
“I encourage all of Barbados to come on board. None of us know when disability will step on our door, and that we would have to rely on others to guide us around, or to help give us assistance in some form of fashion. I think it is critical that each person becomes the other person’s keeper, look out for them in every possible way. At the end of the day, they have feelings too. At the end of the day, we are one people and we do not know what will happen to us in the future,” she added.