A dean at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus, is calling on Government to move towards fully inclusive education for people with disabilities, arguing that inclusion is a lot cheaper than separation.
Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology, Dr Colin Depradine, said he believes that it is no longer acceptable to carve off those students with disabilities from the general population and place them in under-funded institutions which can only survive by the generosity of some individuals.
“To do otherwise is unethical and a violation of our human rights since we would be saying to those with disabilities, when we finish the overhaul of the system, we will get back to you,” he said.
The academic put forward this suggestion among others, as he delivered the feature address at the Barbados Council for the Disabled’s 3rd Annual Dorien Pile National Literary National Literacy Prize Giving Awards Ceremony, at the United Nations House to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
Depradine also called on policymakers to develop and implement a campaign that educates the public about the reality that people with disabilities face every day in Barbados.
“Introduce new facts into the discussion such as demonstrating to the private sector that the costs of providing accommodation is zero to very low. Develop and update the laws with respect to persons with disabilities. The creation and ratifying of the long-promised Disabilities Act will enable persons with disabilities to access accommodation in both the schools and the workplace. No more excuses, no more delays, no more promises; it is time to act,” he said.
There is little or no data on the occurrence of physical or learning disabilities in Barbados nor any data on levels of education or employment of people with disabilities, Dean Depradine noted.
He suggested that in order to successfully implement the 2030 development initiatives, as promoted by the UN, data is required to monitor the progress of those initiatives so that officials can determine the success rate and the types of adjustments needed as the country progresses.
The faculty head said it is therefore vital that the Government and the private sector engage in the collection of such information within their own departments.
“To the Government of Barbados, I say to you, have courage. Remember that all change is resisted because of fear, lack of understanding and loss of power.
“You must be courageous and stand your ground when implementing these changes for the 2030 agenda.
“Do not be tempted to use that outdated and somewhat unethical approach of implementing changes with a view of inclusivity at a later date,” he said.
Depradine said he has been practicing what he preaches, through opening doors to the disciplines of science to those groups not traditionally seen as possible for inclusion to people with disabilities.
As a result, over the last five years, Depradine declared the science faculty has moved from a state of doubt and lack of confidence to a state of belief and support for inclusion.