By Janeil Odle
Barbados Council for the Disabled
Kevin Keenoo once said: “When they say you can’t, they show you their limits, not yours”.
For years barriers have been placed in the paths of persons with disabilities, blocking us from achieving our dreams, stopping us from living “normal” lives. For years we have been boxed away and told that our disabilities made us incapable and that we were unable to reach for the stars. And for years, we have been tearing down barriers, breaking out of those boxes and showing the world that a disability does not mean an inability.
A disability simply means that we are unable to do a particular thing in the traditional way, but thanks to our resilience and persistence, we find alternative ways and continue to press on to reach our goals. This may mean that we may have to work twice as hard as the average person, but this does not mean that it is impossible. The limits societies attempted to place on us were never our limits. We were still able to become lawyers, doctors, teachers, parents, and the list goes on.
The theme for the observance of The International Day of Persons with Disabilities this year is: “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities towards an inclusive accessible and sustainable post-covid-19 world”. As we observe this day, we acknowledge that while the adaptations brought on by the pandemic aided in the promotion of inclusion through the reliance on the use of technology, we have been proving ourselves and advocating for our involvement in society and leadership roles even before that. The pandemic has however led to more opportunities for us to be included and commenced the building of the bridge which would take us to the level playing field, but there is still more to be done.
We recognise as a nation that everyone is equal regardless of ability, as evidenced in our new Republic Charter. This, however, needs to be reflected in our actions. It is time that our laws and policies reflect equality and inclusion and provide for all persons to have access to adequate and inclusive mainstream education, equal access to work and be included in leadership roles. We have proven ourselves time and time again, and now it’s time for us to be treated and recognised as equal human beings and afforded equal rights.
As we transition into our Republic status, and as we prepare for a post-Covid-19 world, let us recognise that everyone must be included and heard for us to reach our full potential as a nation. As Jesse Jackson said: “Inclusion is not a matter of political correctness. It is the key to growth”.
This article appears in the December 3 edition of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities feature. Read the full insert here.