Conference to help educate, sensitise people about disabilities

BY PENDA HONEYGHAN Observer writer

Monday, October 12, 2015

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THE Nathan Ebanks Foundation, a local non-profit organisation that supports persons with disabilities, will host its eight annual conference and expo at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James later this month.
The three-day conference, which opens on October 28, will be held under the theme ‘Inclusive education and disability’, is expected to increase public awareness among ordinary Jamaicans in addition to educating persons with disabilities about their rights.  
The foundation, was started  by founder and president Christine Staple-Ebanks who had struggled to find pertinent information on caring for her fourth child who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy just a few month after he was born. Cerebral palsy is a disorder that affects muscle tone, movement, and motor skills thereby impacting the person's the ability to move in a co-ordinated and purposeful way.
“What floored me was not the diagnosis, it was what to do. All the different specialists that we went to were only telling me what my child would never ever do but no one could tell me what my role was as a mother or how I could better support my child,” Staple-Ebanks told Jamaica Observer reporters and editors at the newspaper’s Monday Exchange yesterday.
She said this was an emotional period for her as even though she raised funds and travelled to get treatment for her son abroad she entered a state of bewilderment when she saw how access to adequate resources by children in the Unites States improved their quality of life there.
 “I bawled through it all. One thing that struck me was that I could not understand why children in Jamaica could not get access to resources as simple as a wheelchair,” Staple-Ebanks said
    However, with adequate exposure to caring for her son, Staple-Ebanks said she left the United States with a ray of hope because she was more conscious than ever before that having a disability was not a death sentence. This hope is the pillar on which the Nathan Ebanks foundation was build, and which breathes strength into the yearly execution of the conference.
 She said that the conferences have assisted parents and children who are vulnerable because of they are ignorant to the care and treatment necessary to improve the quality of live of persons living with disabilities.
    Every year at the conference elements inextricably linked to improving the lives of persons with disabilities are explored. However, Staple-Ebanks said that one of the major challenges that the disability community faces is lack of public awareness. She said that this is among the reasons that this year's theme will focus on education, which she said will address the limited level of awareness that is common among Jamaicans.
    The foundation has invited a number of local and international speakers who are learned in various specialist fields to address various disability issues.
    Dr Fay Brown, director of the School of Education Neuro-Education at John Hopkins University and associate research scientist at Yale University will be among the keynote speakers, while presentations will be made by the ministers of education and labour and social security. Local experts on disability, health and child rights will also be in attendance.
    The Nathan Ebanks Foundation said this year's conference will offer a ‘landing space’ for all of Jamaicans to think, grow, inspire, and transform as a result of engaging in professional learning and development about disability.

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