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UWI principal wants equal access, opportunities for disabled

Thursday, March 20, 2014    

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PRINCIPAL of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Professor Archibald McDonald says there must be partnership among the government, private sector, and academic stakeholders, in order to create a disability-friendly society.

This, he argued, should ensure that Jamaica makes provisions for the disabled that are consistent with global developments.

The UWI principal and pro-vice chancellor was speaking at the recently held inaugural two-day biennial Regional Disability Studies Conference staged by the UWI's Centre for Disability Studies (CDS) at the Mona Visitors' Lodge and Conference Centre.

Professor McDonald noted the "increasingly globalised nature" of the international community has facilitated the "crucial" transfer of knowledge and best practices on methods to protect and improve the quality of life for millions living with disabilities around the world.

He pointed out that technological developments currently facilitate ease of access for many persons who, previously, were barricaded in their homes due to societies' inability to cater to their basic needs.

"The introduction of assistive technology in classrooms, such as speech recognition software, or the use of sticky keys, has empowered many disabled students to embark on advanced education courses as they are provided with the essential tools that support their learning needs," he added.

Additionally, he said ensuring access to buildings, parking, and sanitary facilities by disabled persons, were crucial requirements in making any society more adaptable for the disabled.

He said, however, that despite these developments in the global setting, these are, to some extent, "lacking, disregarded, or considered of little importance within the Jamaican infrastructure.

"Our society (seems) oblivious to the international standards that have been developed to protect the quality of life for people with disabilities and, as such, their ability to prosper in society is severely hampered," he contended.

In this regard, he cited the need for greater public education and awareness if Jamaica intends to improve the basic welfare that meets the needs of all the citizens of this country."

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