Blind senator urges nation's disabled to

BY RACQUEL PORTER
Observer staff reporter
porterr@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

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SENATOR Dr Floyd Morris is urging people who are blind and visually impaired to take advantage of educational opportunities.

Dr Morris, Jamaica's first blind senator, made the call on World Sight Day, last week Thursday, as Jamaica Society for the Blind (JSB) launched activities to mark the day at its Old Hope Road, St Andrew, location.

He attempted to assuage concerns shared by some people with disabilities, that even after being certified they will not be employed.

“Don't adopt the approach that, 'bwoy, a Jamaica, them not taking care of the disabled', and say 'Mi nah go get no job if mi go get education'. It is a wrong approach to adopt and I can tell you that efforts are being made by Government to ensure that the Disabilities Act is passed into force, and one of the things they are doing is preparing to draft codes of practice for some critical sectors of education and employment...

“Get yourself certified now so that when job opportunities come you are able to grab those opportunities with both hands,” he said.

The senator also urged corporate Jamaica to work with people with disabilities.

“Provide us with the opportunities that will allow us to get gainful employment so that we can take care of ourselves. That's all we are asking for. When we go to primary school, when we go to high school, when we graduate from university with our degrees, we don't have to come out on the streets and beg anybody anything or go out on the streets selling gizzadas, [coconut] drops or selling soap and all sort of things.

“We want to be able to be gainfully employed so that we can take care of our family, we can take care of our health, and we can enjoy a decent standard of living,” he pleaded.

Dr Morris said Jamaica and the Caribbean need to create an environment that caters to people who are blind and visually impaired, so they can maximise there full potential, access better health care and contribute to the improvement of their own lives.

“We who are blind and are visually impaired don't want to go out there on the streets to beg anybody anything. We would like to be educated; we would like to be trained. Upon getting education and training, we can get employment so that we can earn an income to sustain our lives. We don't want to be on the streets begging,” he said.

Using data from the World Health Organization to argue that there is a link between poverty and disability, Dr Morris stated that there are more than 280 million blind and visually impaired people worldwide. According to him, there are 39 million blind individuals across the globe.

“Of that 39 million, 90 per cent or approximately 36 million live in developing countries. What it seems, from this data, is that there is a connection between the levels of development and the extent to which one has some form of visual disability, and it seems further that... there is a kind of concentration of blind persons in developing countries than in developed countries.

“It also speaks to the fact that, in developed countries, blind persons have greater access to disposable income since the data is also showing that in developed countries there are higher levels of employment of persons with disabilities, with figures going as high as 48 per cent in Japan and a low as 13 per cent in the United States, in terms of the developed world,” he continued.

Morris said he made reference to the data because one must understand that there is a connection between poverty and disability, and a connection between employment and the capacity to afford certain services as a person with disability.

“So if it is that you have greater exposure to employment, the possibility exists that you will be exposed to better health care, for example, and this is why one can conclude that there are less blind persons in developed countries than in developing countries,” he said.

Meanwhile, the senator said last Thursday that JSB is responsible for his success.

“This institution holds a significant part of my heart because you laid the foundation for me to be who I am today. It was here that I learned to read and write Braille. It was here that I did my refresher course in type writing; it was here that I learnt to move around the city all by myself and started to get into trouble once I started to move around by myself,” Dr Morris said, adding that he moved to Kingston from Baileys Vale in St Mary in 1991, after he heard about the non-government organisation that year.

“Sometimes I just want to come sit and hang out here, but the time does not allow me to do those nice things anymore. My heart and soul is always here at this organisation because of its absolute importance to persons with disabilities across the island, especially those who are blind and visually impaired,” Senator Morris said while noting that he has fond memories of the 64-year-old institution.

There are 29,000 visually impaired people across the island, according to JSB Executive Director Conrad Harris.

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