Caricom special rapporteur wants more access for persons with disabilities

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The Caribbean Community (Caricom) Special Rapporteur on Disability Dr Floyd Morris yesterday reiterated a call for access for persons with disabilities — as the region joined the global community in observing International Day of Disabled Persons.

Morris, who is also director of The University of the West Indies (UWI) Centre for Disabilities, said: “If persons with disabilities are to be brought in the mainstream of Caribbean societies, the various stakeholders must create greater access to all aspects of Caribbean life for these vulnerable individuals.”

In his message to mark the global event, being observed under the theme “The future is accessible”, Morris cited public facilities, public transportation, educational institutions, health-care facilities, community centres, sidewalks, theatres, sports complexes, workplaces, and other such facilities that must be made accessible for persons with disabilities.

Meanwhile, a 2019 report of a project to establish a Regional Disability Index has indicated that while “it is evident that some work is being done to advance the disability agenda, it is not sufficient and strategic enough to radically transform the lives of persons with disabilities in the region”.

According to the report, countries within the region must ensure that their programme of work to realise the 2030 agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), for example, include issues relating to persons with disabilities.

The report reiterated that all countries in the Caribbean need to enact legislation to protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities as stipulated by the Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities and amplified in the Declaration of Petion Ville of 2013.

With respect to legislation, the report indicates the scorecard to be a mixed one, ranging from descriptions such as “some countries having done good work implementing legislative measure” to descriptions which included “fair” or “poor”.

The report noted that the 2013 Declaration of Petion Ville is an important roadmap that has been developed by policymakers, technocrats and persons with disabilities in the Caribbean to drive the disability agenda. To this end, it called for its adoption and use by all countries to guide their implementation of programmes and policies for persons with disabilities.

According to the World Bank, disability is the result of the interaction between people with different levels of functioning and an environment that does not take these differences into account. In other words, people with physical, sensory or mental limitations are often disabled, not because of a diagnosable condition, but because they are denied access to education, labour markets and public services.

It said exclusion leads to poverty and, in a vicious circle, poverty leads to more disability by increasing people's vulnerability to malnutrition, disease and unsafe living and working conditions.

Statistics from the World Health Organization indicate that of the more than one billion persons with disabilities living in the world, more than 800 million or approximately 80 per cent reside in developing countries.


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