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  • The Ministry of Labour and Social Security is to submit the final draft of the National Disability Bill to Cabinet by next week for its consideration.
  • The proposed Act seeks to make provisions to safeguard and enhance the welfare of persons with disabilities across Jamaica.
  • Over 300 representatives and delegates from Jamaica and other Caribbean islands are attending the conference, being held under the theme: ‘Making Government and the Private Sector work for Persons with Disabilities’.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Security is to submit the final draft of the National Disability Bill to Cabinet by next week for its consideration.

Portfolio Minister, Hon. Derrick Kellier, made the announcement, today (March 11),  during the  opening ceremony for the inaugural biennial two-day regional conference, being staged by the University of the West Indies (UWI) Centre for Disability Studies (CDS), at the Mona campus, St. Andrew.

The proposed Act seeks to make provisions to safeguard and enhance the welfare of persons with disabilities across Jamaica.

Delivering the keynote address, Mr. Kellier advised that once Cabinet has completed its deliberations on the Bill, which has already been reviewed by Parliament’s Legislative Committee, “it will be tabled in the House of Representatives without delay.”

“I am fairly confident that Jamaica will have its first National Disability Act by the time we celebrate our 52nd anniversary of independence (on August 6, this year),” the Minister said.

Mr. Kellier noted that persons with disabilities will also benefit significantly from Parliament’s passage of the proposed Building Code Act, explaining that the legislation will mandate engineers and other professionals in the field of construction to ensure that all new buildings are “fully accessible.”

“By accessibility we mean that they (buildings) must be designed with the capacity for ramps, rails, wide doorways, and for persons who can interact with individuals who are deaf, and for ensuring that service providers adopt the concept of ‘universal design’, which is highlighted in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” he outlined.

The Minister  argued that the country’s success at survival, nationally and regionally, “will depend, in the larger scheme of things, on the success of persons with disabilities, in who reside some of the critical skills needed to help in grasping the opportunities before us.”

In this regard, Mr. Kellier said the Government is placing significant focus on 10 key areas of development for persons with disabilities. These include: education, employment, accessibility, transportation, housing, healthcare and facilities, sports, recreation, culture, and political and public life.

Mr. Kellier cited the appointment of the UWI Centre for Disability Studies’ Coordinator, Mr.   Floyd Morris, who is visually impaired, as a Senator, and his subsequent elevation to the position of Senate President, as an example of the administration’s focus on the full inclusion of persons with disabilities in activities in the society.

“Senator Morris’ dual appointment…demonstrates the government’s commitment to ensuring that the human and fundamental rights of persons with disabilities are, at all times, assured and upheld,” he said.

Over 300 representatives and delegates from Jamaica and other Caribbean islands are attending the conference, being held under the theme: ‘Making Government and the Private Sector work for Persons with Disabilities’.

Participants will focus and deliberate on issues pertaining to the status of persons with disabilities across the Caribbean, with a view to developing a Charter of minimum service delivery in the public and private sectors, and assist relevant stakeholders to fast track the disability agenda in the region.