The Spanish-Jamaican Foundation, and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security have joined forces, to cater to the needs of the disabled community in Jamaica.
Persons with special needs are now being equipped with a foreign language, which should prepare them for the world of work, both locally and internationally, says Modern Language Education Officer at the Ministry of Education, Martha Corbett Baugh.
She tells JIS News that persons with special needs require the same equal opportunities as regular persons, especially as it relates to learning a foreign language.
"Not because these persons are physically challenged, means they cannot be gainfully employed. They also need employment opportunities, which are the right of all Jamaican citizens, and they contribute to nation building,” she informs.
Mrs. Corbett Baugh argues that persons with special needs can learn at the same pace as regular persons, because of their level of interest, motivation and determination to succeed.
“We are lobbying for persons who may be physically challenged, and have the required skills, to be offered the opportunity to do translation (interpreting foreign languages). If we extend this to other areas of service, you could find many more opportunities,” she points out.
Mrs. Corbett Baugh says that some of the best interpreters in the world are visually impaired, but are excellent at what they do. “They replace the challenge of sight, with listening. They don’t miss one word, and are extremely focused, which is the type of forum that we at the Ministry aim to create. Everybody in society must have an opportunity to be the best that they can be, which includes persons with special needs,” she adds.
She notes that there are many disabled persons who have limited or no mobility, but are exposed to technology, and can do marvellous things from a computer.
Mrs. Corbett Baugh tells JIS News that the Ministry of Education recently opened a computer lab for visually impaired persons, which has helped to lift their spirits to perform well. “What is missing is a national intervention…to create hope for this particular target audience,” the Educator says.
She argues that equipping the special needs community with a foreign language is viewed as a vital asset, which makes them more marketable, and highlights that one of the goals spelled out in Vision 2030 states that educated Jamaicans will speak a foreign language, which is a sign of progress, “if we are to move forward as a nation”.
Vision 2030 Jamaica is the country’s first long-term national development plan, this aims at enabling Jamaica to achieve developed country status by 2030. It is based on a comprehensive vision: ‘Jamaica, the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.
Mrs. Corbett Baugh says there are persons with various disabilities who, because of their circumstances, are more productive than regular persons.
She emphasises that these persons should not be barred from employment opportunities that exist, so information should be made available to this sector of society, concerning new prospects.
"There are persons with special needs working in supermarkets, as cashiers and store clerks, which signal that there are no boundaries. In order to be easily identified, they have signs which either indicates that they have a hearing challenge, or other disability. The fact of the matter is, they are working,” she says.
She explains that educating persons with a foreign language will not only improve their personal development, but the country as well.
"It is a matter of providing an opportunity, because persons with disabilities need to be exposed to all opportunities that currently exist, that will boost their overall development. Let’s just give them the tools that they need to excel, so they can be better prepared to serve the world,” she says.
Mrs. Corbett Baugh points out that disabled persons perform extremely well, because they usually try harder, and it boosts their self-esteem. "They embrace the opportunity of learning a foreign language with so much commitment, and express deep gratitude, compared to others,” she adds.
She argues that once they are led to understand that they have something to contribute, they are dedicated to the task and it is guaranteed that they will learn more, because they have no time to party or break away from work.
Mrs. Corbett Baugh is appealing to both local and international organisations, to join forces with the Labour Ministry and the Spanish-Jamaican Foundation, to assist persons with special needs.
The Spanish-Jamaican Foundation was established in July 2006 by Spanish investors in Jamaica, with the objective of promoting educational, social, economic and cultural projects and activities.