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Story Highlights

  • Professor Archibald McDonald says there must be partnership among all stakeholders in order to create a disability friendly society.
  • This is to ensure that Jamaica makes provisions for the disabled that are consistent with global developments.
  • Ensuring access to buildings, parking, and sanitary facilities by disabled persons, are crucial requirements in making any society more adaptable for disabled persons.

Pro-Vice Chancellor 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 argues is to ensure that Jamaica makes provisions for the disabled that are consistent with global developments.

The 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, who is also Principal of the UWI’s Mona Campus in St. Andrew, noted the “increasingly globalised nature” of the international community, which 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,” the Pro-Vice Chancellor stated.

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

Professor McDonald argued, 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.”

“It is, therefore, the responsibility of the government… private sector (and academic community) to begin engaging in crucial talks specially aimed at devising new policies and regulations to better provide for persons with disabilities. The introduction of public education initiatives is also important if we are keen on creating an inclusive society for all,” he added.

Professor McDonald noted that Jamaica is at a “crucial turning point” that requires everyone to “show our willingness” to provide equal opportunities for all persons committed to the growth and development of Jamaica and the Caribbean.

In this regard, he stressed that Jamaica must do everything necessary to ensure that “we (do not) continue to lag behind our international neighbours in our treatment of the disabled.”

More than 300 representatives and delegates from Jamaica and other Caribbean islands attended the two-day conference, held under the theme: ‘Making Government and the Private Sector work for Persons with Disabilities’.

Participants focused and deliberated on issues related 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 assisting relevant stakeholders to fast track the disability agenda in the region.