- The Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD) remains steadfast in its mandate to provide a range of well-needed support to persons with disabilities (PWDs).
- Executive Director of the JCPD, Dr. Christine Hendricks, tells JIS News that the services and programmes offered are designed to equip PWDs with the necessary resources and opportunities to reach their full potential.
- Persons with disabilities are, therefore, being encouraged to register with the JCPD to receive the economic, educational and social development benefits available.
The Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD) remains steadfast in its mandate to provide a range of well-needed support to persons with disabilities (PWDs).
Executive Director of the JCPD, Dr. Christine Hendricks, tells JIS News that the services and programmes offered are designed to equip PWDs with the necessary resources and opportunities to reach their full potential.
Persons with disabilities are, therefore, being encouraged to register with the JCPD to receive the economic, educational and social development benefits available.
“The benefits that we offer are threefold. We offer grants for economic or income-generating projects. In the case of children, we offer these to the parents or caregivers on the children’s behalf, to manage business ventures so they can earn an income to take care of their children,” Dr. Hendricks states.
“We also offer medical benefits for persons who may need to have doctors’ visits or surgeries within a particular range of course and ensuring they are healthy for the most part. We also provide assistance for school-related benefits in terms of school fees, books for back-to-school and exam fees, for some that may need it,” she adds.
The JCPD’s also provides scholarships to students with disabilities for tertiary-level education, through the annual Margaret Moody Scholarship programme. Scholarship grants do not exceed $150,000 per student per annum and can be used for tuition, boarding or academic material.
In addition, grants valued at $30,000 and $250,000, are available for persons who require assistive aids such as wheelchair, special glasses for persons with visual impairment, braces and prosthesis.
The JCPD also facilitates persons with disabilities who meet the required criteria to access the five per cent allocation of housing solutions from the National Housing Trust.
“Over the last financial year, we assisted over 500 clients – April 2018 to March 2019 – and that has been the case over the last two years or so… and they are grateful for the assistance and the families are the better for it,” Dr. Hendricks says.
The Council also assists with the process of income tax exemption under the Income Tax Act for persons with disabilities.
Meanwhile, Dr. Hendricks is urging Jamaicans to provide persons with disabilities with the necessary interventions at an early age for the best outcome.
“There is the Early Stimulation Programme that falls under the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. They cater to children zero to six and they provide, as the name suggests, early stimulation to assist children in early development, because the earlier the disability is identified and stimulation and intervention provided, the greater the opportunities for the child in terms of developing their full potential,” she states.
She argues that the early intervention provided under the programme has had tremendous impact on children.
“We have seen children through that programme over the years who have come in being unable to walk, talk, or do many of the developmental things parents look for in children. At the end of the day, they end up in high school, they end up in university. Not that they do not have a disability, but because of the stimulation at an early age, it propels them and helps them to develop beyond what would be expected,” Dr. Hendricks states.
The Executive Director, also highlights the importance of partnerships in providing support to PWDs.
Among the organisations that the JCPD works with are the Early Stimulation Programme (ESP), Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD), Jamaican Association on Intellectual Disabilities (JAID), McCam Childcare and Development Centre, Jamaica Autism Support Association (JASA) and the Nathan Ebanks Foundation (NEF).
“We have to work with all of them, because they are the ones through whom we identify our clients, who then go on to benefit from the programmes we offer. The JCPD works with persons with all types of disability because we cater to all persons regardless of the disability,” she says.
Dr. Hendricks also urges members of the public to look out for persons with disabilities, particularly children, who she noted are vulnerable to predators.
“We need to remember that children with disabilities are particularly vulnerable. Many times those reports are not made for one reason or another. We will hear about [normally] developing children who have gone missing or are abused, but you hardly hear about the children with disabilities who would have had similar experiences,” she says.
“We encourage parents and caregivers to be vigilant, because even though your child has a disability, mild to severe, they are just as vulnerable to others who prey on children, so they must pay keen attention and know that they too are in danger,” Dr. Hendricks warns.
To this end, the Executive Director states that her organisation works closely with the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), as well as the NEF, to put safety mechanisms in place for these children, in addition to conducting sensitisation sessions to address sexual and reproductive health matters.
“We work with the CPFSA in terms of identifying and registering the children that we have, and the NEF provides the training of the caregivers and awareness and sensitisation of care of the children in terms of protection,” she says.
The JCPD is the agency that promotes the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in accordance with national policies, plans and programmes, within the legislative framework.
It facilitates the educational, economic and social development of persons with disabilities in Jamaica in a collaborative and participatory atmosphere, through training, public education and the provision of other relevant services.