JIS News

State Minister for Labour and Social Security, Andrew Gallimore, yesterday (Nov. 19), held a special closed-door meeting with the executive body of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), to discuss a course of action to address negative stereotypes of disabled persons in the workplace.
He also urged the JCC executive body to “have serious dialogue with its members”, to help create employment for the disabled.
“The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce is an important body and I am here today to ask you to look at how the Jamaican society treats persons with disabilities and in particular as it relates to employment. The attitudes need to be changed, thus the urgent need for a paradigm shift that will cater to the needs or create that understanding,” Mr. Gallimore stated.
He said that if Jamaica is to achieve first world status, it needs to take a page out of the books of developed countries and address the care meted out to disabled persons. “Jamaica is moving to a first world status, but we don’t seem to give fair opportunities to persons with disabilities as we can’t seem to get past their disability. We need to cater to their needs. Look at what developed countries are doing for their disabled; these persons are working and making a living for themselves,” he pointed out.
While acknowledging the need for public education, to change the attitudes of the Jamaican society, the Minister stated that disabled persons are not seeking favours but instead, equal opportunities, as they have the ability to perform exceptionally well, as some who are already working in the private and public sectors have, and continue to demonstrate.
He cited public relations officer in his Ministry, Ann-Marie Dobson; former director at the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, Monica Bartley, and radio DJ Patrick Lafayette, as examples of disabled persons, who are making their mark.
President of the JCC, Milton Samuda, in supporting the State Minister’s sentiments, offered to assist not only by creating employment but by aiding the public education effort.
“I understand the stance that you are taking and you need not plead to us because we are willing to assist with the public education in terms of getting the message out there,” he said, while commending Mr. Gallimore for “making the right move”.
“I will be sending a circulation to our members and we have endorsed what you are saying. We agree with you about the need for a change in the attitude and this change of attitude will see us moving forward. However, speaking from a lawyer’s perspective, the need for the legislation (on the disabled), is key and the chamber is happy to co-operate because this is a good initiative,” he stated.
The National Disability Act, which will empower the disabled and protect their rights and dignity, is in its 8th draft stage and when tabled in Parliament, is expected to take into consideration all the rights of disabled persons, especially as it relates to access to education and employment.

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