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Story Highlights

  • The Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) will host its fourth HUSH Children’s Symposium on Wednesday, May 14 at the Rex Nettleford Hall Auditorium at UWI.
  • The symposium themed: ‘Disability, Equality and Accessibility’ will focus on: learning disabilities, mental health, visual impairment and deaf culture.
  • This year’s staging is being held in association with the Nathan Ebanks Foundation, a non-profit organisation that offers support to the disabled community.

The Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) will host its fourth HUSH Children’s Symposium on Wednesday, May 14 at the Rex Nettleford Hall Auditorium at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus.

The symposium themed: ‘Disability, Equality and Accessibility’ will focus on: learning disabilities, mental health, visual impairment and deaf culture.

The forum, which is an annual event, is part of the IOJ’s drive to change public perception toward persons living with disabilities, especially children.

It also seeks to break the silence of children in addressing the various issues that affect them. This year’s staging is being held in association with the Nathan Ebanks Foundation, a non-profit organisation that offers support to the disabled community.

Public Relations Officer at IOJ, Michka McCreath told JIS News that the inspiration for this year’s focus on children with disabilities came from the IOJ’s realisation that there is a need to focus on an area that will have significant national impact.

Discussions between the IOJ’s Programmes Coordination Division and founder of the Nathan Ebanks Foundation, Christine Staple Ebanks, also influenced the area of focus.

“A symposium on disabilities will definitely reach an audience that we have never captured before in this type of manner. We want people to understand that they (children with disabilities) are normal, they like to enjoy life, they are fun loving just like we are and we do not want them to feel different.  We want them to feel included in all of our activities and we want to make all the society a bit more inclusive…to them and their special needs,” said Miss McCreath.

The symposium, she explained, will help to develop the potential of children, which is one of the core mandates of the Institute.

“This is definitely the way forward in our vision because…we have a mandate to provide resources and information for children and children with disabilities are also under that umbrella and this is a way we have decided to get the information about their disabilities to a wider audience,” Miss McCreath expressed.

Stakeholders in the education sector, including teachers and students are the main targets of the event because of their prolonged periods of interaction with children.

Miss McCreath further noted that some teachers are unaware of the best methods of addressing the needs of students with disabilities, including how to tailor teaching material for this special group.

“We are targeting students as well as those who are peers of children with disabilities so that they will understand how it is that they are to communicate with them so that they feel better appreciated,” informed the public relations officer.

This year’s staging of the symposium will include participation from Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna, along with several government and corporate entities including: the Ministry of Education, the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, the Child Development Agency, the Jamaica Association for Children with Learning Disabilities, the Mico University College’s Child Assessment and Research in Education (CARE) Centre, and the Jamaica Association for the Deaf.