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  • Jamaicans are being encouraged to play a greater role in protecting the rights of the disabled, and helping to remove the barriers to inclusion, participation, and development of persons with disabilities (PWDs).
  • This call comes from Executive Director of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD), Christine Hendricks, who noted that without a national drive to ensure the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities, they will continue to be dependents of the State.
  • Mrs. Hendricks asserted that the protection of PWDs was an imperative for national development.

Jamaicans are being encouraged to play a greater role in protecting the rights of the disabled, and helping to remove the barriers to inclusion, participation, and development of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in the country.

This call comes from Executive Director of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD), Christine Hendricks, who noted that without a national drive to ensure the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities, they will continue to be dependents of the State.

“They will forever be on welfare; their potential and their value will be untapped; Jamaica will never benefit from their creativity; and Jamaica’s true potential and developed status will only be a dream,” she said.

Mrs. Hendricks was addressing a policy forum themed – ‘Social Protection: Fostering the Well-being of Vulnerable and at-Risk Groups for a Better Jamaica’, hosted by the Management Institute for National Development (MIND), at its Kingston campus on September 26.

Citing some of the barriers to inclusion and development of PWD, such as overt and covert discrimination; physical and information inaccessibility; and inadequate access to basic services, Mrs. Hendricks asserted that the protection of PWDs was an imperative for national development.

“If as individuals, we keep the guiding principles of participation, inclusion and empowerment of persons with disabilities in the forefront of all our development plans, persons with disabilities will have access to a fair life as human beings and equal contributors, as all peoples of society,” she said.

She implored persons, whether employers, service providers, designer/developer of goods and services, to ensure that as they create programmes, persons with disabilities are involved in the planning, so their issues can be addressed.

“As you build, utilise the building code to ensure you make buildings accessible to all. As you offer services, ensure you consider the needs of the different disability groups and seek to address them. For example, the provision of sign language interpretation for the deaf or large print for persons with low vision,” she suggested.

Pointing to the passage of the National Disabilities Act in the Lower House this year, which she described as “the greatest time for us in the disabilities sector,” Mrs.  Hendricks welcomed Jamaica’s improved response to PWDs.

“It is yet to be approved in the Senate, but at least we have stepped out to show that as a country, we are much more serious in terms of how we seek to protect persons with disabilities,” she said.

The Disabilities Act establishes guidelines and penalties for the protection of PWDs against discrimination. It also seeks to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment by persons with disabilities, of privileges, interests, benefits and treatment, on equal basis with others.

She also pointed to Jamaica’s National Development Plan: Vision 2030, under which a Persons with Disabilities Sub-Sector Plan was developed in 2009. She said the plan “offers much hope and provides the road map, directing us to the right way that we should take as a nation.”

Other panelists included: Regional Director, South East Region, Child Development Agency (CDA), Robert Williams; Managing Director, Jamaica National Building Society, Saffrey Brown; and Acting Director of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), Portia Magnus.

MIND organises and hosts policy forums designed to stimulate public awareness of issues of national, regional and global importance; and provide a forum for the exchange of information aimed at improving the quality of thought and behaviour change.

The policy forums also provide a strategic opportunity for leaders in the public sector, allied private sector, the academic community and civil society to interface with each other and engage in a dynamic exchange of information, ideas and connections with far-reaching and invaluable outcomes.