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JIS News

The Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD) will be intensifying its efforts to ensure that children with disabilities have equal access to education.
In an interview with JIS News, Acting Executive Director of the JCPD, Valerie Spence, said that with an increase in the number of disabled students being rejected by school authorities, the organisation will be more vigilant in its operations.
“Parents are becoming increasingly aware that their children have the right to access education irrespective of the child’s disabilities. So when they are rejected by the school they bring it to our attention and the complaints are increasing. The Council is the body responsible for carrying out Government Programmes, as it relates to persons with disabilities and we are more vigilant than ever,” she informed.
Continuing, she asserted that, “as soon as we are aware that schools are refusing to accept a child because of their disabilities, we act on it and we will continue to do so. We are relentless in our efforts to know that these students will be placed in schools, because refusing students who are disabled is discrimination at the highest level.”
She further pointed out that, the Council will not allow schools to deny disabled persons access to quality education.
“We are not prepared to stand by and watch any of our children with disabilities be discriminated against. The fact that Jamaica was the first to sign on to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities gives us more leverage to ensure that every child or every individual who has a disability gets an equal opportunity to achieve their potential,” she outlined.
Ms. Spence said that the Council will be heightening its public education programme in order to prevent a re-occurrence of the issues that disabled children are now facing.
“Our Public Education programme is an ongoing thing, we have to educate individuals and the society that persons with disabilities are a part of society, and therefore they are entitled (to) all the opportunities that are given to other persons. The Government is in the process of looking at the National Disabilities Bill and that (the Bill) will seek to address some of the issues that individuals feel that they have been discriminated against,” she noted.
Ms. Spence lauded the Government and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) for their commitment and improvements, but called on the wider society to help develop a participatory atmosphere, which will be beneficial to all.
“We have come a far way, a lot of things have been done…a number of buildings are now equipped, employment of the disabled has improved, and other provisions are being made. New policies are being put in place that would have normally been overlooked. However, in spite of what we do, persons with disabilities will always be with us, so you have to change your attitudes, and not only see the disabilities but the persons. It cannot only be done by the Government and NGOs, community members must be vigilant, we need to develop a participatory atmosphere and work in collaboration,” she advised.