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Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Andrew Gallimore, has urged employers to empower members of the disabled community, by providing them with opportunities to make a meaningful contribution to the growth and development of the society.
The Minister was providing the keynote address, at a function held recently, at the St. Gabriel’s Anglican Church Hall in May Pen, Clarendon, to sensitise members of the business community to the need for the inclusion of disabled persons in the workforce.
“We must dispel our fears, our prejudices. We need to put our persons with disabilities on the frontline, where everybody who does business with us can see them. We need to allow them to demonstrate their competencies and allow them to win the respect of their co-workers, and to respect their co-workers,” he said.
The Minister further stated that persons with disabilities are as talented, and have as equal a contribution to make, as their able-bodied counterparts. No-one, he said, should be allowed to place limitations on disabled persons.
“There are too many persons in our society who do not have a disability, but want to define what persons with a disability are capable of doing. We have to build a society that is inclusive, that has room for every single citizen in this country. We have to build a society where persons with disabilities can define clearly what they can do, and they are the ones who must define the limits of what they can do,” he added.
Mr. Gallimore pointed out that he has met many disabled persons, and has not found them to be seeking charity, but rather an opportunity to be treated with dignity and to be respected by the general population.
They too, he said, should be given the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of work, just as other members of society.
“I am asking each and every one of you here, you have a part you can play. Persons with disabilities should have the opportunity to dream, and have their dreams come through. They should be able to have plans, and have the opportunity to work to make those goals a reality. They must be able to jump as high as they want, unencumbered but encouraged. They must have the opportunity, and enjoy the benefits of work that other members of society enjoy,” he stressed.
He said while members of the able-bodied sector of society were constantly striving to better their social and economic status, disabled persons have been consistently denied this opportunity, even when highly qualified, because of the refusal of persons to employ them.
Minister Gallimore further stated that through the process of education, there would have to be a paradigm shift, to create a new Jamaica, where the disabled are treated equally.
This was the first of a series of activities designed to sensitise employers to the need to provide opportunities for disabled Jamaicans to empower themselves, and contribute to the growth of the economy.