Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Zavia Mayne, says persons with disabilities continue to play a major role in Jamaica’s development and should be treated with the respect they deserve.
“We need to recognise that persons with disabilities are not inferior and only need the proper guidance to become productive citizens and reach their maximum potential,” he pointed out.
Mr. Mayne, who was speaking at the service to launch Disabilities Awareness Week, at the Calvary Baptist Church in Montego Bay on Sunday (November 29), said that there are many persons in Jamaica and around the world who have excelled despite their disability.
“Our own Dr. Floyd Morris is Jamaica’s candidate to be a member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) while Stevie Wonder, who is visually impaired, has been the recipient of 25 Grammy Awards. Albert Einstein, the famous Physicist had a learning disability and did not speak until age three, while Polio did not prevent Franklin D. Roosevelt from becoming President of the United States,” he pointed out.
Mr. Mayne said that there has to be a concerted effort to eliminate discrimination and exclusion by creating a culture that values diversity and inclusion.
He noted the Ministry’s commitment to building awareness and acceptance and empowering persons with disabilities through various programmes and initiatives.
Among these is the Early Stimulation Programme, which provides intervention for children with developmental disabilities from birth to six years old.
“Several of the children, who transitioned from our Early Stimulation Programme are now at an acceptable level where they can function effectively in our educational system,” he noted.
He further lauded the work of the Abilities Foundation, which specialises in vocational education and training programmes for persons with all types of disabilities.
“Some of the graduates have acquired skills that allow them to operate their own businesses, while others are working in several organisations, which is a testament to their adaptability and capacity to be productive citizens,” Mr. Mayne said
For his part, Pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church, Rev. Courtney Walters, pointed to the need for Jamaicans to be educated about persons with disabilities and the challenges that they face.
He said that such sensitisation “can assist to break down stigma and discrimination against members of the disabled community”.
“We recognise that as a country and a society, we have some responsibilities, and part of that is to build awareness and ensure that everyone, from the smallest child to the oldest person, realises that not all of us enjoy all of the facilities of life,” he pointed out.
He added that effort must be made to ensure that members from the disabled community have access to the various services that would allow them to “live out their humanity” particularly during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit.
Disabilities Awareness Week is being observed under the theme ‘Build Back Better: An Inclusive Society for Persons with Disabilities Post-COVID-19’.