Rights of the Disabled to be Explored at Two-Day Symposium


The rights of persons with disabilities, the challenges they face, and how these challenges can be addressed by the society, are some of the issues that will be tackled by Monica Bartley, chairperson for the Combined Disabilities Association, when she addresses the Human Rights and the Administration of Justice symposium next week.
The event is slated for February 22 to 23 at the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) in Mandeville. In her presentation entitled, ‘Human Rights and Persons Living with Disabilities’, Miss Bartley will highlight the need for persons with disabilities to be included in all stages of national life, instead of being treated as an “afterthought” when a process had been completed.
Of importance, Miss Bartley stated, was that society should put the necessary structures in place to meet the needs of persons with disabilities, and not the other way around, where the disabled community were afforded tools, which assist them to fit into society only to an extent.
For example, she said that physically challenged persons might be given crutches to assist them in walking, but at the same time, limited mechanisms were put in place to facilitate freedom of movement in various places. Even with the shortcomings, Miss Bartley noted that through the advocacy of the Disabilities Association, a number of positive changes have been made in areas such as housing, employment and education, which have served to enhance the lives of the disabled.
In addition, she told JIS News, the Association has been instrumental in formulating the National Policy for Persons with Disabilities and “we have advocated for many things that we have gotten. a lot more persons are coming to us now to ask what it is we need, so that they can include us in their development process.”
The most recent achievement, she informed, was the implementation of parking spaces for persons with disabilities in the corporate area, while a number of changes were being effected to the building code, which would require that the relevant structures were put in place to facilitate persons with disabilities.
Notwithstanding these achievements, Miss Bartley stressed that many more changes were needed and these have been stated in the National Policy for Persons with Disabilities.
Minister of State for Labour and Social Security, Senator Floyd Morris, who is visually impaired, lamented that even though the Constitution spoke to the rights of all citizens, persons with disabilities still faced a number of challenges as they sought to exercise their rights as ordinary citizens.
As a result, he noted, “one of the things the government intends to do is to enact further legislation that will serve to protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities, which include the National Disability Act and Amendment to the Road Traffic Act, which will give deaf persons the right to drive.”
The two-day symposium entitled ‘Human Rights – Justice Truth and Accountability’ is aimed at creating an understanding of what human rights should mean to the people of Jamaica, as well as to explore how human rights impact on a variety of issues.
The event is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Justice and the Northern Caribbean University. Among the topics to be discussed are: ‘HIV/AIDS and the Rights of the Individual’, ‘Protection of Children’s Rights’ and ‘Human Rights and the Criminal Justice System.’

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