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    • A Sign Language Interpretation Programme will be piloted in the Senate, to make the activities of the Upper House more accessible to the hearing impaired community.
    • The initiative will allow the hearing impaired to observe the sitting of the Senate from the gallery or through televised broadcast.
    • The Ministry continues to work assiduously with the relevant stakeholders to finalize the National Disabilities Bill.

    Come January 2014, a Sign Language Interpretation Programme will be piloted in the Senate, as part of efforts to make the activities of the Upper House more accessible to the hearing impaired community.

    This was disclosed by Speaker of the House of Representatives, Michael Peart on December 3, as Parliament acknowledged the celebration of International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

    Mr. Peart explained that the initiative will allow the hearing impaired to observe the sitting of the Senate from the gallery or through televised broadcast.

    “It is our intention to expand this programme by mid-2014 to include meetings of the House of Representatives. This, we feel, will remove one barrier of preventing persons with disabilities from participating fully and effectively as equal members of society,” Mr. Peart said.

    He said that Parliament is looking at putting in place facilities for the physically impaired and “this should take effect sometime in the coming year”.

    Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Derrick Kellier, in a statement to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities, reiterated the Government’s commitment to enacting the relevant legislation to ensure that the rights of person with disabilities are protected.

    He noted that the Ministry continues to work assiduously with the relevant stakeholders to finalize the National Disabilities Bill.

    “We are working assiduously to draft a document, which will be beneficial to persons with disabilities and will impact their lives in a very positive way,” Mr. Kellier said.

    He informed that the Ministry recently received the comments of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel on the most recent draft of the Bill.

    “I am satisfied that we are now ready to proceed to the Legislative Committee of Cabinet. It is anticipated that we should therefore be in a position to have the Bill tabled in Parliament before the end of the legislative year,” he stated.

    International Day of Persons with Disabilities was observed under the theme: ‘Break Barriers, Open Doors: For an Inclusive Society for All’.

    In Jamaica, this day falls within Disabilities Awareness Week, which involves a series of activities to promote understanding of the issues faced by persons with disabilities and mobilize support for their dignity, rights and well-being.

    The week also seeks to increase awareness of the gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.