With today being observed as Disability Awareness Day, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, ON, MP has issued the following statement:-

“Today is being celebrated as Disability Awareness Day. It is being celebrated under the theme “Break Barriers, Open Doors for An Inclusive Society for All”. The theme that has been chosen for this year’s observance by the United Nations is instructive, as it is calling upon men and women of goodwill, to eradicate obstacles and create a more inclusive society for persons with disabilities.

Over the years, persons with disabilities have been marginalized and isolated and this has contributed to them being among the poorest in the world. We must therefore do everything humanly possible to integrate these individuals into the mainstream of society. For us to do so, we must:

  • Accept these individuals as human beings who have the right to exist and who once given the opportunities, will maximize their true potential
  • Support these individuals by including them in various activities in the communities and rendering assistance to them
  • Empower these individuals through providing economic and social opportunities for them in the workplace and communities, and
  • Create access for them in their communities so that they can go about their business in an unencumbered way.

In Jamaica, whilst we have a far way to go, the Government has been playing its part to improve the quality of life for these our vulnerable brothers and sisters.

We have established a national policy to guide how persons with disabilities should be treated in the society. We have established the Special Education Unit in the Ministry of Education to assist in the education of persons with disabilities. We have been providing a small window through the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD) where persons with disabilities can get grant funding for small business support. We have established the Early Stimulation Programme that is providing tremendous support to children with disabilities, and we have established a policy where persons with disabilities, who have contributed to the National Housing Trust (NHT), can access their own homes wherever they choose.

Notwithstanding these efforts, we have more work to do, to have a totally inclusive society for all. This is why my administration is making every effort to enact legislation to protect the rights of these individuals and this will be done during this legislative year. We are also currently working on a national registration of persons with disabilities so that we can establish a centralized database of these vulnerable individuals so that we can as a Government better plan for them.

I therefore call upon all Jamaicans to embrace and support persons with disabilities and to assist them in breaking barriers, opening doors and making Jamaica a more inclusive society for all our people. Remember, you may be able-bodied today and disabled tomorrow, so respect persons with disabilities. Have a successful Disability Awareness Day.’”

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