Mr. Speaker, it is said that “Disability is a matter of perception”; and I wish to begin my presentation this afternoon by declaring that I agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment.
For this reason, Mr. Speaker, I have the greatest and distinct pleasure of being able to stand here this afternoon, in this Parliament, in the land of my birth, to participate in the bi-partisan debate on one of the truly historic pieces of legislation put forward in Jamaica so far in the 21st Century – The Disability Bill 2014.
Mr. Speaker, we on this side of this Honourable House, are extremely pleased with this historic development in the life of our people, and we take great pride in having endured the long journey in finally bringing reality to the rights of persons with disabilities.
Mr. Speaker, we have had to endure along the route of this journey, much slings and arrows from a cynical minority outside of the disabled community who persist in dishonouring the intention of Government to effect genuine national development.
But because our tradition of service is deeply rooted in the character, tradition, and struggle for personhood of our people, Mr. Speaker, we never one day gave up the effort in the ten (10) years it has taken to get us here today where we are now ready as a nation to collectively move people within the community of the disabled from disability to superability.
Mr. Speaker, the work to make this happen began with the process to enact a Disabilities Bill that had its genesis in the visionary establishment of a National Policy for Persons with a Disability in the year 2000. This Policy was adopted in keeping with the United Nations Standard Rules for the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.
The goals of the National Policy included the improvement of the status and conditions of persons with disabilities so they can enjoy a better quality of life in areas such as:
- Accessibility to all areas of the society
In particular, the Policy aims to achieve the following:
- The integration of persons with disabilities in the society so they can fully participate in all aspects of society, and
- The enhancement of the self-reliance and functional independence of such persons and ensuring the availability of services and access to the various systems of society and the environment to enable the equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities
Mr. Speaker, in speaking of the National Policy in January 2001 in the Senate, the present President of the Senate, Senator Floyd Morris stated, and I quote: “Central to the national policy is the situation where the Government is trying to unlock the potential of members of the disabled community, recognizing that they have the potential to do whatsoever they want to do in terms of national development.” End of quote…READ MORE