If persons with disabilities (PWDs) are to participate fully and meaningfully in society, then serious consideration must be given to the three Cs – conscientiousness, collaboration and change – which according to Minister of Social Care, Dr. Denis Lowe, are important for any society to progress in an equitable manner.
Dr. Lowe conveyed this message while addressing participants at a one-day consultation entitled The “Untapped” Resource: Improving Employment Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, held at Grand Barbados Hotel, on September 10.
Stressing that the time for talking about providing assistance to PWDs was now over and action must be taken to enable them, the Minister said other members of society had to start first by examining themselves because that was the basis of the problem. He remarked: “We measure other peoples’ challenges through our own eyes and very often we do not take time to recognise that you can’t question a person’s corns until you’ve walked in their shoes.”
He noted that to bring about sustainable change conscientiousness, collaboration and change had to be pursued.
In pointing out the need for persons to be conscientious, Dr. Lowe said one of the many problems that confronted persons with disabilities was that many of those who were responsible for executing policy on their behalf lacked a passion for what they did. He also noted that little was being done to empower these persons because they were excluded from participating in the drafting of laws and regulations, contributing to policy development and were absent from the consultation tables.
He underscored: “The challenges of the disabled community must be our concern as well. Too many of us are just spectators and … we need to become participants in this process. And, we will not become a fully developed society unless we fully understand that it means that every single citizen has access to every thing that the country has to offer. Sometimes, we see just offering a person with a disability a job as some token; as we try to ease our consciences. We don’t want to own the reality that we have to change the way we view our society and understand that the full development of this society means the alleviation of the unnecessary pressures that the disabled community must face daily.”
In pointing out the need for collaboration, especially between the private and public sectors, to help in the fight for PWDs, the Minister opined: “The private sector in this country has to take ownership of what is required to make this society a better and more functional society for PWDs. Imagine you go to a building and can’t get in… I have seen persons with disabilities having a horrid time trying to do simple things. It is not acceptable. …We must continue to work and stimulate the private sector to come on board. I believe that there are private sector organisations which are willing to partner not only with the Government but with persons who are in the advocacy business for PWDs. ”
Minister Lowe also castigated professional care givers for not working to bring about a better life for members of the disabled community. He said: “I am sick and tired of professional caregivers treating persons with disabilities as persons to scorn. Unfortunately, this is just not only happening in the private sector, this is happening in the public sector. Sometimes, you don’t have to be hearing or sight-impaired but speak with an abnormality and you’d be surprised at how people treat you. …This is wicked.”
And, in speaking about the transformation that is necessary, the Minister stressed that people’s attitudes and behaviours had to be changed; however, he pointed out that this was not an easy task. He said: “If you want to change people you must change their beliefs, you must ask them to examine what they believe because beliefs drive attitudes. Attitudes are the by-products of what you believe. If you believe that the disabled are just a community to be tossed aside, then your attitude will reflect that belief.”
Minister Lowe also suggested that there were some systems of Government that had to be reformed to reflect today’s reality.
“We have some systems that are still serving as though we are … in the 1940s. We have to change these systems by examining the processes that drive them. And, one of them that we have to understand is how people deliver quality service…It is my hope that my Government continues to take the lead in ensuring that there are adequate resources and persons suitably trained and that there is ample access for PWDs,” he said.