The National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA) is committed to bridging the gap between abled bodied individuals and members of the disabled community.

Yolande Forde, Manager of the NCSA, gave this assurance today while addressing a workshop for the hearing impaired entitled: Stop! Think! Choose!?? It was held at the Savannah Hotel, Hastings, Christ Church.

??She told participants: "Persons often make the mistake of thinking that the specific physical incapacitation that an individual may have, makes him or her a different human being …a lesser human being than we [abled bodied persons] are."

Ms. Forde noted that it was the NCSA’s aim to extract information from this particular group about the risk factors for drug use and determine how the Council could better respond to the needs of the hearing impaired community.

"A person who has one foot, no eyesight, or who cannot hear is no less a person than one who has both feet or who can see or hear.?? He or she has the same rights and entitlements, the same needs and desires, the same range of human emotions that we have," she stressed.

The Head of the NCSA pointed out that although Government and Non Governmental Organisations such as the Barbados Council for the Disabled had made significant strides in sensitising the population to the needs of those who were challenged, there was more to be done.

Ms Forde warned that "the country still has a long way to go in terms of understanding …that in every respect other than one area of ???differentness’, a so-called disabled person is a full human being."

Calling on Barbadians to remain mindful of their own frailty, she reminded those in attendance that "each one of us, bar none, is just an illness or accident away from a disability…" And, she urged all in the society "to stop and think about this … then choose to modify your views of and attitude to those who are different or those who have a physical incapacitation."

Ms. Forde also expressed concern over two global phenomena, which she noted were ravaging significant portions of the world’s citizens who were in the prime of their lives – drugs such as alcohol, marijuana and cocaine, as well as HIV/AIDS.

She charged: "These represent the scourge of the earth! Research has shown that persons who are deaf are a high risk group with respect to both substance abuse and to risky sexual behaviours.??????

"Many of the same factors which predispose persons and young persons to drug use and risky and reckless sexual behaviours are faced by the deaf and hearing impaired; however, the risk for involvement in these activities, which have dangerous consequences, is even greater among this population," the NCSA head explained.

The seminar, which is in its second year, had some 45 participants in attendance from the New Life Deaf Club and other young people, sourced from the social network site, Facebook.?? It also featured a dramatic presentation from students of the Irving Wilson School.

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