Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde, speaking at the launch of a recreational and rehabilitative facility for Persons with Disabilities at the National Disabilities Unit yesterday. (Photo: Department of Public Affairs)

Several initiatives aimed at improving access of persons with disabilities to educational and employment opportunities will soon be rolled out.

Among them is a “major collaborative effort” involving officials in the Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs and their counterparts in the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, to increase educational offerings to individuals.

Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde, made the announcement at the launch of a redevelopment project of the grounds at the National Disabilities Unit’s (NDU) headquarters, at Lower Collymore Rock, St. Michael, yesterday.

Minister Forde said the partnership was “critical, as it is simply not good enough for us to hail the passage into tertiary education, for one student with a disability, every few years”.

“We must work to ensure that this is a more common occurrence and must therefore work together to put the necessary economic, social and physical infrastructure in place. We must further complement this work by creating and shaping positive mind-sets in both instructors and students, to ensure that this goal becomes a reality,” she said.

Efforts were also made to address the concerns raised about challenges of persons with disabilities being able to earn an income, whether it be through traditional employment or entrepreneurship.

Minister Forde further noted that “a number of programmes were set to come on stream in the new financial year to generate employment” for them.

“The National Disabilities Unit intends to work with the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment to design and implement programmes to enhance the employability of persons with disabilities. The focus will be on honing what are termed soft skills, such as refining the application process; mastering the job interview; developing professional attitudes and skills for sustaining employment.

“Through this programme, opportunities will be provided for work attachments through the Job Start Plus Initiative of the Ministry of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, as well as internally developed systems,” she explained.

The Minister also pledged Government’s intention to honour its mandate to persons with disabilities to ensure inclusivity and the provision of equal opportunities, noting that there was still significant work to be done to make this a reality.

nya.phillips@barbados.gov.bb

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