As Barbados observes March as the Month of the Disabled, Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde, has highlighted the need for a collaborative effort “to formulate policies and strategies to make the lives of persons with disabilities more comfortable”.
According to her, although the island has come a long way in meeting their needs, there was still more work to be done.
In her message to commemorate the month being observed under the theme Building Back Better For A More Inclusive and Resilient Barbados, Minister Forde pointed out that in order to achieve this objective, there must be freedom from discrimination, access to equal opportunities in all spheres of endeavour, as well as the provision of facilities that are both accessible and adaptable to their needs.
She reinforced, however, that such efforts should not be confined to the Month of the Disabled, nor the responsibility be left solely to authorities and organisations which advocate on behalf of, or provide services for the disabled.
“It is the responsibility of all of us. It is only through this approach that we can hope to make a significant difference in the lives of persons with disabilities, and in the process capitalise on their unique talents and abilities. A country that does not embrace and nurture all of its citizens stands the risk of wasting opportunities and retarding its development,” Minister Forde stated.
Acknowledging the challenges faced by persons with disabilities as it relates to employment, the Minister of People Empowerment noted that it was one of the main focal points of Government, and assured the matter would be “aggressively addressed”.
To this end, she said an initiative would be undertaken this month, to “raise the employment level of persons with disabilities”.
According to her, 30 persons would receive training, and at the end of the programme “be afforded access to sustainable employment in the private sector”.
Ms. Forde further disclosed that “during the next financial year, there will be practical training in agriculture, involving the cultivation and marketing of food crops, the creation of supportive environments and increasing the distribution of assistive devices”.
The Minister also shared that she hoped to see access audits of local facilities (e.g. shops, offices, recreational facilities and transportation systems) being conducted by social practitioners, school and university students, as part of curriculum work.
She said the findings should also be submitted to the participating entities, and those that fall short encouraged to improve their facilities to be more accessible to persons with disabilities.
Reminding Barbadians that the challenges being faced by vulnerable groups were compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister Forde reiterated that all of us must “make a concerted effort to assist those in greatest need, and we must ensure that no one remains disadvantaged”.