Director of the National Disabilities Unit, John Hollingsworth (left)); Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Gabrielle Springer; and Minister Kirk Humphrey presenting a cheque for $30,000 to President of the Barbados Down Syndrome Association, Asha Alleyne-Renwick and her 11-year-old son, Ashton Alleyne-Renwick, yesterday. (GP)

Issues affecting persons with disabilities and the elderly are top of the agenda for the Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs (MPEEA) as it seeks to further the cause for those affected.

Minister Kirk Humphrey gave this assurance as he presented President of the Barbados Down Syndrome Association, Asha Alleyne-Renwick, with a cheque for $30,000 to advance its work to mark World Down Syndrome Day, celebrated on March 21.

Speaking during the presentation in the HIV/AIDS Conference Room of the Ministry yesterday, Mr. Humphrey said officials were in discussions to see how they could elevate persons with disabilities and how organisations could be supported.

He added that establishing better partnerships, supporting programming, and elevating issues of importance to the various groups were identified as some meaningful steps that could be taken.

“We determined that if Barbados is to be truly an inclusive society in accordance with the theme, we must do more to ensure that inclusion is a reality. We keep speaking of a fully accessible Barbados. That must mean something real, and bigger than just wheelchairs for people to live a life in dignity and to have their rights respected,” the Minister pointed out.

He charged that some of the barriers preventing persons with disabilities from being able to function effectively in society were really not of their own making.

“Those barriers are institutionalised. Sometimes, they are taught to us in the way we relate to one another; we are given all these things that hinder us from being able to relate.  I think that in some cases they were in our religion,” he lamented.

However, Mr. Humphrey called on the public to make a concerted effort to “sanitise our thinking” to allow those with disabilities the opportunity to experience their full potential.

He added that persons also denied themselves the ability to experience the skills, compassion, love, potential and talent which persons with disabilities had to offer by blocking them from participating in society.

“We must do more for both groups [persons with disabilities and the elderly],” he maintained.

President of the Association, Mrs. Alleyne-Renwick, expressed her pleasure on receiving the donation from the Ministry, noting that they were happy to see the strides being made towards including those with disabilities into society.

“We are excited about the generous contribution that is being made to the association so that we can further our mandate in helping our members, our children and adults with Down Syndrome here in Barbados,” she stated.

In celebration of World Down Syndrome Day, under the theme Inclusion Means, several persons across Barbados showed their support as they “rocked their socks”.

julia.rawlins-bentham@barbados.gov.bb

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