Persons living with disabilities across Barbados are set to have a number of issues affecting them addressed by Government in the coming months.
They include matters relating to education, employment, service delivery and financial security.
These were highlighted by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Gabrielle Springer, during a virtual national consultation today on Issues Affecting Persons with Disabilities.
Ms. Springer said the issue of employment for persons with disabilities would be addressed during the next financial year, through the Mangrove Agricultural Project, which seeks to impart skills in food crop and flower cultivation.
She added that tuition in flower arranging and the hosting of entrepreneurial markets for persons living with disabilities would also be provided to allow them to showcase their produce and services.
The Permanent Secretary further outlined that Government was also in the process of reforming the education system, and gave the assurance that students with special needs would receive the desired attention.
“In the short term, my Ministry will endeavour to meet the needs of those students by providing the necessary education aids and support to help them function adequately in the classroom and in remote facilities,” she said.
Meanwhile, the financial security of persons with disabilities is also under consideration, with a push to raise the amount of financial resources available to them from the Welfare Department and National Insurance Department.
Ms. Springer noted that the subvention allocation to organisations providing services to the disabled community was raised in December 2021 to assist in meeting their programming needs.
However, she said, the benefits’ categories of persons living with disabilities was also under review, with the hope of expanding the types of disabilities that could benefit from a national insurance provision.
During her address, Ms. Springer also highlighted transportation, access to certain medical services, meeting the resource needs of individuals to help them function effectively in society, and the enactment of legislation as other matters to be considered.
“All of these are under active consideration…. At the end of the day, our focus remains making Barbados fully accessible and being the society that is the model for societies in this region to emulate,” she said.
Ms. Springer also noted that there was a need for the development of a Disability Standard on Access to Premises, as too often buildings were constructed or renovated without consideration being given to access and public facilities for persons with disabilities.
“This is simply not acceptable. Failure to put in fire control systems to specification, or failure to ensure footings are appropriate for buildings can no longer be tolerated.
“Yet we seem to tolerate handrails in accessible toilets being put in upside down, inappropriate or missing signage and malfunctioning equipment that aggravate the challenges faced by persons with disabilities,” the Permanent Secretary lamented.
However, she called on residents to make a concerted effort to ensure that the requisite facilities and accommodations were in place to support the integration of persons with disabilities into community life.
“We must seek to break down all barriers to their full participation into everyday life and leave the traditional treatment of this population in the shadows of our history.
“We owe it to ourselves and to our brothers and sisters, as today we may be classified as able bodied, and tomorrow through some unfortunate incident, we may join the realms of the disabled and finally accept the need to facilitate that change,” Ms. Springer cautioned.