Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Kirk Humphrey, and Chief Education Officer, Dr. Ramona Archer-Bradshaw chatting with Principal of The School House for Special Needs, Yasmin Vlahakis, during the open house today. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

Barbados has to do more to accommodate and assist persons with disabilities.

Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Kirk Humphrey, underscored this point, as he gave Government’s commitment that the way persons with disabilities were treated in Barbados was about to change. 

He made these statements today, as he delivered the feature address during the open day for The School House for Special Needs.

Mr. Humphrey explained that Government had established an Advisory Committee to Improve the Lives of Persons with Disabilities, which was tasked with developing a policy on persons living with disabilities and drafting the necessary legislation. 

He disclosed that the process is expected to be completed between September and October and made ready for public comment.

The Minister gave the assurance that persons with disabilities would be treated equally in the legislation in Barbados.

Mr. Humphrey also made it clear that matters relating to persons with disabilities had to be given priority.  “As our society has advanced, there has not been a commensurate advancement for persons with disabilities,” he said, noting that the system was still not mature enough to address a number of the issues.

He used the example of children in children’s homes who had reached the age of adulthood, but had nowhere to go and found themselves in a situation where they continued to live among the children with disabilities.    

However, he disclosed that there were plans to create a purpose-built facility at the Farrs or Sterling Children’s home to address such issues.

Mr. Humphrey further noted that the involvement of persons with disabilities in the build out of the Ministry, institutions and families was also critical.

He said persons with disabilities were also included in Government’s plan to assist the 1,000 most vulnerable families, as it included an additional 200 families for persons with disabilities.

The Minister stated that some households of persons living with disabilities were “run down” and in need of an uplift.

“That is the physical manifestation of the lack of opportunity.  It is the lack of opportunity; the lack of access to income or insufficient income that forces them to find themselves in that position where they are not able to properly maintain their households, their standards of living …. So, we have to be able to address those things,” he said, in explaining why 200 additional families were added to the list.

Meanwhile, Chief Education Officer, Dr. Ramona Archer-Bradshaw, commended the private government-assisted school for the provision of a safe space for severely challenged students.

Stressing that education was for all students, she lauded the school’s integration in the cotton industry initiative to ensure that students had the platform to transform from school to work.

Principal of the school, Yasmin Vlahakis, explained that the school, which started in 2006, sought to expose students to a range of activities, including tennis, swimming and horseback riding. She added that the school’s accomplishments over the years were enhanced through donations from donor agencies, which ensured that the needs of the students were met.

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