Persons with disabilities will soon have a recreational and rehabilitative facility to cater to their needs, when the redevelopment of the grounds at the National Disabilities Unit (NDU) is completed.
The project, launched yesterday at the Lower Collymore site of the NDU, is being carried out under the Clean and Green Initiative of the Ministry of Environment and National Beautification.
During her address, Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde, expressed gratitude that the site was selected for the recommencement of the environmental rehabilitation project, which was temporarily halted due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
Acknowledging that it was a thoughtful gesture, as Barbados observes the Month of the Disabled, Minister Forde said it was also “a pioneering effort as there is currently no recreational facility in Barbados, designed specifically for persons with disabilities”.
She added that it would also assist in the attainment of a number of Articles in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, such as Article 30, which speaks to “participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport”.
The Minister noted that the facility would be multi-purpose, and revealed plans to establish a marketplace at the NDU grounds for entrepreneurs within the disabled community to share their goods and services with the general public.
“My Ministry … will also utilise this opportunity to create a space for persons with disabilities to market their products on some weekends in a safe and secure environment. Persons will therefore be able to come here at least one weekend per month, to show their support by purchasing the products of the disabled. By marketing their wares here, they will have an opportunity to receive greater exposure for their products and services,” she explained.
Minister Forde further disclosed that over time, officials would explore the feasibility of using the site as an assembly point for students with special needs, while they await transportation to their respective schools in the mornings, and collection by their parents and guardians in the evenings.
Prior to the interruption to the public transportation system due to the pandemic, they were required to assemble at the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training.
She revealed that the area would also be used to provide support and adjustment training for individuals who were visually impaired.
“An increase in the onset of glaucoma is affecting the site of many, and therefore necessitates that they now be trained to adjust to their new reality of being visually impaired. This requires the use of a cane, deciphering sounds that could be either harmful or helpful and negotiating what was previously familiar terrain.
“This needs to be conducted in a safe and purpose built environment. The Rehabilitation Field Officer will be able to adapt these facilities for the training requirements and assist the new visually impaired to satisfactorily cope with their external environment,” she stated, as she pledged Government’s commitment to ensuring that persons with disabilities were supported.
Also speaking at the launch was Minister of Environment and National Beautification, Adrian Forde, who said his Ministry was pleased to partner with the NDU, as such collaborations were critical to the sustainable development of any society.
“We are going to give the disabled a green recreational space, [where they] will be able to come, sit down, read, play and enjoy themselves,” he stated.
Reiterating that persons with disabilities “will not be left behind”, Mr. Forde encouraged them to “take ownership” of the project, and to share any ideas with the Ministry that could make the project more conducive to their needs.
Meanwhile, President of the Barbados Council for the Disabled, Kerry-Ann Ifill, thanked both ministries and the state-owned agencies involved in the initiative for their efforts in seeking to transform Barbados into a more inclusive society.
Referring to this year’s theme for the Month of the Disabled: Building Back Better For A More Inclusive and Resilient Barbados, Ms. Ifill noted that the organisation would continue to work alongside Government and other stakeholders to make the island better for future generations.