by Edmund Hinkson
It is now over five years that the Owen Arthur Administration signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which came into force on 3rd May, 2008. This DLP Government in the meanwhile has apparently made no attempt to bring to Parliament Legislation which will ratify this Convention.
Indeed, the members of the disabled community and those of us who believe in their cause have had, over the last five months, to go to the extreme of signing a petition to the Prime Minister and his Government, urging them to pass the Convention into law.
The Government’s enactment of Disabilities Legislation will lead to persons with disabilities gaining more favourable educational and training opportunities than is now the case. It will lead to a large number of the estimated over five per cent of our population who are differently-abled having a greater chance to realize their full potential and to contribute to national development, as is the right of any citizen of Barbados. Furthermore, Legislation providing for affirmative action programmes beneficial to them will act as a catalyst in facilitating their employment, self-employment and otherwise, in areas of work for which they qualify and are capable of performing. Such law should also outlaw all forms of discrimination at the workplace on the basis of disability.
The DLP cannot by any measure validly claim to be putting people first and to be building a society and not only an economy when it has continuously ignored the grave predicament in which the vast majority of persons with disabilities in Barbados and their caregivers find themselves in.
The recent Country Assessment of Living Conditions report indicates that a substantial percentage of persons with disabilities comprise the 19.8 per cent of people in our Country who are presently living in poverty. The sum total of this Government’s attempt to better the position of the differently-abled in its present term of office has been to raise the disabilities pension by a mere $2.00 every two weeks two years ago.
Meanwhile, the Public has not heard a word from the Minister of Social Care, Steve Blackett, or any other Government official as to when this Government intends to bring Disabilities Legislation to the House. This position is all the more appalling in light of the statement by Chris Sinckler, at the time the responsible Minister, on 18th January, 2009 that “we are just short of bringing this Bill to Parliament”. This promise surely cannot be one of the plethora of promises to which Mr. Blackett referred when he commented last month that the Government should have come clean with Barbadians a long time ago on the issue of its unfulfilled promises.
Attorney-at-Law Edmund Hinkson, BLP St. James North Candidate, is a member of the Association for the Blind and Deaf and of the Council for the Disabled