With four full days to go before Barbadians go to the polls to elect a new Government on January 19, the Barbados Council for the Disabled (BCD) has circulated its own “manifesto” to some political parties going after the vote in next week’s General Election.
President of the council Kerry-Ann Ifill highlighted areas of concern in health, education, transportation, access to employment and benefits and legislative review which, when addressed could lead to a more inclusive society for persons with disabilities.
In a document prepared by the council and submitted to the parties in the fight for leadership, Ifill, a former President of the Senate, said at the centre of the members’ plight is the lack of critical data to inform decision-making. She said this would include basic information such as the number of people with disabilities on the island, their ages, the extent of the disability, who cares for them and the family demographics.
She said at present Special Education (SE) remains a neglected area as the needs of the disabled far outstrip the facilities available to accommodate them. She also cited a lack of medical consultants who are trained and equipped to deal with special needs students throughout the primary school level.
“The facilities that provide Special Education do not provide up-to-date and relevant educational programmes. The physical structures of these SE Schools are also outdated in their design,” she said.
“Several children with disabilities are still not included in the education system owing to inadequate provision of Child Aide within the facilities.”
In addition to engaging more specialized teachers during the early years, the council also wants sign language teaching included in the curriculum and special attention paid to proving parents of these children with flexible working hours.
According to the council, there is also a need for an increase in the specialists working through the Albert Cecil Graham Centre.
“This centre needs to be expanded or another facility built specifically to address Assessments and Treatment.
“A programme needs to be put in place where children who are assessed and can be accommodated in ‘mainstream’ schools can be assigned to attend mainstream schools.”
Regarding healthcare, the council wants more adequate access to medical facilities and for medication to be more affordable.
“Now with the COVID-19 pandemic it is certainly a difficult task to maintain good health without the proper system in place to assist PWD [Persons with Disabilities].
“Healthcare facilities must provide the physical infrastructure to enable persons with varying mobility challenges to access the buildings and their services. Ramps, graded pathways and curbs as well as colour-coded and tactile markings to assist the blind. A greater level of providing Independence to PWD must be factored into these plans if PWD are to be included in an equitable society.”
The document was shared last week with three parties: The arbados Labour Party (BLP), the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) and the Alliance Party for Progress (APP).
Operations Manager with the Council Roseanna Tudor confirmed that there has been no response to date.
The council is however highlighting the absence of legislation around the hiring of persons with disabilities noting that with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing more people to work remotely, the council’s persistent position to employers that PWD can work effectively from home, is justified.
“The Equal Employment Rights Act needs to be monitored more effectively as many employers are not complying with the act. A Persons with Disability Commission that has been drafted needs to be progressed. This will provide more equal opportunities for PWD to make similar vibrant contributions in all areas of society,” the council suggested.
The manifesto document titled The Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Barbados, Growth and Development Plan 2022, also supported the introduction of a disability allowance for parents and caregivers who provide daily care for PWD and equity in the grants distribution in addition to a lowering of cost for those using public transportation. Currently only the blind travel free on state buses.
Housing needs for the disabled also received some attention in the document which calls for more to be done for the disabled in this regard.
“Housing is a major issue for persons with disabilities. Many of the Government housing units were built with the bedrooms upstairs. Though they have recently been allocating lower accessible units in the new housing developments; not enough are being allocated,” it stated. (SBP)