The demand for ramps has outgrown the numbers the National Disabilities Unit can supply, while amputations are on the rise and the population continues to age, Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs Cynthia Forde has said.
But the Minister said Government was working on rectifying this issue among others affecting members of the disabled community, as she revealed there is a growing list of people awaiting the ramps through the NDU’s Accessibility Programme.
As she addressed the official opening of the unit’s “Maxwelton” house on Collymore Rock, she said: “This programme has been in place since the inception of the Unit and is beneficial to persons who were born with or acquired a disability and who also stand in need of direct access to and within their homes.
“Statistics show that the number of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) have increased among those in their productive years.
“Consequently, it is imperative that assistance be given to those persons, in order for them to return to their respective occupations and gain independence.”
As she disclosed the NDU’s plans, Forde said an agricultural project at Mangrove, St Philip to enable people who are intellectually challenged to have a productive life in farming is on the way. She said the project was designed to increase the independence of disabled individuals and their families through their ability to earn.
A flower project is being established to assist in teaching a marketable skill to the disabled and create job opportunities, she added.
Beach activities are also being planned to provide opportunities for the disabled to enjoy the island’s beaches and experience the benefits of hydrotherapy, she said
Forde also indicated that an adjustment to blindness officer has been retained to cater to the needs of the visually impaired, and activities showcasing the work of the disabled community on location of Maxwelton are also set to be introduced.
The social affairs Minister said: “The Call-A-Ride Programme in collaboration with the Barbados Transport Board and the Ministry of Education is geared towards assisting Persons with Disabilities to attend their hospital appointments and transport school children to their respective schools.
“The adults are required to register with the Unit and thereafter they can access the services at the Barbados Transport Board. Within recent times, however, this service has been hampered as a result of buses having to be taken off the road for repairs and maintenance.”
With a human rights approach, the NDU was established on December 3, 1997 and tasked with the responsibility of providing services and programmes geared towards the empowerment of the disabled.
Forde said: “It was a long hard struggle in achieving this point but we are here.
“The Government of Barbados heard several calls over the years and this Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs made sure all was done to accommodate the NDU in a surrounding which is accessible to all Barbadians”.