At the church service which opened our month of activities to commemorate the Month for the Disabled 2017, President of the Barbados Council for the Disabled Maria Holder Small gave the address which touched on matters very close to the hearts of many who are affected by disabilities.
Below is Maria’s speech.
“As we meet to celebrate another month of the disabled among esteemed persons like yourselves and the congregation present this morning, I am privileged to share with you as President of the Council the fact that the Council is celebrating 40 years of working on behalf of persons with disabilities.
This is no easy accomplishment for a Non-Governmental organization (NGOs) such as the BCD as we continue to play major roles in collaborating with government and private sector in pushing for inclusion at the local level while being cognizant of the sustainable development goals at the international level.
However, at the local level, the main NGO representing persons with disabilities such as the Barbados Council for the Disabled is seemingly attracting more international attention to issues facing accessibility in Barbados through our Fully Accessible Barbados (FAB) Program at a quicker pace than is being matched locally. This signifies that the Council is playing its part effectively in the tourism industry.
With the support of one of our members, the Council has been collaborating with the Ministry of Labour and international agencies to address the issues of discrimination in the workplace for persons with disabilities.
These are two key areas that we have been creating heightened awareness since the ratification of the Convention of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The buzz being created from various sectors in terms of physical access and employment opportunities gives us some encouragement that we are making inroads; but it is not enough. For inclusion of persons with disabilities to really matter we must also have the necessary legislation enacted by our government that would seek to demonstrate that tangible measures are being taken to include all Barbadians.
Having been involved in discussions that have led to the development of Draft Legislation for four Bills dealing with the issues that affect persons with disabilities and their inclusion in this society, the Council and its members are still waiting for our policy makers to determine when INCLUSION MATTERS.
In the meantime, for persons with disabilities…
INCLUSION WILL MATTER…until the proposed Persons with Disabilities Bill which seeks to give the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities the force of the law in Barbados.
INCLUSION WILL MATTER…until persons with disabilities have access to public facilities, amenities and services
INCLUSION WILL MATTER…until persons with disabilities have access to Public Transportation.
INCLUSION WILL MATTER … until persons with disabilities have ACCESS to EEDUCATION, EMPLOYMENT, HEALTH, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, and CULTURAL LIFE.
INCLUSION WILL MATTER…until it is an offense to discriminate against persons with disabilities.
INCLUSION WILL MATTER … until the Road Traffic Act Cap 295 which addresses issues affecting Parking for Persons with Disabilities has been amended. We owe this not only to those over 12,500 persons who took the time to sign a petition asking government to enact this one simple provision that the rest of society enjoys, but we owe it to all Barbadians with Disabilities who are prevented from inclusion to access many services by this ONE ACT.
As the President of the Council, I take this opportunity to thank the government for the support provided to the Council to administer its work; but I also want to encourage the government to not let the work of the Council over the past forty years be in vain. As we continue to grapple with local and international challenges, I call on the government to continue to work closely with the Council and let us demonstrate to persons with disabilities in a tangible way that Inclusion Matters.“