Senate President Calls for More Opportunities for the Disabled

Jamaica Information Service (JIS)

President of the Senate, Floyd Morris, has called on the society to offer more opportunities for persons with disabilities to be meaningful contributors to national development.

This, he said, can only be done if the specific guiding principles of participation, inclusion and non-discrimination (PIN) are followed.

Senator Morris, who is also Head of the Centre for Disability Studies at the University of the West Indies, made the appeal while delivering the 19th public lecture of the Management Institute for National Development (MIND), held in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, on March 31, under the theme: ‘Empowering Persons with Disabilities, Maximizing Potential, Building Jamaica’.

Along with the principles of PIN, Senator Morris said the legislation, education, employment and public education (LEEP) approach is also essential if members of the disabled community are to be truly empowered to maximize their potential.

“We have passed that piece of legislation, it’s now [time] to move on to implementation…to affirm the rights of persons with disabilities in our country,” the President emphasized.

He cited the need for nationwide public education and training of the disabled that will enable them to rise through the ranks of society.

“After education and training, we have to make sure that we provide employment for persons with disabilities, because that is where the true empowerment is going to come when they are able to put their talents and their skills to work and earn a decent living, so that they can sustain their families and contribute to the building of Jamaica,” the President implored.

Senator Morris called on the 400,000 members of the disabled community in the country to organize themselves “to ensure that policymakers pay serious attention to the sector.”

Director, Contemporary Assessment and Counselling Services at the Mico University College, Dr. Avril Daley, who also presented at the event, also stressed the importance of inclusion of the disabled.

“Research has shown that inclusion of persons with disabilities only help to foster a more caring and worthwhile attitude in persons with disabilities. [Therefore] we have a duty to ensure that we put things in place to make sure that persons with disabilities will achieve at their maximum potential,” she said.

Dr. Daley also praised MIND on their efforts in bringing public attention to the issues of the disabled.

Bringing greetings, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Colette Roberts-Risden, affirmed the Ministry’s commitment to providing support to the disabled through several initiatives and programmes.

“The Ministry, through a committee, is now working to develop the codes of practice and regulations that will accompany the [Disabilities Act] and are expected to guide interactions with and participation of persons with disabilities in society, in order to prevent discrimination,” she said.

Mrs. Roberts-Risden spoke of the progress being made to establish the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities as a body corporate, that would directly oversee the implementation of the Act.

The Permanent Secretary also mentioned plans to expand the operations of the Early Stimulation Programme.  “We are actively engaged in discussions with one of our private sector partners to open an office by the end of the financial year, so that children who are born with a disability can access the services offered by the programme,” she said.

Chief Executive Officer of MIND, Dr. Ruby Brown, in her opening remarks, said the annual public lecture “serves as a vehicle to stimulate public awareness on issues of national, regional and global importance and to provide a forum for persons from diverse backgrounds and interests to connect and engage in a dynamic exchange of thoughts and ideas that we hope will have far reaching and invaluable outcomes”.

MIND is the Government of Jamaica’s public service training, organizational and leadership development institution.