GHP Q4 2019

30 GHP / Q4 2019 , Caribbean Disability Conference: ‘We Are An Opportunity, Not A Burden’ During a recent conference in Antigua, disability rights’ advocates said that they don’t want special favours. Instead, they are calling for their basic human rights to be respected, protected and fulfilled. The second ‘I Am Able’ conference brought together more than 120 dele- gates from govern- ments, charities, donor agencies and disabled people’s organisa- tions from the eastern Caribbean. The conference was opened by the Governor-General of Antigua and Barbuda, Sir Rodney Wil- liams. Other sessions were led by prominent regional spokes- people including the Caribbean Community’s Special Rapporteur on Disability Senator Floyd Morris, UN Ambassador Aubrey Webson and international ability activists Chaeli Mycroft and Mer- philus James. “The challenges being faced by an estimated one billion persons with disabilities cannot be taken lightly”, said the Governor-General. “It re- quires all stakeholders to do more to build a more inclusive society.” Following the first conference, hosted by the Commonwealth Youth Council in Antigua in 2017, the government adopted the Disabilities and Equal Opportu- nities Act. “But there is room to do so much more,” said Samantha Marshall, Antigua’s Minister of Social Transformation, Human Resource Development, Youth and Gender Affairs. Delegates agreed that while good-hearted commitments are appreciated, more should be done to ensure that people with disabilities enjoy fundamental freedoms and full equality under the law, as well as full participa- tion in the social, economic, polit- ical and cultural spheres of life. Chaeli Mycroft, the first female quadriplegic to summit Kilimanja- ro, said: “There is great impor- tance given to inclusion. It should also be reflected in the reality on the ground. We, persons with disabilities, are an opportunity, not a burden. There is a benefit when we are included and a cost when excluded.” Delegates developed the follow- ing five-point agenda for govern- ments in the region to implement so barriers to accessibility are removed and people with disabil- ities can live independently and participate in their communities on an equal footing. 1. Access to adequate healthcare Research shows that persons with disabilities seek more health care and have greater unmet needs than those without disabilities. Delegates asked governments to develop programmes to ensure persons with disabilities are aware of their health conditions and have access to quality free or affordable healthcare and rehabilitation services. They pro- posed that healthcare providers should receive training to be fully informed and skilled to meet the needs of persons with disabilities. 2. Provide accessible education Ninety per cent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school, accordingly to the UN. Delegates urged governments to make education accessible for all and to invest in the necessary support such as training school staff, providing transport services and introducing a school to work transition scheme. They sug- gested that assistive technology should be adopted in schools to make learning easier and to improve learning outcomes. 3. Employment in mainstream jobs Recent reports suggest that unemployment among persons with disabilities is far higher than non-disabled. Delegates recommended that regulation and legislation must be embedded within the domes- tic law and advised governments to focus on industries that are suitable for persons with disa- bilities to get a job. They asked for funding towards providing adapted equipment, delivering training to sensitise employers and developing campaigns to promote entrepreneurship. 4. No more exclusion and violence The conference highlighted that due to stigma and discrimination, neglect and indifference, people with disabilities continue to be ex- cluded from mainstream society. Demanding the enforcement of legislation and regulation and the establishment of service desks, delegates requested governments to ensure persons with disabilities are no longer at risk and families and caretakers can spot signs and symptoms of violence and report cases. 5. Stand up and push for disa- bility rights Delegates identified the need for countries to collect data about persons with disabilities to inform the development of programmes and services while ensuring