Bahamas Disability Legislation to ‘Shift’ Cultural Attitudes Towards PWDs

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Hundreds of persons with disabilities, representing various segments of the community of persons with disabilities attended the annual observance of International Day of Persons With Disabilities that was held at the Holy Cross Anglican Church Hall in New Providence Wednesday. Other celebrations were held throughout The Bahamas. International Day of Persons With Disabilities is observed each year on December 3, by United Nations Member States, The Bahamas included.

NASSAU, The Bahamas — The passage of the Persons With Disabilities (Equal Opportunities) Act, 2014 is a vital piece of legislation that will play a major role in shifting the negative “cultural attitudes” towards Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), Minister of Social Services and Community Development, the Hon. Melanie Sharon Griffin said Wednesday.

Addressing celebrations surrounding the observance of International Day of Persons With Disabilities, Mrs. Griffin said the Act “is one of the most important pieces of legislation that will affect the lives of persons with disabilities.”

International Day of Persons With Disabilities is a United Nations global initiative that is observed every year on December 3 amongst Member States. The celebrations in The Bahamas were highlighted by a special workshop on Disability.

“The Persons With Disabilities legislation is a vital tool that is necessary to bring about a shift in cultural attitudes towards this group of persons and remove the unfair discrimination and marginalization practices that have existed for far too long,” Mrs. Griffin said.

“The community of Persons with Disabilities, together with social partners, non-governmental organizations and civil society have forcefully advocated for years for the rights of Persons with Disabilities. These efforts realized success in July of this year with the passage of the legislation.

“It is very, very important for society as a whole to embrace Persons with Disabilities and understanding that they have both the ability and the capability to work and function alongside their counterparts in society,” Mrs. Griffin added.

Minister Griffin said it is estimated that there are over one billion persons worldwide living with one type of disability or another. She said the observance of International Day of Persons With Disabilities has even greater significance in The Bahamas this year, “as we now have in place legislation to protect the rights of persons with disabilities through the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities) Act, 2014.”

“We have every reason to be proud of this significant achievement (and) the Government of The Bahamas is committed to ensuring that persons with disabilities enjoy the same basic rights as their counterparts in society. We call on social partners, the business community and civil society to join in this commitment. Let us work together for the greater good of all,” Mrs. Griffin added.

Mrs. Griffin said each year the United Nations selects a theme that is designed to help remove some of the many barriers that prohibit the inclusion of all persons with disabilities into the socio-economic fabric of global countries. This year, the United Nations selected the theme: “Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology” in an attempt to help remove the barriers facing persons with disabilities with regards to access to, and benefits from, technology.

“The United Nations reminds us that to sustain development in our various countries, technology must play a major role. We all agree that technology has shaped our lives tremendously over the years and has impacted every facet of our daily functioning.

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“If we are to fully integrate persons with disabilities in the developmental process of our country, we must explore and promote the benefits of technology in facilitating and enabling their abilities.”

Mrs. Griffin said the workshop on disability, held at the Holy Cross Anglican Church Parish Hall, provided officials with an opportunity to promote better understanding of assisted technology for persons with disabilities.

“There is no doubt that the utilization of technology will impact the quality of life of persons with disabilities and it is my hope that this workshop is both educational and rewarding and prepares us further to take full advantage of the improved quality of life for persons with disabilities as the full implementation of the provisions of our new legislation unfolds,” Mrs. Griffin added.