Government to Ensure National Development is Disability Inclusive

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NASSAU, The Bahamas — The Government of The Bahamas will continue to ensure that greater disability inclusive development be introduced into the national fabric, Minister of Social Services and Community Development, the Hon. Melanie Sharon Griffin said at a recent address of Kiwanis Aktion Club.

Mrs. Griffin said this decision should also help to end the “shameful practice of deliberately hiding persons with disabilities away” and the beliefs that caused such behaviour to occur in the first instance.

Aktion Club, sponsored by Kiwanis International, allows adults with disabilities to participate in community projects, gain leadership skills, and become involved. Mrs. Griffin said: “There are those of us who remember a time when persons with disabilities were hardly ever seen or in some cases deliberately hidden away because they were considered different. The end of these shameful practices is near and we need to make sure that the beliefs that caused such behaviour are permanently eradicated, particularly through disability inclusive development.

“When development is focused on ensuring the infrastructure like roads, buildings, side-walks, signage, transportation, employment, education and the like are disability inclusive, then indeed everyone will have the opportunity to make a contribution to building a better Bahamas.

“[While the Government of The Bahamas will do its part] I believe that all of us must do our part to ensure that all forms of discrimination against persons with disabilities are ended. To do this we must work together.”

Minister Griffin said the process towards this end began with the passage of the Persons With Disabilities (Equal Opportunities) Act 2014, which, among other things, allowed for the creation of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities.

The purpose of the Commission is to carry out the law and to recommend any changes to the law that it deems necessary.

“These are exciting times for persons with disabilities. 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.

“It is very, very important for society as a whole to embrace persons with disabilities, understanding that they have both the ability and the capability to work and function alongside their counterparts in society. The Government of The Bahamas is committed to ensuring that persons with disabilities enjoy the same basic rights as their counterparts in society and 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.

Minister Griffin said the establishment of the Marjorie Davis School for Children with Learning Disabilities on the grounds of the former Our Lady’s Roman Catholic Primary School, Deveaux Street, and the ground-breaking for the construction of a facility for adults with developmental disabilities off Gladstone Road, are also part of the Government’s push to ensure that all future development will be disability inclusive.

Construction of the facility for adults (or post school-aged) with development disabilities is expected to commence later this year and will consist of an administrative building, reception area, auditorium, cafeteria, manufacturing area, workshops for horticulture, woodworking and car detailing, a medical centre and pavilion, and an education building with classrooms designed for additional skills and other training opportunities.

“Our goal is to administer a quality-based environment which embraces several core values including treating every person with dignity and respect, the recognition of individual strengths and abilities and supporting persons to reach their maximum potential as contributing and valued members of society.

“There are plans to implement pilot programmes to engage parents and organizational partners in the development of various interventions,” Mrs. Griffin said. “Continued training opportunities will be facilitated by the team which is also developing plans for a pilot programme for respite care while construction is underway.”