Saturday 14 December, 2019

CARICOM Special Rapporteur wants access for persons with disabilities

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Special Rapporteur on Disability, Senator Dr. Floyd Morris

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Special Rapporteur on Disability, Senator Dr. Floyd Morris

Message from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Special Rapporteur on Disability, Senator Dr Floyd Morris on the occasion of International Disabilities Day.

Once again the world is observing another International Day for Persons with Disabilities. The theme for this year’s observation is “The Future Is Accessible.” If persons with disabilities are to be brought into the mainstream of Caribbean societies, the various stakeholders must create greater access to all aspect of Caribbean life for these vulnerable individuals.

Public facilities, public transportation, educational institutions, health care facilities, community centres, sidewalks, theatres, sports complexes, workplaces and other such facilities must be made accessible for persons with disabilities.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has made “access” a right for persons with disabilities, and State Parties that are signatories to this international treaty are duty bound to honour its provisions. Article nine of the CRPD states: “To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas. These measures, which shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility, shall apply to, inter alia:

  1. Buildings, roads, transportation and other indoor and outdoor facilities, including schools, housing, medical facilities and workplaces; 
  2. Information, communications and other services, including electronic services and emergency services.

Furthermore, the Declaration of Petion Ville, which is the roadmap developed by CARICOM in 2013 for the disability agenda in the Caribbean, stated: “We are determined to continue efforts being made to build inclusive societies for both present and future generations, and recognize the important contribution, both existing and potential, that persons with disabilities can make towards enriching the diversity of our societies.  In this regard we resolve to proceed in partnership with all stakeholders at the national level, particularly community groups, including organizations of persons with disabilities, civil society and the private sector, in our effort to mainstream disability issues into national development strategy, so as to assure the contribution of all citizens in the promotion of inclusive societies free from discrimination.”

We must therefore move with alacrity to ensure that the provisions of the CRPD and the Declaration of Petion Ville are implemented. We have to create an inclusive, accessible and non-discriminatory Caribbean for all our citizens, including persons with disabilities.

True development cannot take place in an environment where over 15% of the region’s population is being isolated from the mainstream of Caribbean societies. Indeed, the future must be accessible for persons with disabilities and I urge governments, members of the private and public sectors, non-governmental organizations within the region to endeavor to create a more accessible Caribbean for persons with disabilities. The access you create today may just benefit you tomorrow.

Source: Caricom Secretariat, Georgetown Guyana

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