Minister of Labour and Social Security, Pearnel Charles Jr, has underscored the importance of a study conducted by the University of the West Indies (UWI) that assessed the quality of life of the disabled on the island.
Addressing a recent Disability Assessment in Jamaica sensitization workshop at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in St. James, the Minister said the assessment presented an opportunity to break down barriers for the disabled.
The study, which began prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, was carried out using quantitative and qualitative research and included interviews with key stakeholders, including the disabled and their families. Some 300 persons across the island were interviewed.
Among the topics researched during the assessment were access by disabled persons to public infrastructure, how much is spent by the Government annually to cater to the needs of the disabled, discrimination against the disabled in the workplace, and access to State benefits such as the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), among others.
“This session today is a very important complement to that effort (study) for us to have a resounding conversation around persons with disabilities. This is, in my perspective, one of the more important assessments that had been done, which I believe will allow for us to truly dismantle a lot of the barriers confronting individuals with disabilities across the Caribbean region, not just Jamaica,” the Minister said.
Mr. Charles Jr. added that the session also served to underscore the urgency in improving the lives of those with disabilities on the island, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic reaffirmed that tomorrow is not guaranteed.
He implored stakeholders to use the information from the assessment to define the future for all Jamaicans, including the disabled. “We must embark on this work with two things, a determination and hope that our goal of an inclusive Jamaica will not just fall as words but as words in action, and we want this to be a reality and we have some significant room for improvement,” the Minister said.
He further noted that the study will allow stakeholders to have a more accurate understanding of the challenges experienced by persons with disabilities, so solutions can be put in place. For her part, the Executive Director of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD), Dr Christine Hendricks, also underscored the importance of the findings of the assessment.
“This study that has been done highlights many of the things that you as persons with disabilities have been saying over the years. We have in black and white exactly the situation that you face, and it, therefore, challenges us, who are the implementers, to ensure that we put the systems in place, that we serve you better to ensure that you are empowered, to ensure that you take your rightful place in Jamaica that is your home as much as it is the home of anyone of us,” she said.
“We want you to know that you are not being left behind, despite what the study shows, that if it is that we do not change the trajectory in a very deliberate way, you will be left behind, but we are promising you that we will not leave you behind, because you are important to us.
Without you, without your participation and involvement in this country, we will not get to the development status that we are seeking to reach,” Dr. Hendricks emphasised.
During the workshop, findings on the quality of life for the disabled in Jamaica were presented. Stakeholders also participated in a question-and-answer session and were encouraged to give short- to long-term recommendations on improving the lives of the disabled in their communities. The workshop was hosted by UWI and the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities.