Amanda Quest | Inclusivity and sustainable development for the disabled
December 3 is observed across the world as International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) under the theme ‘Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda’.
This year’s theme focuses on empowering persons with disabilities (PWDs) for inclusive, equitable, and sustainable development as envisaged by the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Quite significantly, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which pledges “to leave no one behind”, sees disability as a cross-cutting issue that must be considered in the implementation of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In Jamaica, it’s no secret that the approximately 15 per cent of persons with disabilities who make up our total population face formidable barriers to living dignified lives. In fact, a disproportionate number of PWDs have limited to virtually no access to critical (and basic) amenities and social services, including education, housing, and healthcare. But what is perhaps even more disheartening is that about 85 per cent of the total populations of PWDs in Jamaica, as the Ministry of Labour and Social Security has recently confirmed, are unemployed.
When Jamaica ratified those regional and international human-rights instruments, including, perhaps most notably, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007, which guarantee to PWDs certain fundamental human rights, it signalled its commitment to respecting, protecting, and fulfilling the human rights of PWDs without exception. Our country is therefore obligated to take concrete steps towards actively promoting the rights of PWDs and also to refrain from implementing measures that might constrain them in their enjoyment of those rights. This is an obligation that we simply cannot afford to pussyfoot around, given all that is at stake.
THE DISABILITIES ACT
While our senate passed the Disabilities Act in 2014, it has yet to be brought into force. The long-awaited implementation of the Disabilities Act will ultimately affirm in a meaningful way our commitment to effectively securing and protecting the human rights of PWDs as well as promoting respect for their inherent dignity in all facets of the Jamaican society.
If nothing else, IDPD asks us to seriously consider what we all can do to promote the holistic inclusion of PWDs, in all areas of Jamaica’s social, cultural, and political life. It also challenges us to question our callous disregard for the plight of PWDs in Jamaica and commit to working towards changing discriminatory attitudes that may militate against their holistic inclusion at all levels in the society.
While at times the goal of inclusivity may seem to be maddeningly elusive, it is one that can be achieved incrementally by, among other things, standing in solidarity with PWDs, showing empathy for them, and actively promoting a culture that values, respects and empowers them.