Fri | Sep 22, 2017

A move to help the disabled - Senate approves establishment of disability fund, training institution

Published:Saturday | December 10, 2016 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson
Floyd Morris

A disability fund and a specialised institution to offer skills training and certification to persons with disabilities have been endorsed by senators to help the disabled community with employment.

The proposals came yesterday during a debate on Floyd Morris' private motion calling for the Government to implement measures to promote employment in the private and public sectors. It also called for a special facility outfitted with appropriate technologies to help with employability.

Morris, who is blind, said a policy in the public sector reserving five per cent of jobs for persons with a disability is not working and the Government should revise it.

However, he anchored his arguments with a call for 'transformation' in the education system. "At high school, I developed glaucoma. No teacher in the institution understood how to relate to the situation that was confronting me as a child with a disability. I graduated in 1986 without a single subject. The education system then was unresponsive to my particular situation," he shared, noting progress with the passage of the Disabilities Act 2014.

"That (education) is where we need to start if we are going to adopt a transformative approach towards persons with disabilities and make sure that they become a meaningful part of the productive capacity of our country."

 

Most unemployed

 

It is estimated that there are over 400,000 persons with disabilities in Jamaica and some 91 per cent are unemployed, based on statistics read out by Morris. The lack of precise data, Senator Matthew Samuda said, needs to be addressed to respond appropriately to the situation.

Education Minister Ruel Reid, meanwhile, insisted that the attention placed on physical disability needs to be similarly placed on other disabilities, such as learning. He stressed, too, that an inclusive education benefits from economic growth which, he said, is being pursed by his administration.

Opposition member K.D. Knight touted the idea of the disabilities fund, which got support from Government senator Don Wehby.

"If we try to find creative ways to fund such a body (fund), I think we can without putting direct strain on the taxpayer. Let us see if we can do something practical to advance that which we are proposing," Knight said.

The Senate approved the motion, which also called for a public-education campaign. It was amended to include a provision for the Cabinet to give it urgent consideration.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com