Disabled dilemma - Digicel Foundation concerned about impact of mandatory national ID on the disabled
As it currently stands, the proposed National Identification and Registration Act (NIRA) 2017 poses a significant threat to the rights of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), particularly as the registration phase of the National Identification System (NIDS) is predicated on the provision of biometric data.
According to Digicel Foundation Chief Executive Officer Dane Richardson, all attempts should be made to ensure that the disabled are not further disenfranchised by government policies, which can prevent them from getting equal access to benefits to which all Jamaicans are entitled.
The act defines biometric information as the photograph, signature, fingerprint, palm print, toe print, iris scan, retina scan, blood type, height, eye colour, or such other biological attribute of the individual as may be specified in the regulations. But Richardson argues that persons with disabilities may either lack the source of the data or are simply unable to utilise the source.
"Some Jamaicans experience a range of impairments, be it physical, mental, or intellectual. There may be instances where persons have no hands or feet as well as significant visual challenges, therefore providing no toe or fingerprints as well as iris scans for data. In other cases, persons may have provided the data but are unable to facilitate scans because they can't position their bodies or are unable to follow instructions due to an intellectual impairment," said Richardson.
CLEAR BREACH OF CONSTITUTION
The Statistical Institute of Jamaica puts the number of disabled persons in Jamaica at approximately 580,000.
Visual impairment is the most common reported disability in Jamaica, affecting 36 per cent of the disabled, the majority being elders.
While declaring that alternatives should be provided for those who cannot meet the biometric requirements, the executive insisted that it would be a clear breach of the Constitution and the Disabilities Act 2014 if members of the disabled community were unable to enrol because of the biometric exclusion.
"The Government must make reasonable efforts that are consistent with the need to verify a citizen's identity, to accommodate any PWD who may have impediments that prevent him or her from complying with the requirements under the biometrics collection," declared Richardson.
Richardson, who took charge of the foundation in January, has often identified the disabled community as an area of focus for the foundation.
Under his leadership, in June, the foundation and UNICEF forged a multimillion-dollar two-year partnership geared at integrating persons with disabilities, children in particular, into existing systems and having them benefit from present government policies.
A key component of the private-public synergy is to up disabled children registration figures with the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities.
Slated for rollout in 2019, Section 41 of the NIRA stipulates that a Jamaican citizen will be required to submit the National Identification Card (NIC) issued to him to receive goods or services provided by the public body.
Persons without the NIC may also encounter challenges as they seek to transact business with the private sector, particularly international institutions.