It is an experience Bridgette Johnson will never forget.
Johnson, the founder and the president of the Portmore Self-Help Disability Organisation, who lost a leg some years ago, was heading home in pouring rain when her walking stick got stuck in the middle of a bridge.
As she tried desperately to get the stick out, she saw a young man approaching and believed that help was on the way.
"But when he came towards me, he grabbed my bag and started to make sexual advances to me. My foot eventually got stuck in the bridge as well, and so I was helpless. It was raining so there was no one to help me," Johnson told The Sunday Gleaner.
"I was so shocked because I was saying to myself that this man must see that is only one foot mi have. He continued to harass me, and as soon as he was about to rape me, the rain stopped. I guess the Lord was on my side," added Johnson as she recounted one of the more painful memories of living with a physical disability.
Other members of the disabled community shared similar stories as they recounted scores of times that they were attacked and abused because they were unable to defend themselves.
victims of crime
According to chairperson of the Childhood/Special Education Committee at the Jamaica Teachers' Association, Dr Polly Bowes-Howell, disabled children, in particular, are becoming victims of criminal and sexual offences.
"Some of them, especially our children and young teens, become victims in their own households. Many of them are sharing space; many of them are experiencing child labour because they are disabled, so they are the ones that parents send to the bush or send them to do various jobs.
"Some parents are not even aware of their child's disability, so when they behave a certain way they beat them. Even more, some of them even call them 'fool fool' so they get abused emotionally. So it's a sad, sad situation," said the passionate educator as she addressed a Gleaner Editors' Forum last week.
"I know of an instance where two children were in their homes and because they are not able to speak, they were being sexually abused by their own father and not much assessment could be done because of their inability to speak," added Bowes-Howell.
Denworth Finnikin, chairman of the National Advisory Board for Persons with Disabilities, echoed similar sentiments as he argued that too many Jamaicans have become heartless.
Finnikin argued that there needs to be more stringent legislation to protect members of the disabled community.
"People don't understand that these persons actually add value to the society, so they are taken advantage of because of their disability, and that is why legislation is so important.
"As a board, we will be working hard to get some amount of legislation in place because we have to make every effort to protect our most vulnerable," said Finnikin.
Recommendations to make life better for members of the disabled community
Fast-track the Special Education Needs policy framework;
Institute legislation which outlines a plan of affirmative action for teens and adults with disability, specifically as it relates to employment, college places and skills training;
All new school buildings should be designed to accommodate students with physical disabilities;
Target existing schools for renovations to accommodate physically disabled students;
More public transportation designated to the disabled;
All special education classrooms should have special education trained teachers;
More psychologists and special education specialists need to be employed by the Government;
More universality in curriculum planning and design to include students with learning disabilities;
The Ministry of Education should stop being reactive to children with disabilities and take a more proactive stance;
Institute more independent schools to cater to children with special needs;
Mobilise special educators in training at teachers' colleges to work with special needs children;
Educate members of the police on ways to interview and deal with children with autism.