Jamaica not doing enough for disabled youth
Alessandro Boyd, Gleaner Writer
LISA HANNA, minister of youth and culture, has said Jamaica is not doing enough for children with disabilities.
Hanna was speaking on Wednesday during the ninth staging of the Caribbean Child Research Conference, held at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, under the theme, 'Promoting the Rights of Children with Disabilities'.
"I believe that children with disabilities have very special gifts, because they have gifts that are not seen with the naked eye or felt. Sometimes, it is through touch, the way they do their actions and oftentimes they are felt by their unspoken ways. We have to change our attitudes for compassion towards how we take care of something we are not accustomed to," Hanna said.
She noted that the Ministry of Youth and Culture has more than 500 children who live with disabilities in some 10 children's homes across the country. Hanna said these children with disabilities can be placed into two distinct groups.
Types of disabilities
"These distinct groups can be seen from extreme disabilities, those are children with cases such as cerebral palsy, extreme autism, epilepsy and, in some cases, HIV, because whether you want to accept it or not, children who are born with HIV, the parents sometimes are left with the state to take care of them because they are still seen as another type of individual," she said.
"Then we have another set with ones who are not as severe, those who are blind and those who have physical challenges such as not being able to walk," Hanna added.
Meanwhile, Diahann Gordon-Harrison, the children's advocate, said improved measures and protocols are needed to assist children with disabilities.
"We must understand that children who have a disability are four times more susceptible to physical and other types of violence. We have to change that in our country, but first let us start with ourselves. Let us see those who have a disability as a gift rather than as a curse, and let us work together to make sure we can fix those things that we can fix," Gordon-Harrison told the gathering.
She also noted that there needs to be increased data-collecting mechanisms for persons with disabilities.
"The capture of adequate and essential data involves strategic planning. The Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities is currently conducting a natural survey to capture all persons with disabilities existing in Jamaica," Gordon-Harrison said.
"While this is commendable, more knowledge is required, there ought to be ongoing collaborations with the ministries of education, health and youth and culture, as this will present more avenues for data collection with regards to different issues," she continued.