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Disabilities group hopes for end to discrimination in the workplace

Published:Wednesday | September 25, 2013 | 12:00 AM

The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a resolution to promote disability-inclusive development across the world.

Speaking during the 68th Session of the General Assembly in New York yesterday, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said too many persons with disabilities suffered from social exclusion, lacked access to education, employment, health care, as well as social and legal support systems.

It is estimated that 15 per cent of the world's population, or 1 billion people, live with a disability, and 80 per cent of them are in developing countries.

Reacting to the development, executive director of the Combined Disabilities Association, Gloria Goffe, said the situation is not much different in Jamaica.

ALARMING SITUATION

She said the rate at which persons with disabilities are being turned away from the workforce, for example, is alarming despite a few strides being made.

"The number of unemployed disabled adults in the country is enough for us all to be concerned," she said.

She said many in the local disabled community, which numbers more than 160,000, are living below the poverty line because they are not being given a chance to work.

"Definitely not all those who are disabled who can work and should be working are employed. The percentage of unemployed far exceeds those who are employed," Goffe stated.

Yesterday, Ban noted that "women and girls with disabilities often experienced double discrimination".

"It was, therefore, necessary to emphasise the gender dimension of a disability-inclusive development agenda," he added.

Quoting International Labour Organization statistics, Ban warned that excluding disabled persons could cost economies as much as seven per cent of gross domestic product.

HOPING FOR LEGISLATIVE ACTION

In June, Labour and Social Security Minister Derrick Kellier told a gathering at the launch of the Economic Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities Conference that a National Disabilities Bill had been drafted and would be tabled this legislative year.

Goffe said she was hoping that the bill would be enacted before the end of this year as it is a crucial step towards putting an end to the rampant discrimination which persons like her face on a daily basis.

"The employment sector must be sensitised and a public education and targeted education programme should be launched, and this is needed now," she said.

Assembly President John Ashe, who is from Antigua and Barbuda, said given the size of such a marginalised group, "the onus is on us all to ensure that any future sustainable development goals include the disabled".

"Disability-inclusive development is not a luxury nor a privilege," said Ashe. "It is a right that all human kind must embrace."