Letter: Government functionaries making a mockery of disability movement in Guyana

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Dear Editor,

International Day of Persons with Disabilities, 2016, finds the disability movement in Guyana facing acts of insensitivity, discrimination and rejection by several government functionaries who use bureaucratic methods in some cases and outright lies in others to make a mockery of Guyana’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities and the Persons With Disabilities Act 2010.

National Disability Week 2016 will be observed from Sunday November 27 to Saturday December 3, 2016. However, International Day for Persons with Disabilities will be observed on Saturday, December 3, 2016.

This year’s theme: Education is the Path to Inclusion and Rehabilitation reflects our deep concern about the situation in which persons in key sectors of our country simply have no idea about giving support to persons living disabilities.

At a policy level, the Government means well. Unfortunately the attitude of some its functionaries in key positions need to undergo a complete metamorphosis on matters concerning persons with disabilities.

The Guyana Council of Organisations for Persons with Disabilities continues to address the issue of inclusion of persons with disabilities by focusing on promoting accessibility and working towards breaking all types of barriers in the Guyanese society.

Although some progress has been made, more needs to be done. The ultimate aim of persons with disabilities is independent living. However, this achievement is only possible with increased intervention from Central Government.

Therefore, both Government and private sector needs to institutionalise its support of employment and self-employment for persons with disabilities. Self -employment, whether conducted from home or from a store, offers tremendous opportunities for inclusion because of the supplier and customer interaction.

We suggest that Governmental and other types of organisations lend support by allocating a small percentage of its business to enterprises owned by persons with disabilities. Self-employment holds the promise of financial equity, contains unique opportunities under the Persons With Disabilities Act 2010, and presents options for personalised accommodations not easily found in wage employment.

During 2016, efforts to make life better for persons with disabilities continued in the form of workshops and training programmes. The heads of various disability organisations have been demonstrating a growing capability of running their own affairs. However, people with disabilities still face widespread barriers in accessing services (health, education, employment, transport as well as information). These include inadequate policies and standards, negative attitudes, lack of service provision, inadequate funding, lack of accessibility, inadequate information and communication and lack of participation in decisions that directly affect their lives.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognises that the existence of barriers constitutes a central component of disability. Under the Convention, disability is an evolving concept that “results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”

In Guyana, the Persons with Disabilities Act 2010, among other things provide for: “… certain rights to persons with disabilities; the promotion and protection and full and equal enjoyment of the rights; to facilitate the enforcement of the rights; to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability and to provide for the welfare and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities”.

We have to make greater efforts to ensure that these provisions are converted into realities.

With warmest regards,

Leon Walcott
Chairman, J.P.
Guyana Council of Organisations for Persons with Disabilities

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