Integrating persons with disabilities (PWDs), children in particular, into existing systems and having them benefit from present government mechanisms, is the immediate objective of a two-year Ja$58 million synergy among DIGICEL Foundation, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD).
The private/public partnership aims to bolster efforts towards the implementation of the Disability Act, 2014 and the development of suitable policies that strengthen the inclusion of PWDs.
“The focus isn’t six months time, to a year. there are current policies that just need to be inclusive so that our children may benefit from already available well needed resources, e.g. the PATH (Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education) and NHT (National Housing Trust),” declared Dane Richardson, chief executive officer of Digicel Foundation, at the UNICEF Jamaica offices in New Kingston on Tuesday.
With STATIN figures showing approximately 580,000 disabled persons in the country and only 30,000 on the JCPD registry, of which 5,000 are children, Richardson underscored the significance of upping registration figures and the financial aid for the medical assessment.
He added they had set a target of registering 1,000 children. Although they believed that figure to be realistic they intend to exceed it. “We’re eyeing the children who are most in need and there is going to be a great rural focus, where this is concerned.
By extension, adults will indirectly benefit from this initiative as we need to be able to identify these persons so we can better inform policies and our budget. [This] will better enable us to plug this huge gap,” Richardson said.
‘Children are vulnerable in our society’
Chief Technical Director of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Dionne Jennings, stated that the move to update the persons with disabilities (PWDs) registry and improve their welfare was in line with what the ministry hoped to achieve.
She said: “This goes very well for our society because we intend to build a world where they (PWDs) can fit in comfortably and there’s greater inclusion and also equitable opportunities for them.
Speaking to sensitisation of the general public and potential employers, Executive Director of JCPD, Christine Hendricks said that if PWDs continued to be excluded, then vision 2030 would not succeed.
“A lot of persons think the worst case scenario with PWDs, such as persons confined to a wheelchair. They don’t think of persons with milder disabilities who can fit into their environment with little or no adjustment. Understanding of disabilities is vital to achieving inclusion.”
The project will also include a media campaign on the right of PWDs as well as research on barriers to access quality education and skills training for youth with disabilities.