Entity sees improvement in treatment of persons with disabilities
Executive Director of The Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD), Dr Christine Hendricks, says that the entity has seen marked improvement over the past five years in how the public has been interacting with persons with disabilities.
Hendricks was speaking with JIS News, following a church service at the William Knibb Baptist Church in Falmouth, Trelawny, on Sunday, to kick-start activities for Disabilities Awareness Week.
"We want the public to be more understanding, be more aware of the value of the work of persons with disabilities and their contribution to nation building," she said.
"We want them to also be more sensitive about what the Disabilities Act requires, where the JCPD is now the statutory body with the responsibility to ensure the implementation of this Act and to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities are observed," she added.
However, the JCPD is concerned that some schools are refusing to accept students with special needs, noting that this is contrary to sections of the Disabilities Act. Hendricks said there are provisions in the Act that makes it illegal to simply close the door on those students, adding that there have been concerns raised by some parents about schools refusing to take children with autism.
"The Act speaks of the right to education and training. It prohibits any educational or training institution from preventing a person from enrolling at or attending an institution because of his or her disability," she pointed out. "Additionally, such institutions are required to provide the support necessary to ensure that persons with disabilities who attend the institution have unrestricted access to its facilities according to their individual needs."
She said that while some schools can understandably be having challenges in accepting students with special needs, there must be an attempt to solve the problems, and which must be done in a transparent manner.
"When it is that these matters are brought to our attention or it has been identified that breaches are taking place, then it is our responsibility to intervene by doing our investigations," Hendricks said.
The executive director said she is encouraging schools to keep the lines of communication open with both the JCPD and the Education Ministry, noting that having an open conversation about the challenges they face could in fact be a first step in addressing the problems.
"The minister in charge of education has a responsibility to assist and is willing to assist. We will continue to do our part in trying to educate... to try and ensure that no child is left behind," she said.
Disabilities Awareness Week will run until December 9.