“Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The lack of appropriate legislation and administration to support the efforts of Jamaica’s disabled makes their everyday life seem like a never-ending Paralympics event.
Despite this, the determination of members of the disabled community such as Jamaican Paralympics gold medalist Alphonso Cunningham and others, show that they are equally, if not more passionate about succeeding than many able-bodied in the society.
But life’s playing field isn’t level and the odds of achieving their full potential without some support is, to say the least, challenging. Making a living in Jamaica is no walk in the park – and if you are disabled, this harsh reality is multiplied.
A Voice in the Community
The disabled community is sometimes treated as invisible. And at times, community-based organizations such as citizens’ associations inadvertently forget to include community members who are disabled. Without their inclusion, development and implementation of community projects can make life more difficult for these persons in the community.
For example, a community may request sidewalks of their local government. This sidewalk would not only need to be wheelchair accessible, but the streetlights which share these sidewalks should not be in the middle as it could prevent wheelchair-bound neighbors from using the sidewalk.
By having a community representative to talk about the needs of neighbors with disabilities, then costly repairs to community projects can be avoided.
Your community group can enlist the help of external organizations and individuals such as NGOs, MPs, and members of the private sector to implement community projects that are aimed to improve the lives of your ‘differently abled’ neighbors.
Educational support is also available. Disabled persons often feel isolated from their neighbors because the community hasn’t learnt how to effectively communicate with them and the Jamaica Society for the Blind can help communities learn the skill of sign language. Also, there are lots of online and offline resources readily available. You don’t have to be fluent, but with enough knowledge to communicate, you can make a great difference in times of emergency or even just being a wonderful neighbour.
A number of organizations offer some educational and occasional financial support for community members with disabilities and their families. Many of these organizations operate on donations from the public and financial support is always welcome.
A number of these organizations can be found through our website. However, some of these groups are:
Types of Disabilities
Photo Courtesy of Man Pikin and Jamaica Gleaner