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GUEST COLUMN: Rights of disabled

rhondathompson, [email protected]

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It is sad but true, but some individuals believe that people with disabilities are incapable of making decisions about matters that impact on their lives.
Yes, many of us need some form of support, but then who doesn’t? Support does not mean that we compromise our right to make our own decisions, it does not mean that those giving support have a right to decide what is best for us. It does not mean that we lose our freedom of speech and certainly it does not mean that we should only dream of what could be.
Disability rights are no less than the rights of people without disabilities. Disability rights include the right to education, the right to justice and the right to what is available to people without disabilities.
I certainly believe that like the rest of human kind, people with disabilities have the right to self-determination. Self-determination is a right that is taken for granted by most Barbadians without disabilities. It is a shift from control by others to empowerment, the right to chose and express those choices. The question for many who are dependent for whatever reason, is: Must we surrender our basic rights in order to get the support we need?
Barbados has ratified several human rights treaties, including the Rights Of the Child and the Rights Of Women. We are a signatory to the Convention On The Rights Of Persons With Disabilities, but have not ratified this convention. It has been argued that legislation and systems have to be put in place before the convention is ratified.
I can only assume, that as part of the human race that includes disabled men, women and children, the already ratified treaties would embrace the rights of the community of people with disabilities. In other words, the rights of individuals with disabilities should not be seen as a new right.
There has been acknowledgment that people with disabilities face discrimination. The Barbados’ report in 2009 to the United Nations on human rights practices addresses some of the challenges faced by people with disabilities.
It states: “There are no laws that specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, or the provision of other state services, other than constitutional provisions asserting equality for all. In practice, persons with disabilities faced some discrimination.”
The fact remains that although there is greater public awareness, very little has changed in the lives of people with disabilities.
The Green Paper On Persons With Disabilities has been before Parliament since 2002. It should be noted that since that date the UN Convention On The Rights Of Persons With Disabilities was adopted in 2006. To date 147 countries have signed the convention and 94 countries have ratified this important treaty.
The signing and ratification of the convention has helped to change the view that people with disabilities are objects of charity, to viewing people with disabilities as subjects with rights.
Disability can happen to any of us at any time, the impact is not only on the individual, but also on the entire family. Shutting someone away from the public to protect them or keeping quiet does not make the challenges go away.
We must therefore call for the ratification of the Convention On The Rights Of Persons With Disabilities and the amendment of the Constitution to outlaw discrimination on the basis of disability.
We must also move from seeing every person with a disability as having limitations that prevent them from participating fully in life, to seeing people with disabilities as valuable citizens who have talents, strengths, and abilities and who should not be excluded from the decision making processes.