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WEDNESDAY WOMAN: Carrying fight for disabled

LISA KING, [email protected]

WEDNESDAY WOMAN: Carrying fight for disabled

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WITHOUT A DOUBT, her face is one that readily comes to mind when you speak of championing the cause of the disabled in Barbados. She is Roslyn Hurley, special envoy for people with disabilities.

But that was not always the case with Hurley, who is the former president of Barbados National Organisation of the Disabled (BARNOD). in fact, Hurley said she was very much against getting involved in the disabled community in the first place.

“When I was younger I did not see the need to join the disabled movement. I thought I had a normal life and a group of family and friends to support me, so I did not see the disability. I did not want to be in the disabled community,” Hurley admitted.

But in 1997 she joined the disabled movement. “It was just to see what it was all about,” she said.

She was thrust into a leadership position shortly after she joined. And she has gone all over the world representing Barbados on behalf of the disabled community.

Hurley was diagnosed with cerebral palsy in her early years. Delivered foot first, she was oxygen-deprived and she was not breathing properly. She suffers a speech impediment and walks with the assistance of a walker.

Nonetheless, Hurley said she grew up in a regular household and was treated like a “normal child”.

“My mother always told me she did not give birth to a child with a disability so I was treated like my brother and sister,” Hurley said.

The only difference was that she attended a small private school in the Worthing, Christ Church area where she lived, while her older brother and a younger sister went to a primary school.

Not easy

Hurley said it was not easy because she did not have any special privileges and her formal education ended at the primary school level because she was not allowed to sit the 11-Plus examination.

She would go on to do some courses with continuing studies at the now defunct Roebuck School. She also learned some craft skills, including pottery and macramé.

As special envoy, Hurley said she works across the gamut of agencies that cater to people with disabilities. She is a member of the Barbados Council for the Disabled (BCD), deeply involved with the National Disabilities Unit and works closely with groups such as the blind and deaf, New Life Deaf Club and other associated groups.

Hurley also gained popularity on a radio call-in programme, but she said many times she refused the urge to call because of the public backlash and criticism she received.

But Hurley maintained that she only joined the discussion on topics that really mattered to her.

Therefore, Hurley has set as her major goal to get the wider public to see the human that is inside people with disabilities and work with the human that is inside.

“Somebody saw the human in me and let me have a chance. Somebody saw that something special and allowed me the opportunity to represent Barbados as far as the United Nations. I have been to Korea to represent Barbados.

“Do not mind my speech impediment. I can speak to any audience anywhere and represent the cause of the disabled.”

Another issue dear to Hurley is the personal development of the young disabled. She is especially happy about the Shine Like A Diamond pageant in which ten persons with disabilities will compete later this month.

To the naysayers, one of whose comments “What queen and king pageant they need? They should be somewhere making baskets” has stuck in her mind, Hurley said there is much more to the disabled than that. She urges everyone to see the human inside and not the disability.