Boneta Phillips passes; PM issues statement
Boneta Phillips has passed.
The 72-year-old advocate for the disabled died at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital yesterday after a long battle with transverse myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord), which left her paralysed from the neck down.
Phillips was born in Guyana to Barbadian parents. She was raised in England, where she first worked with the youth before becoming a social worker and trainer of probation officers.
On November 5, 1993, she experienced “pins and needles” in her fingers and toes which spread to both legs. She was paralysed from under the bust, but the most severe attack came in 1996 when she became a paraplegic.
Her husband Anthony, who pre-deceased her, quit his job and looked after her for many years. They had one son.
When the family relocated to Barbados, Phillips took up the cause of the disabled – she hated the term differently abled – and became president of both the Barbados Council for the Disabled and the Multiple Sclerosis Society where she advocated for better conditions, transportation and independent housing.
The first disabled friendly bus was introduced in Barbados under her tenure.
In 2014 she was awarded the Barbados Service Star in the National Independence Honours.
Prime Minister Mottley issued the following statement:
“Barbados has lost a true stalwart and a woman of courage in the fight for the rights of the disabled in the passing of Ms. Boneta Phillips.
Whether she wore the hat of the President of the Barbados Council for the Disabled, leader of the Multiple Sclerosis Society or as an advocate for the right of chronic pain sufferers to use medical marijuana for relief, Ms. Phillips never relented from the battle.
However, it was her personal fight for the provision of wheelchair-friendly sidewalks, particularly in Bridgetown, that made her a household name across the country. We are ever conscious of the need to make this a reality in our country and will remain committed to doing, especially in all of our main town centres.
Her message was clear until the very end – disability does not have to be synonymous with inability.
I trust that her message, and the vigour with which Boneta fought, will continue to live on in the hearts and action of many. And as we work to empower our disabled community, we shall forever be buoyed by the memory of Boneta Phillips.
On behalf of the Government of Barbados, I extend sincere condolences to Boneta’s family and the members of the disabled community of Barbados.” (SAT/PR)