By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
A DRAFT Bill to outlaw discrimination against those with disabilities has been approved by the government, Social Services Minister Melanie Griffin announced yesterday.
The Bill, ‘Persons With Disabilities Equal Opportunities Bill, 2013,’ aims to “achieve equalisation of opportunities for persons with disabilities; to eliminate discrimination against them; to provide rights and rehabilitation and habilitation of persons with disabilities and to establish the national commission for persons with disabilities’.
Come January, Social Services officials will begin public consultations on the Bill, which could be brought before parliament early next year, Ms Griffin said.
The draft Bill states that among the tasks for a national commission for persons with disabilities will be “to formulate and develop measures and policies designed to recommend measures to prevent discrimination against persons with disabilities” and to “put into operation schemes and projects for self-employment or regular employment for the generation of income by persons with disabilities”.
William Lightbourne, president of the Disabled Persons Organisation (DPO), was on hand for yesterday’s press conference and praised the government for its commitment to enhancing the rights of persons with disabilities.
He said: “The enactment of this Bill will mean that we will be able to achieve those things we have always wanted to achieve. We look forward to our full participation in society and to taking advantage of the opportunities that will be made available to us.”
For her part, Ms Griffin said: “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states in Article 1, ‘The purpose of the present Convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities and, to promote respect for their inherent dignity.’
“Indeed, the Secretary General of The United Nations, in his message on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities stated that, ‘Together, we must strive to achieve the goals of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: to eliminate discrimination and exclusion, and to create societies that value diversity and inclusion.’
“On September 24, 2013, the Bahamas became a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This however is considered as the first step.
“The next and more important one involves enacting, amending and enforcing any national legislation, policies and institutional structures so as to strengthen our own national goals as it pertains to persons with disabilities.”
Ms Griffin added that the Bill is available for download from the Bahamas government website and that a limited number of hard copies will be made available at the Disability Affairs office on Eight Terrace. She also said that several copies of the Bill are available in braille.