By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRESIDENT of the Bahamas National Council for Disability Sheila Culmer yesterday urged the Constitutional Committee to add disability rights to the fundamental rights protected by article 15.
Mrs Culmer said there must also be a provision prohibiting discrimination against persons with disabilities, with a clause that covers both direct and indirect discrimination.
She also suggested certain jobs and political appointments be reserved specifically for persons with disabilities.
“No one becomes disabled by choice. Disability is no respecter of persons. One can become disabled at any times in one’s life, whether it be congenital, at birth, an illness, accident or old age, she said.
“We also recommend that the constitution be amended to include an express provision mandating persons with disability have access to adequate transport, housing, health care, education and other social amenities,” she said.
“We also recommend that there be inclusion of a provision guaranteeing the rights of persons with disabilities to have access and be provided with legal aid and affordable legal services to ensure they have access to justice.
“We also advise that there be a constitutional inclusion of a provision which mandates that in the appointment of senators, there be at least two persons appointed who represent the wider community of persons with disabilities.”
According to statistics provided by Mrs Culmer, in the Bahamas less than one per cent of the number of persons thought to have disabilities are registered with the Department of Social Services.
In the 2000 census, 12,968 persons were reported to have a disability with persons 65 years and over accounting for the largest portion – 28 per cent, of persons with disabilities.
And, 6,613 persons or 51 per cent were between the ages of 25 and 64 with over half of the persons disabled, or 54 per cent, being female.
The census also showed that disability in persons 15 years or older is mainly caused by a contracted disease, with congenital/prenatal problems being the second cause.
The report also points out that in the Bahamas, there are no means of public transportation that cater to persons with disabilities.
Only 27 per cent of persons with disabilities complete primary school and 58 per cent of those do not complete high school. Only 36.2 per cent of persons with disabilities are employed.
While only 4.3 per cent of the population is considered disabled, it is believed that an additional 12,000 to 15,000 persons with disabilities are unaccounted for in the census data.