By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
MEMBERS of the local disabled community are encouraged to attend a town meeting to express their views and give recommendations to the proposed Disability Bill.
The meeting, which will be held tonight at 7.30pm at the BCPOU Hall on Farrington Road, is being hosted by the Bahamas National Council For Disability under the theme, “Express Yourself – Your Opinion Matters”.
The purpose of the meeting, Chairman of the Disability Council Shelia Culmer said, is to “promote and discuss equalisation of opportunities and rights for persons with disabilities.”
“Additionally, it will inform businesses and people in general about what is expected from them with reference to certain adjustments that will be required by this legislation, for example accessibility, education and employment,” she said.
The Bahamas government recently completed the proposed draft legislation on the Persons with the Disabilities Equal Opportunities Act, 2013, which is expected be brought before Parliament shortly.
According to Iris Adderley, consultant for the Disability Affairs Division of the Ministry of Social Services, one of the main issues under discussion has been access to public places.
“For me and others in the community the main thing what we want done as soon as possible is access to buildings and access across the board. If I cannot get at the door, I can never get included. The legislation speaks to parking, so businesses have six months to get parking for people with disabilities; if not (complied with), the commission can then take you to court, and there are fines for that. The businesses also have two years to make sure their buildings are made accessible, so those kind things are what I would like to see done immediately,” she said.
“The other part of all of that is, we who have been disenfranchised are the ones that have to push this. But although it is law we have to pursue our rights, and access is a major one across the board to all of these facilities, including government and private,” she said.
During consultations held by the government with the public over the past few weeks, Ms Adderley said there were several recommendations made at it relates to life-long learning and housing.
The draft legislation 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.”
The draft also states that a commission will be established that will dialogue with the Ministry of Transport to put in place suitable means of public transportation for persons with disabilities.
The commission will consist of 15 people: five from recognised disabled organisations; five from various government ministries (Social Services, Education, Health, Works, Youth and Sports); two representing parents and caregivers of people with disabilities; one representing workers; one representing employers, and one representative from civil society.
Members of the disability community hope that the legislation is enacted soon.