By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE National Commission for Disability could be appointed in less than a month, Social Services Minister Melanie Griffin said yesterday.
Speaking at a press conference at the Ministry of Social Services, Mrs Griffin announced that part two of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities) Act, 2014 - which establishes the Commission - was brought into force on November 3.
She said it was her intention to have the commission implemented by December 1.
“The commission is really at the heart of the legislation because it is composed mostly of persons with disabilities,” Ms Griffin said. “They will be able to become a part in ensuring that this most vulnerable part of our community will be able to at last get some of the rights that they be should be ordinarily getting. The commission is very critical, their work is very critical, it’s very extensive.”
In July, the Persons with Disabilities-Equal Opportunities Bill was passed in parliament, which made the Bahamas the second country in the region to write into law the protection of the disabled.
The Bill’s passing affected more than 10,000 disabled persons in the country.
According to the law, no one shall deny a person with a disability equal access to opportunities for suitable employment. Additionally, building owners have two years to modify their facilities and six months to make changes to parking lots.
The law also highlighted the establishment of a national commission for the disabled capable of suing and being sued, acquiring, holding and disposing of movable and immovable property.
Yesterday, Mrs Griffin said that in October she met with the heads and the designated representative of the head of “non-governmental organisations that are directly and solely concerned with the welfare and advancement of persons with disabilities” to inform them of the implementation plan for the legislation and “to get their input on the nomination process.”
Yesterday she said she looks forward to receiving nominations for these groups.
“We know from the last Census that there are over 10,035 (disabled persons), but we believe that with the coming into force of this legislation, we’ve been able to heighten the level of awareness in the public,” she said. “Certainly more people will be willing to come out and say that they have persons in their homes that have disabilities, or they may have disabilities themselves.”
The commission will consist of 15 people personally appointed by Ms Griffin, five of whom will come from each of the ministries with responsibility for works, social services, health, education and labour.
Another five members will be selected, four of whom “are persons with disabilities nominated by and from non-governmental organisations” that are “directly and solely concerned with the welfare and advancement of persons with disabilities.”
Also on the commission will be two members who are parents of persons with disabilities or who have “extensive experience as a care giver of a person with disabilities”.
Ms Griffin yesterday said that she will personally appoint the chairman of the commission, however the vice-chairman will be elected by members of the commission.