By Lynaire Munnings
EXECUTIVES of The National Commission for Persons with Disabilities are urging the public to help eliminate discrimination on the basis of disabilities.
The NCPD is actively ensuring that there are accessible public buildings throughout the country that are steadily moving forward, but remain a “work in progress."
“It’s a work in progress, it’s not going to happen overnight because a lot of this stuff is rooted in our culture. Many persons don’t realize that many things they take for granted aren’t on the same level as person that need help or a person with a disability,” Townsley Roberts, deputy executive secretary of NCPD, told the Tribune.
Roberts said there has been a noticeable improvement in terms of how people offer assistance to those with disabilities in the last ten years.
Desiree Clarke, executive secretary of NCPD said: “The government has made progress, but there is always room for improvement for the entire country to be aware of persons with disabilities, because it’s not only for the government but it’s for all of us.”
“Be mindful that legislation isn’t the only challenge. Our greatest challenge is not the legislation, but the greatest challenge is changing a mindset. Getting people to understand why legislation is needed and why it is important,” Roberts added.
Clarke wants Bahamians to understand a disability is not just being a wheelchair user.
“It’s being deaf or hard of hearing, it’s being totally blind or having a visual impairment, it’s being on the autism spectrum, it’s having Down’s Syndrome”, she told The Tribune.
“What we are asking for is to be a part of everything in this country. To be able to express our needs, our feelings and to contribute. Legislation just speaks to do just that and what we are just asking for is a level playing field - our disability doesn’t define us,” Roberts said. “Also, our various challenges don’t make us disabled, it’s the challenges in front of us what disables us.”
NCPD urges disabled members of the public to register so that the government can plan and create policies as one of the commissions major responsibilities is creating policies for persons with disabilities.
NPCD partners with the National Emergency Management Agency(NEMA)to help the disabled during the hurricane season stay protected.
“We are in the hurricane season so by registering with NPCD - we know where you live so we would know if you may need to relocate during a hurricane if you live in a flooding area or your dwelling is unsafe,” said Roberts.