Forum discusses Disability Bill


Melanie Griffin


Tribune Freeport Reporter


PEOPLE with disabilities and their caregivers in Grand Bahama attended a forum with Minister of Social Services Melanie Griffin, who is spearheading consultation on the proposed Disability Bill.

The bill, which the minister hopes will reach Parliament in March, seeks to achieve equal opportunities for persons with disabilities in the Bahamas.

It is in line with the United Nations Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Minister Griffin expects to hold similar forums in other Family Islands, including Abaco, and Exuma.

“We are in the process of doing consultation for the Disability Bill and it is important that we reach as many persons as possible, including those disabled persons in the Family Islands,” she said.

“We want to make sure everyone is aware of the legislation, what the provisions are, and how it impacts them.”

Grand Bahama has the largest population outside of the New Providence. Ms Griffin hosted two forums - one in Eight Mile Rock at Mt Zion Baptist Church in the morning, and the second in Freeport at the Foster Pestaina Hall at the Pro-Cathedral at Christ the King that night.

She stressed the importance of the legislation: “For a very long time, disabled persons have been having problems in terms of employment, transportation, education, accessibility, and healthcare, etc.”

According to Minister Griffin, one of the main issues has been public transportation.

The bill, she said, provides that the commission, which is established by the Bill, will dialogue with the Ministry of Transport to put in place suitable means of public transportation for persons with disabilities.

She said they have identified a place for an office where the Commission will be located.

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.

Ms Griffin said the bill has been widely accepted by employers, insurance companies and businesses.

Although there are a few concerns that are still being addressed, she said they are all 99 per cent on board.

The proposed bill, she said, requires for any business with over 100 employees to hire a disabled person to fill a position for which they are qualified.

She said the bill also provides recourse for disabled persons experiencing any form of discrimination.

“If they perceive they are being discriminated against, they can report it to the commission, which will make inquiries and even send the matter to the Attorney General’s Office for determination,” she said.

Ms Griffin said that all businesses will be required to have designated parking spots for the disabled.

“Six months after this bill is in place, every business that is accessible to the public will have to ensure they have parking spots for the disabled. And there is a corresponding amendment to the Road Traffic Bill to make it a penalty for persons who are not disabled to park in disabled spots. Through that process, we also expect to have standardised disabled decals,” she said.

Minister Griffin said at the moment they do not know how many persons are disabled in the Bahamas.

“The registration process is ongoing and it is a slow process because people do not realise the importance of it. But the commission will be responsible for the registration of disabled persons in the Bahamas,” she said.

She that said those people who are already registered will transition into the commission.


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