By Renwick Rose

How many times do the organisations representing and championing the causes of disabled persons have to remind us that “Disability is not inability”?

I ask this question in reference to a statement that appeared in the local press last weekend, attributed to a prominent parliamentarian here [in St. Vincent and the Grenadines] concerning one of his parliamentary colleagues (names are not the issue). The MP to whom the statement was credited is reported as saying that the colleague of his will not be contesting the next general elections.

The politics behind it is not the major concern of mine though this is what seems to have been generating public discussion. Of far greater importance is the reason given, stated crudely as “If a man can’t walk, how will he run” (for elections)? 

Surely, in this day and age, no responsible citizen ought to be making such blatantly discriminatory remarks. Are we saying that because a person has some physical challenge, that person cannot adequately represent people? What does physical disability have to do with one’s capacity to contribute to proper governance?

Our experience has shown that the problems that we have experienced in governance have more to do with mental disability on the part of those entrusted with that task than with any physical challenge on their part. Indeed, some years ago, I was privileged to hold discussions with a candidate for elections who was wheelchair-bound and found him to be far more intelligent than many of those not so physically restricted.

Those in positions of leadership must be far more sensitive to such issues and not contribute to long-standing and erroneous concepts about the abilities of persons who may face such challenges for one reason or another. We need to fight discrimination at all levels.

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to news.iwitness@gmail.com.

6 replies on “Disability is not inability”

  1. Elma Gabriel says:

    So very true: ‘Disability is not inability’. I must first commend Mr. Rose for the ability he has depicted in writing this opinion, having excluding the name of the accuser but left very little for our imagination as to who made this insensitive statement and about whom.
    When our leaders of such high ranking positions within our society; allow their manifestation to be overcome by ignorance and insensibility, only rises questions to their sense of compassion; especially as leaders within a Christian society.
    Do they think that God is a joker or that they truly believe that God is ‘LOVE’? Or, ‘loves’ only a strategic slogan? One never can predict their future as God is not a mystery but very much alive.
    Let’s take heed, as us Christians were taught that:- “Whoever mocks the ‘feeble’ shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.” “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

  2. C ben-David says:

    This is a mischievous misrepresentation of a metaphor employed in a radio announcement by the Vice-President of the New Democratic Party (NDP), St. Clair Leacock, that the reason for the imminent departure of Arnhim Eustace from electoral politics is because, “He has had operations on his knees, and you can’t run if you can’t walk” (“Eustace to hang up boots,” Searchlight newspaper, Friday, May 24).

    Still, this metaphor comparing contesting a political seat to physically running in a race is laughably disingenuous rather than an insult to physicially challenged people.

    Recall that the United States of America’s longest serving president, Franklyn D. Roosevelt, won four elections in a row while being crippled from the waist down because of polio. Roosevelt, arguably one of the greatest leaders America has ever produced, first attained the Presidency in 1933 during the height of the Great Depression whose devasting effects he helped ameliorate with his New Deal policies. FDR, as he was popularly referred to, also spearheaded the American effort against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan during the Second World War. As Commander-in-Chief of the American armed forces Roosevelt approved the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan in 1945 which quickly resulted in that country’s unconditional surrender. Talk about wheelchair power!

    Recall also that other American Presidents, like many of their counterparts around the world, have also had their share of serious health issues while in office. John F. Kennedy, for example, is known to have been heavily medicated during his short term as President as a result of suffered from long-standing gastrointestinal disease, Addison’s disease, and Second World War injuries causing chronic back pain.

    As for Mr. Eustace, not being physically surefooted is the least of his political handicaps.

    Recall that he was still the high-profile leader of the NDP when he retained his East Kingstown seat in December 2015 by a mere 149 votes, or 51.3 percent of the ballots cast. His opponent, political neophyte Luke Browne, a young and appealing rising star in the ULP, is now the highly visible, workaholic Minister of Health while Eustace has been reduced to a rank-and-file NDP parliamentarian. Those 149 votes and many more like it could easily disappear if Mr. Eustace were to run again.

    In politics, you shouldn’t run if you can’t win.

  3. Rawlston Pompey says:

    GROSSLY RECKLESS AND GRIEVOUSLY INSENSITIVE

    Concur with the sentiments expressed by author.

    It could be shortened by saying that though they had nothing to do with parliament, the parliamentarian’s utterances, loosely, ‘…Grossly Reckless,’ and at worst, ‘…Grievously Insensitive.’

  4. Anthony L Durrant MBE JP says:

    Well put Renwick. I saw these comments and I could not believe that these were being made by an experienced Parliamentarian against another, with a vast wealth of experience and knowledge. Shame on him.

  5. Really good to hear this writer advocating for the disabled community or is this a purely political stunt. Am wondering this because I can’t recall ever hearing him complaining about the multitude of challenges that this community has to deal with on a daily basis. Poor access to a range of services including healthcare services; few accessible sidewalks in and outside of Kingstown; lack of access to government buildings; almost no elevators; few hand rails; no thought of the hearing impaired; no sign language news summary; no braille in state institutions and the list goes on. Am satisfied that this is a politically motivated writing and not real concern for disabled citizens.

  6. Elma Morgan says:

    Time to give some credence to those with mental health issues also. Who is standing up for the rights of all physically, emotionally and mentally challenged in SVG when these peoples’ rights are challenged daily, they are derided, scorned, shunned, snubbed, scorned and trivialized from the people who are at the top of the totem poles. It is not just intolerant, ignorance, insensitive, but inhumane and less empathetic?

    We have a society in SVG, who only associate productivity to those who are seen or projected to be of a certain stature and class and it does not surprise me one bit to see this form of mentality because this is deeply embedded in the minds of this society that only certain people who have recognition have values and when the time comes that productivity is waning or has it has waned one is of no worth.

    The homeless, poor and socially deprived are all bundled into this class of worthlessness. I am not baffled by these thoughts and sentiments because of the selfishness and intolerance that have overtaken our communities and the nation. When I was growing up we were a nation that looked out for each other, we were our brothers and sisters keepers. We were that village that took the responsibility to raise the children and when you migrated to another community that followed. We have now evolved into tribes and in some cases gangs that only serve and preserve our kind We have much intolerance, we abuse and victimize each other and politically hold on to grudges and disparage and disdain each other.

    it is time that we evolve into something more human and show more care an concern for each other!

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