By *Jeshua Bardoo
Every year, on Dec. 3, the international community comes together to celebrate and/or recognise International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
Article 1 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that “Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has signed and acceded to the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I am aware that the state is currently in the process of creating disabilities legislation, modernising the mental health act and a number of institutions exist locally that serve people with disabilities. I commend the state for this progress. However, despite the aforementioned, people with mental and physical disabilities remain one of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in Vincentian society.
Today, we will focus on people with physical disabilities. People with physical disabilities suffer from a range of conditions including but not limited to, visual impairments, hearing loss, speech disorders, and loss of limbs, etc.
As a result of their peculiar conditions, they face many unique challenges in SVG. Some of these challenges may include but are not limited to: low self-esteem; stigmatising language; family rejection; inaccessible information and communications technology; difficulties accessing public places, transportation, education, and the labour market; exploitation; emotional, verbal, physical and sexual abuse; bullying; violence; discrimination; and, poverty.
No one should be disadvantaged or unjustly discriminated against on account of a physical disability. A physical disability which in most cases, they never asked for or were born with. The rights of people with physical disabilities should be respected, and where possible, reasonable accommodation should be made for them in society.
I, therefore, encourage the state and all relevant non-state actors to continue to work to make SVG a more inclusive society for people living with disabilities. Let no one be left behind.
I also encourage the state to quickly enact into law the disabilities bill and to accede to the Inter-American Convention Against the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Persons living with Disabilities.
People with physical disabilities are human beings who deserve to live with dignity and respect, free from all forms of violence and discrimination.
*Jeshua Bardoo is a Vincentian barrister-at-law and solicitor. He is also the founder and president of Equal Rights, Access and Opportunities SVG Inc. He can be contacted via email at [email protected].
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