By Paul Clarke
While the Jamaican society has been showing an increased appreciation for persons with disabilities, there remains a sizeable segment of the citizenry that is unaware of the tremendous potential of the disabled to the society, Minister of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson has said.
She was speaking at the launch of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD) media campaign at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston yesterday.
The media campaign aims to promote awareness on disability-related matters, the function of the JCPD, and the Disabilities Act.
The launch also aimed to foster the participation of and dialogue between various stakeholders, including Government, civil society organisations, disability doctors, and the general population.
Robinson said that in 2016, a pathway for the enactment of the Disabilities Act was embarked upon and it highlighted the need for greater promotion and an increased public awareness campaign as critical elements in the endorsement of the act.
"Without relevant knowledge and information, one may be prone to making errors or misrepresent the intentions of the provisions of the act," said Robinson.
"This campaign will begin informing the public on the rights of persons with disabilities and the role of the JCPD as it transitions to becoming the body corporate as is outlined in the act," she said.
The Disabilities Act is in keeping with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Jamaica, where approximately 15 per cent of the population has a disability. One hundred and sixty other nations are signatories to the convention.
Disabilities Act a milestone for Jamaica
Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD) Executive Director Christine Hendricks said that passing the Disabilities Act constituted a significant milestone for Jamaica as it continued to chart the way forward for regional neighbours.
She said that the timely manner of passing the act into law was reinforced by Japan and the United States, countries with more than 20 years' experience in implementing their respective disabilities act.
"To many, the process of seeing this act become real is much too long, but I take courage each day from our partners in the USA and Japan, who both have more than 20 years' experience in the implementation of their disabilities act, and who have shared with us that the road to full inclusion for persons with disabilities is a marathon and not a sprint," Hendricks said.
"As part of our three-year communication plan, we are showcasing the beginning of the new face of the JCPD with our new logo, our first website, and other collateral material that will be utilised to make the public and persons with disabilities more aware of their rights as citizens of our country," Hendricks added.