Minister On Day Of Persons With Disabilities

December 2, 2022 | 0 Comments

Minister of Social Development and Seniors Tinee Furbert provided an overview of the the activities that have been put in place in recognition of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which, as declared by the United Nations, will be officially recognized on December 3rd 2022.

Speaking in the House of Assembly today [Dec 2] the Minister said, “The observance of the Day aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities at all levels of society and development. Also, it provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the achievements and challenges persons with disabilities face within every aspect of political, social, economic, and cultural life in our community.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker,

This morning I rise to share with this Honourable House the activities that have been put in place in recognition of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which, as declared by the United Nations, will be officially recognized on December 3rd 2022.

Mr. Speaker,

The observance of the Day aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities at all levels of society and development. Also, it provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the achievements and challenges persons with disabilities face within every aspect of political, social, economic, and cultural life in our community.

The United Nations estimates that approximately fifteen percent of the world’s population, which equates to one billion people, are living with some form of disability. Based on the Bermuda 2010 Census of Population & Housing, there were just over 3,000 persons who reported having a disability. Under our Human Rights Act, disability includes both physical disability and mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the person’s ability to carry out day-to- day activities.

Mr. Speaker,

The United Nations theme in recognition of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is “transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fuelling an accessible and equitable world”. This theme includes:

  • the linkages between knowledge, skills and accessing employment in an innovative and rapidly changing landscape;
  • reducing inequality in private and public sectors; and
  • recognizing how sport can be a good practice example and site of innovation, employment and equity.

Mr Speaker,

Evidence and experience show that when barriers to inclusion are removed and persons with disabilities are empowered to participate fully in societal life, the entire community benefits. This is not limited to employment and sport but includes a wide range of social, economic and cultural domains. Barriers faced by persons with disabilities are, therefore, a detriment to society as a whole, and inclusion and accessibility are necessary to achieve progress and development for all.

Mr. Speaker,

I will highlight two key areas that will support greater inclusive development by Bermuda. The first is ensuring the voice of persons with disabilities is included within policy and practice development; and, the second is ensuring a role that technology can play in facilitating this inclusion. According to the United Nations, “for some kinds of disabilities, assistive devices/technologies are key equalizers that promote inclusion and full participation in all industries and dimensions of life are assistive devices that can range from simple devises to compel technologies”.

Mr Speaker,

This Government is committed to ensuring persons with disabilities have an active voice within initiatives for the social development of our community. Examples of how we will achieve this include:

  • 1. The Disability Advisory Council – which is a non-statutory committee comprising persons with disabilities, advocates and service providers. Their primary goal is to provide recommendations and advice to proposed relevant policy; and,
  • 2. The National Strategy for Adults with Intellectual Disabilities and their families. This strategy, spearheaded by the Mid Atlantic Wellness Institute, serves to identify priorities and facilitate coordinated actions to address primary service gaps impacting this specific segment of the population. We are looking to have the final plan published in the upcoming New Year. Fundamental to the strategy development was the inclusion of persons with intellectual disabilities.

Accordingly, a key priority was to ensure the consultation process and strategy were accessible for those with intellectual disabilities to maximize awareness and participation. As a result, easy to read versions of the consultation documentation were available as well as an audio format. Furthermore, central to the governance structure and implementation of the strategy is the representation and ongoing consultation of adults with intellectual disabilities. These efforts are also in recognition of the demand expressed internationally by the disability community of “nothing about us, without us”.

In addition, Mr. Speaker,

To address barriers and inequity over the past year the Ministry has advanced the following initiatives:

  • 1. Progression of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities extended to Bermuda. This included an assessment of our current levels of compliance; and
  • 2. A formal register of persons with disabilities which is being developed. The register aims to assist with data collection for national planning purposes and to ensure individuals receive the support they need for improved quality of life.

These initiatives are critical to ensuring we set clear expectations on the rights of persons with disabilities and to be able to identify areas in need of development.

Finally, Mr Speaker,

Visibility of persons with disability and awareness of their strengths and needs, is an essential step towards greater inclusion. As a result, in celebration of International Day of People with Disabilities several events were organized by various organizations and coordinated by the Disability Advisory Council. Some of these include:

  • The United Nations Day proclamation as organized by Ageing and Disability Services, was held at City Hall on Monday, November 28th to kick off the week of events;
  • On Thursday, December 1st Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy held a virtual open house to increase awareness and visibility of their services and clients;
  • Today, December 2nd, the third annual Common Ground Virtual Conference will be hosted by Windreach Recreational Village from 9:30 am to 1:00pm. The theme of this year’s free, online conference is Removing Social Barriers and will have a focus on employment;
  • Inspire Bermuda will be holding a tag day at the both Lindo’s grocery stores that will include awareness of persons with disabilities who are thriving in our community; and,
  • On Nov 26th the Special Olympics Committee held a dance organized with One Special Night, and will be having a Track Meet on December 8th from 9 am to 2:00 pm at the Flora Duffy Stadium.

The full calendar of events is available on the Disability Advisory Council and Government of Bermuda’s Facebook pages. I encourage my Honourable colleagues and the general public to show support by attending the remaining events.

Mr. Speaker,

In closing and in line with this year’s theme, I quote the British former Paralympian in wheelchair racing and basketball, tv presenter and politician Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson: “The biggest barriers I’ve faced have been from people who make assumptions about what I can’t do, who assume that because I’m in a wheelchair I can’t be an athlete or I won’t be competitive. That’s ok because I’m focused, single-minded and good at blocking those people.”

As a nation, we must reflect on our assumptions that create barriers and support the strengths and abilities of persons with disabilities. We must all come together as a community to remove these barriers and to advance the rights of persons with disabilities for a more inclusive and therefore better Bermuda. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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