Minister Campbell: Ensuring Equal Access for Community of Persons with Disabilities is a Priority

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Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell addressing the Community Meeting held at St. Philip’s Anglican Church Community Centre in Matthew Town, Inagua on Saturday, February 9, 2019. (BIS Photo/Matt Maura)

Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell, told residents of Inagua that ensuring equal access for the community of persons with disabilities in The Bahamas is a major priority for his ministry. “Our message is one of inclusion,” Minister Campbell said. “My dream as the Minister of Social Services and Urban Development is two-fold: that we would develop, as individuals, a more caring society; a more empathetic and sympathetic society where we are concerned about other persons, and secondly, that we as a people, would not focus so much on our disabilities, but more on our abilities.

 “It is important that we sensitize each other as to the importance of there being no impediments to buildings, businesses and parking spaces; that there are proper ramps; proper railings for our brothers and sisters living with disabilities to hold onto. That there is a need for our brothers and sisters to have access to all of the things persons not living with disabilities enjoy. It is the right thing to do.” Addressing a Community Meeting held at the St. Philip’s Anglican Church Community Centre in Matthew Town, Inagua, on Saturday, February 9, Minister Campbell said no human being is exempt from the possibility of living with a disability, the various forms of which include, speech or language impairment; visual disability, including blindness; hearing or communication disability; mental or behavioral disability; intellectual disability, including Autism, Down syndrome and Cerebral palsy and physical or locomotion disability.

Officials from the Department of Social Services, the Department of Gender and Family Affairs, Urban Renewal Commission and the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities comprised Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell‘s delegation to Inagua. Pictured from left are: Ms. Maria Kelley, Executive Secretary, Secretariat of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities; Dr. Jacintha Higgs, Director of the Department of Gender and Family Affairs; Minister Campbell; Mrs. Lillian Quant-Forbes, Director, Department of Social Services, and Ms. Sheryl Knowles, Programme and Special Projects Coordinator, Urban Renewal Commission. (BIS Photo/Matt Maura)

Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of the National Commission for Persons with Disability, Ms. Maria Kelley, was a member of the Minister’s delegation to Inagua. Ms. Kelley used the opportunity to begin the process of developing a database of persons with disabilities.(The Secretariat is assisted by a Board, consisting of 15 members comprising representatives from government ministries, civil society, the trade congress, the community of persons with disabilities and other non-governmental organizations – NGOs). Ms. Kelley said the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities’ (enacted into law in 2014) mandate is to ensure that “we have inclusion throughout The Commonwealth of The Bahamas”.

She said as such, the Commission will be working to facilitate compliance with the laws pertaining to equal access for persons with disabilities. A former Deputy Director with the Department of Social Services, Ms. Kelley said developing the database is one of the key functions of the Commission in order to facilitate “a proper registry of all persons living with disabilities so that we are able to assist them and ensure inclusion for all.” (Ms. Kelley’s presence spoke to the Commission’s mandate to ensure that there is inclusion for persons with disabilities throughout The Commonwealth of The Bahamas.) “This is a society of inclusion. We want all persons to feel included in all that we do here in The Commonwealth of The Bahamas – no exceptions. Which means that we want to ensure that not only persons with disabilities are aware of the services that we provide to them, but we also want persons who do not live with disabilities to know that there is inclusion,” Ms. Kelley said. “The Commission’s role is to ensure that there is equal access to health, education, employment and every other service that is available to those persons not living with a disability.”

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