The annual observance of Disability Awareness Week in The Bahamas got underway with a Church Service at the historic Bethel Baptist Church, Meeting Street. The service was Live Streamed as part of the physical distancing protocols utilized by the church to reduce the community spread of COVID-19 among parishioners and participants. A number of key events have been planned for the Week – which runs November 29 through December 3 — including the observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, December 3. The day is used as another opportunity to highlight and promote an understanding of disability issues; to mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities, and to increase awareness of the benefits of the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
It is part of the year-round education and awareness campaign. The global theme for IDPD 2020 is: “Building Back Better: Toward a Disability-inclusive, Accessible and Sustainable post COVID-19 World.”
Included among the events planned for the Week is the hosting of a Virtual Town Hall Meeting by the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities that has been scheduled for Thursday, December 3, beginning at 6:30pm. The Guest Speaker for the event is the former President of the Jamaica Senate, Senator, the Hon. Dr. Floyd Morris, PhD. Dr. Morris, who is blind, served two terms in the Jamaica Senate, and is the CARICOM Special Rapporteur on Disability, a Director at the University of the West Indies Centre for Disability Studies, and a Lecturer and Political Communication Specialist.
Senator Morris was first appointed to the Jamaica Senate in 1998 and served there until 2007. He returned to the Jamaica Senate in 2012 and was elected President in 2013.
T-Shirt Day will also be observed across the country on Friday, December 4. Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell, applauded the observance of the Week and the International Day during a contribution in the House of the Assembly on Wednesday, November 25. “Mr. Speaker, when I assumed the portfolio as Minister, I made it clear that there are three groups of persons that stand out and or whom I have a special place for in my heart, and those are older, more experienced persons; those are children, and those are persons with disabilities,” Minister Campbell told Parliament.
“The Disabilities Affairs Division has planned a number of events to commemorate this occasion but there is one that stands out and I want to invite persons to participate in, and that is a Virtual Town Hall Meeting that is to be held on December 3.
It stands out because the Guest Speaker will be Senator Floyd Morrison from CARICOM. He is the first blind President of the Senate of Jamaica and so he will be speaking from a point of personal experience; he will be speaking from sincere advocacy and I am satisfied that he will have a wealth of knowledge and inspiration not just for persons with disabilities, but for the entire community because when we speak of persons with disabilities, Mr. Speaker, we have to realize that there is that extended effect.
“We have to think about caretakers, about the financial impacts, the financial implications, because the truth of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, that not everyone who is living with a disability at this time, were born that way.”
Minister Campbell commended the community of persons with disabilities: “for being an inspiration.” “The community of persons with disabilities has inspired me while serving in this capacity because I see them from day to day, even with their challenges, rising to the occasion and not focusing on their disability, but rather on their ability,” Minister Campbell said.
“I want to especially commend parents who have gotten beyond the point of keeping their children with disabilities locked away because they do the children a disservice, because those children have the ability to learn; those children have the ability to develop their abilities and so I commend them on that,” Minister Campbell added.