Enhancing livelihoods of persons living with disabilities

The lives of persons living with disabilities would be drastically changed when the construction of the $130M Business Centre is completed.
More importantly, this is the first of many such regional centres to be established.
Persons living with disabilities often times still face several challenges in Guyana and around the world. Many of these challenges remain unattended for quite some time, with no proper mechanism to address them. However, the concept of the state-of-the-art business centre signals good intention to assist those living with disabilities.
When persons with disabilities are given a chance to acquire a good education, or are taught a skill, or be able financially to support themselves, they are in a better position to break the cycle of poverty that normally defines such situations.
In a more general sense, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is necessary for countries not only to adopt, but to implement fully, because it is a tool for ensuring that people with disabilities have access to the same rights and opportunities as everybody else. As explained by the World Health Organization (WHO), rather than considering disability as an issue of medicine, charity or dependency, the Convention challenges people worldwide to understand disability as a human rights’ issue.
The Convention covers many areas where obstacles can arise, such as physical access to buildings, roads and transportation, and access to information through written and electronic communications. The Convention also aims to reduce stigma and discrimination, which are often reasons why people with disabilities are excluded from education, employment, and health and other services.
People with disabilities have generally poorer health, lower educational achievements, fewer economic opportunities, and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities. This is largely due to the lack of services available to them, and the many obstacles they face in their everyday lives.
If one can recall, when this Dr Irfaan Ali-led administration came into Government in 2020, the Head of State, shortly after taking office, met with the umbrella body representing persons with disabilities in Guyana – the Guyana Council of Organisations for Persons with Disabilities (GCOPD) – where a call was made for the new administration to take steps to ensure that the national developmental plans are inclusionary, and create equal opportunities for persons with disabilities.
At that meeting, the organisation had listed a number of concerns which it would like to see the Government address to make life more comfortable and meaningful for persons living with disabilities. Those requests included: the establishment of a monthly Disability Grant in place of the Public Assistance; opportunities for employment of qualified and skilled PWDs in the Public Sector; improvements in the delivery of education to children with disabilities; provision of low-income housing for PWDs; and provision of assistive and mobility aids.
Today it is refreshing and noteworthy to see the reality of that list of requests being achieved.
At the sod-turning for the construction of the facility in August, Coordinator for Guyana Council of Persons Living with Disabilities, Ganesh Singh, referred to the Business Centre as a “new chapter” for the transformation of persons living with disabilities.
To quote him: “These individuals, most of them live in impoverished circumstances. A high percentage is unemployed. With this centre, that will change. You will have persons with disabilities gaining employment and lifting themselves out of poverty.” Significantly, he said that he is humbled to know there are persons who care to improve the lives of persons living with disabilities.
Kudos must be given to the Office of the First Lady and the Chinese Government, who are assisting with the funding for the programme.
This Business Centre and its replicas countrywide would indeed ensure that persons who are living with disabilities earn a decent living, express their independence, and have the economic freedom to not only have comfortable social lives, but transformative lives.