Tomorrow Guyana will join the rest of the world in observing World Disability Day themed “Transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fuelling an accessible and equitable world.”
This year observance of the day will examine the overarching theme of innovation and transformative solutions for inclusive development. According to the idpwd.org this examination will be done covering in three different interactive dialogues the following thematic topics:
• Innovation for disability inclusive development in employment (SDG8): this dialogue will discuss the linkages between employment, knowledge and skills required to access employment in an innovative, rapidly changing technological landscape to all and how assistive technologies can increase accessibility to employment and be mainstreamed in the workplace.
• Innovation for disability inclusive development in reducing inequality (SDG10): this dialogue will discuss innovations, practical tools and good practices to reduce inequalities in both public and private sectors, which are disability inclusive and interested in promoting diversity in the workplace.
• Innovation for disability inclusive development: sport as an exemplar case: a sector where all of these aspects coalesce; sport as a good practice example and a site of innovation, employment and equity.
The UN Flagship Report on Disability and Development – Realizing the SDGs by, for and with persons with disabilities, shows that people with disabilities are at a disadvantage regarding most Sustainable Development Goals, but also highlights the growing number of good practices that can create a more inclusive society in which they can live independently.
The UN has issued an urgent call for global efforts to ensure that the more than one billion people worldwide who live with some form of disability can reap the benefits of development and fully participate in society. For this to happen, the UN has said it is necessary that we remove all barriers that affect the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in society, including through changing attitudes that fuel stigma and discrimination.
Here in Guyana, in August, there was the turning of the sod for the construction of a $130M Business Center for persons living with disabilities.
More importantly, that was the first of more such regional centers 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 curb them. However, the concept of the state-of-the-art business center 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 include: 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.
This Business Center 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 a comfortable social life, but a transformative life.