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Nov 29, 2016

Including Persons With “Diverse Abilities”

This week is disability awareness week. It is being observed from the twenty seventh of November to the third of December. The week includes the United Nations sanctioned international day of people with disability held each year on December third. The week is used to educate people regarding disabilities and giving people the knowledge required to carry out a job or task thus separating good practice from poor.  It has been cited that the biggest barriers people with disabilities encounter are other people. So, to address these and other issues that people with disability face in Belize, a series of events to raise awareness about the importance of having a welcoming and inclusive communities kicked off today in Belize City. News Five attended the first stop. Andrea Polanco has the story:

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

In commemoration of Disability Awareness Week, the Belize Assembly for Persons with Diverse Abilities and its partners are visiting schools to encourage young students to be more inclusive of people with disabilities. The students at the Gate Way Youth Center listened to testimonials from people living with disabilities, as well as presentations from NaRCIE, Stella Marris and the Inspiration Center. BAPDA says the message is simple.

 

Eva Middleton

Eva Middleton, Voluntary Manager, BAPDA

“The message we want home with these students today is that anyone can become disable. All we are asking for is compassion, mercy and love. And that is what we need in Belize to help the persons who are living with diverse ability to continue to survive.”

 

This kind of engagement with students is also critical to the work that the National Resource Center for Inclusive Education (NaRCIE) does. NaRCIE must take a three prong approach of student- parent- and teacher- to address the teaching and learning needs of students with diverse abilities:

 

Juanita Cadle

Juanita Cadle, Special Education Officer, NaRCIE

“Once the students have been identified and referred by either a parent, a teacher or a community member, NaRCIE officers visit the student at school and conduct baseline observations. That assist the officer to decide whether the students need a comprehensive educational assessment, once we determine that it is required, we conduct the educational assessment on the student, that simply means that we use eight to nine different assessment batteries to determine the students’ performance level in different areas and then based on our findings we make an assessment report and make recommendations to both parents and teachers, so they can use different strategies in the classroom and even at home to reinforce that the teachers are doing in school, so that the students can reach their maximum potential.”

 

But while strides are being made as it relates to the needs of students with abilities, this is but a fraction of the needs of persons with diverse abilities. BAPDA says that there is a lot more to be done because the challenges that people with disability face are many and most still live a poor quality of life.

 

Eva Middleton

“The challenges are many. Persons with diverse ability in Belize are some of the poorest of the poor. They do not earn money and when you don’t have earning capacity, you are really poor. People with diverse disability do not enjoy the freedom to go on the street and walk on the street; the potholes are many and when you walk on the sidewalk people who have poor ability to see will fall into a hole and will end up sitting there until somebody takes pity on them.  We would like to see more access in Belize, take for example; we have a register of one hundred and sixteen persons who have lost their legs, at least one leg and sometimes two. These persons do not have a second chance. A few of us are lucky and someone had pity on us and assisted us to pay for the prosthetic leg. In Belize, it is said clearly, there is no money to give to anyone to who has lost a leg to get a prosthetic leg. That is very sad.”

 

Middleton says that her hope is that all the articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would be executed, this, she says, will improve the lives of all persons living with diverse abilities, including the five hundred plus that they serve.

 

Eva Middleton

“Unfortunately, I call it the secret convention because when I got back I was asking everybody was it signed? Nobody knew. And finally, I found the letter where it was mentioned that it signed by this country in May 2011. But it is a secret. It was just pushed under the rug. There are fifty two articles in this convention and the first thirty articles talk about what changes need to be done to improve the lives of persons with diverse abilities. For example, it talks about right to life, right to politics, right to food, shelter, education, health, right to getting our regular and ongoing therapy if we need therapy. And then it talks about the government’s part. In the days of Philip Goldson, can you imagine, our organization used to be given fifteen hundred dollars monthly subvention, the organization before BAPDA. Today, we get two hundred Belize dollars a month. Is that sufficient to assist the five hundred persons with diverse abilities that we are assisting right now? No way.So, we need to have the will of the politicians, the will of the opposition of the country of Belize to make things better.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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