Sharon's 'I Am Able' Notes Part Two

Sharon Adams was a delegate at last month’s ‘ I Am Able’ International Conference, held at St. James’s Club, Antigua and Barbuda, representing the Ministry of Health & the Environment. This is second of several articles in which she looks back at the historic ‘I Am Able’ meeting and examines the current state of Persons with Disabilities in Antigua and Barbuda.

Sharon is a member of the Public Relations Department, Ministry of Health & the Environment.

THE PLIGHT OF THOSE LIVING WITH A DISABILITY

‘Instead of giving crumbs, let us give them dignity as well as an opportunity to become productive members of the society.’

At the recently concluded I Am Able Conference, many of the difficulties, the discrimination, and inequalities facing persons living with disabilities (PLWD) were brought to light. Whether it is access to buildings, jobs, higher learning, those with disabilities are often left behind.

Most are living below the poverty line, not because they are unable to work but because we fail to allow them to do so. Families are fearful that employers will take advantage of them, while the government views them as a responsibility of the state.

Those who are fortunate to attend the National Vocational and Rehabilitation Centre for persons with disabilities are given a weekly stipend. IT is rough getting by on a monthly salary of over two thousand dollars.

How then can a grown individual survive with less than two hundred dollars weekly?

This present programme is not sustainable; it also goes against the biblical principles- by the sweat of thy brow thou shall eat bread. We are doing many persons with disabilities a disservice when we keep giving them handouts, many do not need our charity or our pity. They should be empowered and allowed to utilize their God-given abilities.

Some have intellectual abilities while others can obtain different skill sets if placed in the right environment. Living with any form of disability does not mean a lack of pride or aspiration; however, what it does mean is that society has failed by not paving the way forward for them to earn a living.

The government needs to create an environment that will see more persons with disabilities attending regular schools, colleges or universities. But In order to bring about the desired changes, proper structures must be put in place. There must be changes in policies to reflect the needs and interests of persons living with disabilities, whether they emanate from it be non- -governmental organizations or the government of the day.

There must be a well-formulated programme for PLWD in Antigua and Barbuda. Each one of us can render some form of assistance by volunteering our services and those with special skills such as handicraft or painting could be a great asset as well.

This small state is already saddled with huge monthly expenses. Why add additional burdens to the taxpayers of the country? Assist the disabled who are able. Let us help them to regain self-worth, to gain employment and to become entrepreneurs. Instead of giving crumbs, let us give them dignity as well as an opportunity to become productive members of the society.

Trevor Lewis was one of the delegates at the I Am Able International Conference. As a young aspiring entrepreneur, he was greatly encouraged by the differently abled who shared their stories.

“It has been a very great experience for me, especially when I realize that lots of people out there have it worse than me and they are still trying. I can walk, so I can do something to help myself, but I would like to see certain changes in Antigua and Barbuda regarding persons living with disabilities. The buildings need to be disability friendly, they should cater to the needs of the abled and the disabled. We also need firmly built sidewalks to accommodate those with wheelchairs.” he said

Trevor Lewis

Trevor was once a poultry farmer who now washes cars. Being an ambitious person, he wants to help himself and encourages all persons living with disabilities to do likewise.

“I can use my hands and my feet so, I can do something to help myself. Whatever you are able to do to help yourself, you should do it; when people see you are helping yourself, then they will, in turn, help you too.” Like so many of those living with a disability Trevor is desirous of having his own business. He wants to own a small poultry farm. His stock of chickens was destroyed and he now faces financial challenges and needs a jump start to get on his feet.”

Please assist those living with a disability. Lend a hand and help them to improve their standard of living.

A gift of a few chickens would be of great service to Trevor Lewis.

For further information please contact the Ministry of Health and the Environment, Long and High Streets: Tel – 462-5522.

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