More Access for Persons with Disabilities

Americas, June 14 2017

The Government of Jamaica is seeking to increase access and coverage for persons with disabilities, in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Accessible Toilet SignThis was noted by Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Shahine Robinson, during a tour of the Early Stimulation Programme (ESP) multipurpose facility on Hanover Street, downtown Kingston, Thursday (June 8), with representatives from the IDB.

Mrs. Robinson said the Government aims to expand the level of participation in the society by persons with disabilities, while at the same time empowering them to make valuable contribution to society.

“We are working to actualise the right of every Jamaican with a disability to develop to maximum potential as mandated by our Disabilities Act,” she said.

She informed that the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD) is developing Codes of Practices and Regulations to accompany the legislation.

“We are developing a public-education campaign to ensure that the society as a whole understands the rights of persons with disabilities,” Mrs. Robinson said.

Meanwhile, the Minister said the country has benefited from the partnership with the IDB, especially through financial and technical support to foster social inclusion and promote equity and empowerment of individuals.

She cited the upgraded Early Stimulation Multipurpose facility as an example of a fruitful relationship.

The IDB provided approximately $87 million for the project, under the Integrated Social Protection and Labour Programme.

“This upgraded ESP assessment centre and multipurpose facility is a striking example of our alliance. This beautifully designed building will enhance the well-being and welfare of children with disabilities through an expansion of assessment and intervention services,” Mrs. Robinson said.

The range of services offered through ESP include home-based visits, specialised early-childhood education, parenting workshops and counselling sessions, parent-support groups, placement of children, and the provision of resources to other agencies serving young children with disabilities.

“Over the longer term, the aim for regional intervention centres will help to reduce the institutionalisation of young children with developmental disabilities across the island. The coping skills of parents, guardians and caregivers are being improved to care for their children as well as the efforts of the teachers and social workers,” Mrs. Robinson said.

The IDB is also providing funds for the expansion of the Stimulation-Plus Early Childhood Development Centre (STIM-PLUS), in East Kingston, which is slated for completion by the end of 2017.

“There will also be administrative offices, a sickbay, disability friendly bathrooms and caretaker cottage. I am told that on completion, enrolment is expected to increase by at least 40 per cent, providing greater access to the ESP by more Jamaicans,” she said.

“I want to affirm to our IDB partners how beneficial this is, since referrals to the programme come from the Bustamante Hospital for Children, Ministry of Education, Family Court, Child Development Agency and other agencies serving young children,” Mrs. Robinson added.

Meanwhile, Vice-President of Countries at the IDB, Mr. Alexandre Meira da Rosa, highlighted the enthusiasm and joy of the professionals and students at the multipurpose facility.

“It is not very often that I experience this kind of environment. I was positively surprised to see the interest of the Government of Jamaica in early-childhood development. This is rarely seen in countries of comparable size and comparable economies. So, I applaud the Government of Jamaica to put this as a priority,” he said.

“I truly hope that one of the results of our partnership, is that we can compile this experience and export and take it to other countries. I am very glad for this partnership and am looking forward to doing more,” he added.

The ESP caters to disabled children up to six years old and serves 1,539 youngsters, 416 of whom are from rural communities.

The range of disabilities managed under the Programme include cerebral palsy, sensory impairment, autism, Down syndrome, developmental delay, psychosocial deprivation and co-morbid behavioural problems, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

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