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The Hon. Tara Rivers, JP, MLA, Minister of Education, Employment & Gender Affairs

Published 2nd December 2014, 1:59pm

Statement by the Minister of Education, Employment & Gender Affairs for the International Day for Persons with Disabilities

3rd December 2014

2014 Theme: Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology

 

With recent history being made by the passing of the first ever Cayman Islands Disability Policy 2014-2033 we have much to celebrate on this year’s International Day for Persons with Disabilities in the Cayman Islands.

 

This Policy is a huge step in the right direction to “ensuring persons with disabilities live with dignity, are respected, and have the opportunity to participate fully in society”. This is the vision of the Policy which encapsulates all that we as a country should aim to achieve as we develop a more accepting and inclusive community for all.

 

The annual observance of the International Day for Persons with Disabilities was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1992. This year’s theme is “Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology” which focuses on the role of technology in disaster risk reduction and emergency responses, creating enabling working environments and disability-inclusive sustainable development goals (www.un.org/disabilities). The Cayman Islands Disability Policy goals include the need to make technology accessible for persons with disabilities to function in their everyday lives. Goal 2 in particular, addresses employment and aims at ensuring that persons with disabilities have equal access to employment opportunities. It also addresses the need for some persons with disabilities to access assistive devices in order to perform their duties. Both the Public and Private sectors are encouraged to support putting in place such accommodations, so that persons with disabilities can have access to the necessary tools required to carry out their work.

 

Disaster risk reduction is always a top priority in the Cayman Islands, as is seen in our annual preparations for Hurricane Season. Being safe during natural disasters is taken seriously by our residents, who remember the devastation we experienced during Hurricane Ivan and Hurricane Paloma. Goal 4 Strategy A in the Cayman Islands Disability Policy includes the provision for persons with disabilities in the National Hazard Management Plan, particularly in regard to transportation and shelter accommodations. We must ensure the safety of all citizens of the country, which of course includes persons with disabilities, who may require more support and assistance.

 

The entire policy document supports disability-inclusive sustainable development goals. Persons with disabilities are not separate to our society; they make up a significant number, should have equal rights as everyone else, and should be included in all development goals of the Cayman Islands. According to the World Health Organisation, over a billion people in the world have some form of disability (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs352/en/). That is approximately 15% of the World’s population. In the Cayman Islands, our 2010 Census Report showed that approximately 3,000 people identified themselves as having some form of disability which ranged from physical, mental and intellectual disabilities; however, we know that these numbers are underestimated as the statistical collection framework used for the collection of such data does not sufficiently capture all persons with disabilities within the Cayman Islands currently.

 

The work of improving the rights of persons with disabilities in the Cayman Islands has taken a significant amount of time and meaningful effort is still needed to create and develop a fully inclusive society for all. But we are charging forth in the right direction and this work has my support, as well as that of the Cabinet and the Government as a whole. I would like to thank the Policy Steering Committee and all persons who have contributed in some way to protecting and improving the rights of persons with disabilities in the Cayman Islands.

 

In honour of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I encourage everyone to wear yellow, the recognised colour for celebrating and supporting the day, and get involved in the process. As we continue to change attitudes towards Persons with Disabilities, to those of respect, appreciation and inclusion in our society, we do well to remember one of the key messages of a Special Olympics International campaign: “It is not a person’s disabilities, but rather their abilities that are important.”

 

Thank you.

 

Hon. Tara Rivers, JP, MLA