PUSHING the inclusion of all people while we pursue efforts at developing, our country shouldn’t overlook those with different abilities and who go through life every day with unique challenges because they have certain disabilities. As such, training, financial support, and more accessible spaces are much-needed provisions.
Last week it was announced that children with disabilities all across the country are expected to start receiving a $100,000 one-off cash grant from this week. This initiative was first announced by President Dr. Irfaan Ali in June as part of the government’s efforts to provide further relief to some vulnerable groups in Guyana.
That announcement got me thinking about how those hundreds, maybe thousands of children are expected to benefit have been navigating childhood and growing up in Guyana. I can’t imagine that it was any way easy, but I can appreciate how much that cash grant, once used properly, would provide some much-needed relief to parents and/or caregivers of those vulnerable children.
Beyond that, it was also announced that the number of people with disabilities benefitting from the monthly $14,000 public assistance is also expected to nearly double – adding about 7,700 people to the list of some 8,000 existing recipients. And efforts are underway to ensure that persons with disabilities access much-needed training to access job opportunities best suited to their skills and abilities. Again, initiatives which are intended to provide much-needed relief.
Altogether, these initiatives provided me with some glimmer of hope that existing in Guyana as a person with a disability is not an entirely bleak situation. But even so, I know that there are other much-needed initiatives to consider.
Accessibility, for example, remains a challenge for many persons with disabilities.
Not too long ago, in 2015, I was unable to walk normally for a few months. At the time, I was months away from sitting my Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations. An injured knee, however, meant attending classes and participating in most in-class activities were challenging for me. In fact, my fifth form classroom- where most of my classes were held- was two floors up and very much inaccessible for someone in a wheelchair. In all honesty, though, I will admit that my English classes were moved to the basement to accommodate me, but I simply opted out of attending classes- milking the ‘I can’t walk normally’ excuse- because it just wasn’t my favourite subject.
Aside from the English classes I intentionally skipped, for about three months, I lingered below my school’s staffroom- relying on bits and pieces of schoolwork and engagement from my classmates and teachers. And that period of life really spotlighted just how inaccessible my school was, as were many other public places.
It is obvious that not very many public buildings, including government offices and agencies, can easily facilitate easy wheelchair access. Aside from consideration for people with that sort of physical disability, other visual and hearing aids are scarce in public places.
The absence of these features, I think, presents us with an opportunity to improve future building plans and efforts. With several big infrastructure projects (new hotels, schools, hospitals, etc) planned, for example, how can we guarantee that those facilities will be accessible to all?
The current absence of these may not necessarily overshadow good ongoing efforts, but it is certainly something to be mindful of and plan to improve in the future. If we are serious about inclusion and accessibility for all, making spaces accessible and accommodating for all is a crucial consideration.
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