Address to the Nation by the Honourable Eugene Hamilton on the Occasion of International Day of Persons with Disabilities December 3rd 2016

Fellow Citizens,

The privilege is mine to address you on this occasion of the International Day of Disabled Persons, under the theme “Empowering Persons with Disabilities, Reduces Liabilities while improving their Quality of Life.”

I first of all, want to thank all persons in our Federation with disabilities for their partnership with Government, in bringing attention to the challenges faced each day.

There are those in our society who have no, known disability, but who work with the Association of Disabled Persons to promote the well being of those who are challenged by disability.

This selfless support contributes significantly to empowering those who are disabled; building their confidence; and so improve their quality of life, that reduces risks and liability.

These public engagements of the Disabled, this week, showcase their ability to contribute to society and make a difference in the lives of all of us. During the week members of the Society assembled for Church, engaged in a Panel Discussion, visited schools and addressed students, walked with persons like me, sharing their everyday experiences among other things.

As I walked through the streets of Basseterre, wearing the proverbial shoes of a blind person on Wednesday, I was moved by a few things:
Firstly, the love and caring that exists among the members of the Association.
Secondly, the selfless commitment of volunteers who support the Disabled.
Thirdly, the challenge I faced as I walked blind-folded, to cope with the unknown.
Fourthly, the symbolic culmination of the exercise, finishing on the steps of the Seat of Government.

These moving experiences, demand that I as Minister, draw attention to the everyday challenges of those who are our neighbours and friends, especially those who are challenged by disability. I am moved to urge the vehicular traffic to yield, especially at street crossing signs. I am moved to encourage the enforcement of ramp access to every publicly accessed facility. I am moved to invite the youth of our Nation to show respect for those who have challenges from disabilities.

I am moved to urge everyone to recognise that disabilities can befall each of us and all of us at some time or period in our lives. It behoves us all therefore to be tolerant, helpful, supportive and selfless in dealing with others as we journey through life.

Those who are disabled do not seek pity; they are productive citizens who seek only what everyone desires; respect; recognition and love.

To those of who are disabled, I salute you for your continuing efforts to bring awareness to the challenges you face, and I encourage you to communicate and partner with the Ministry, indeed with Government in ensuring that as development takes place, it does so with collaboration and intervention from every facet of our society.

I trust that you the disabled have had a rewarding experience this week and that you grow as individuals and as a group, as you continue to make your contribution to society.
I thank you and God bless you.

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