Categorized | National News

Disability Affairs Unit Opened in in Grand Bahama

The Disability Affairs and Senior Citizens Divisions of the Ministry of Social Services and Community Development was officially opened on Friday, May 13, by the Minister responsible, the Hon. Melanie Griffin.


The Minister said: “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities is an international treaty, intended to protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities. Parties to the Convention are required to promote, protect and ensure the full employment of human rights by persons with disabilities and ensure that they enjoy full equality under the law. The Bahamas became a signatory to the Convention in 2013, and ratified it in 2015. This means that The Bahamas is legally bound by the principles of the Convention to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities.


“The Bahamas Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities) Act, 2014, unanimously passed by Parliament, is another important instrument that obligates us as a country to uphold the inherent rights, dignity and value of persons with disabilities. The purpose of the Act is to end discrimination on the basis of disabilities, and to ensure that persons with disabilities fully and equally participate in society, by creating accessible and inclusive environments. Our Act allows the guiding principles of the UN Convention, and the opening of this new Division here in Grand Bahama is yet another signal of this Government’s commitment to safeguard and advance the rights of persons with disabilities.


“Every person with a disability — whether they have physical impairments, development or learning impairments, sensory or visual, hearing and speech impairments — every one, has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Every persons with a disability has the right to be included and participate in society. Every person with a disability has the right to full protection under the law, and the right to equal access and opportunities to health care, education, employment and transportation.”


The National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, she said, is mandated to protect the rights of people with disabilities on every island, and the Commission is mandated to receive and address complaints from persons on any island when they feel they are being discriminated against, or their rights are being violated.


Listing the various groups in Grand Bahama — the Grand Bahama Deaf Association, the Beacon School, the Northern Bahamas Council for the Disabled, the Challenged Champions Group, and other organizations, she continued, have worked tirelessly to help raise awareness, advocate on behalf of, and support the Community of persons with disabilities.


“The establishment of this Division will go a long way in helping to provide additional resources and assistance needed to address the needs of persons with disabilities and their families. But this Division is not just about offering assistance — it is about providing opportunities for empowerment, as well as ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities.

“While disability directly affects about 15% of our population, it impacts us all in one way or another. Some people are born with a disability. Others acquire it through illness, accident, disease or because of the aging process. Disability can happen to anyone at anytime. I am sure that each of you will support this new Division in its endeavours, and in doing so, clearly indicate your respect for the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.


“The vision of the Department of Social Services Senior Citizens Division is to promote the well being and uphold the Rights of Older Persons aged 60 years and older, thereby enabling them to enjoy the highest quality of life possible within the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.”


She said, “In past generations, older persons were revered for their traditional knowledge and wisdom; that reverence has changed and presently the general image of older persons is one of dependence, vulnerability and inactivity. The existing challenge within the Commonwealth of The Bahamas is to encourage communities to change its perception of older persons so that they appreciate that the elderly are still able to make a contribution through their experience and wisdom.


“The National Council on Older Persons was formed in 1999 conjunction with the National Council for The International Day of Older Persons to assist in the formulation of a national policy for Older Persons. In 1992, Governmental Social Services Agencies were amalgamated to provide effective services inclusive of the Senior Citizens Division. The Senior Citizens Division has a clear mandate ‘to uphold the rights of persons aged 60 years and over’.”


Minister Griffin applauded the efforts of  Mrs. Patrice Johnson of the Community Affairs Unit of the Department of Social Services, and the Urban Renewal Programme 2.0, for creating activity centres for Senior Citizens in the Grand Bahama community.


“The Department of Social Services has provided a number of services for Senior Citizens. At present, we have a total of 833 Senior Citizens who receive assistance with food through the Community Support Division of Eight Mile Rock and Freeport. These older persons who are physically able, have the dignity of going to the store to shop for themselves, using the pre-paid card. Those who are home-bound, if approved, have been able to identify an agent who could shop for them, using the pre-paid card.”



Written by Jones Bahamas

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