Liberalise the Caribbean education system for Persons with Disabilities – CARICOM Rapporteur
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Special Rapporteur on Disability, Senator Dr. Floyd Morris, called for a ‘liberalising’ of the education system in the Caribbean to create greater access for and inclusion of persons with disabilities.
Dr. Morris, who is the Director for the University of the West Indies Centre for Disability Studies, made this call when he addressed the annual Down’s Syndrome Family Network Conference in Trinidad and Tobago on Friday 22 March, 2019.
“Education is a major means of empowering persons with disabilities and when we open up the education system, which is a major mechanism for socialisation, we are in fact exposing individuals to a greater understanding of these individuals,” he said.
Dr. Morris noted that such exposure “will assist in changing the negative attitudes towards these individuals and contribute to a more inclusive and non-discriminatory Caribbean for persons with disabilities”.
The CARICOM Special Rapporteur alluded to multilateral and bilateral agencies which he said advocated for the liberalisation of the economies within the Region so that the private sector can thrive and progress.
“.. we need a similar approach in the education systems in the Caribbean to include persons with disabilities so that they too can thrive and progress,” he reasoned.
“We cannot afford to be isolating and excluding persons with disabilities from the education system in the Region, because it is a major means of empowerment and the most certain way of taking them out of poverty,” he continued.
Dr. Morris, who became blind at age 20, shared that as a person with a disability, he used education as the means of escaping poverty.
“I knew and understood that if I wanted to escape poverty, then emphasis would have to be placed on education and so I went to Kingston in 1991 and got rehabilitated at the Jamaica Society for the Blind, then went to the Mico Evening College to do my GCE O’ and A’ Level Exams and then to the University of the West Indies to do my first and second degrees and in 2017, 31 years after I graduated from high school without a single academic subject, I graduated with a PhD,” Dr Morris said
The Rapporteur emphasised that more could be achieved if the education system was opened up to persons with disabilities who could then maximise their true potential.
The Down’s Syndrome Family Network Conference is an event that is held in Trinidad and Tobago annually to promote and sensitise members of the public on issues relating to individuals with Down’s Syndrome. Dr. Morris was one of their special guests for 2019.
About CARICOM’s Disability Agenda
In December 2013, in response to a mandate from the Conference of Heads of Government, the CARICOM Secretariat, in collaboration with the Government of Haiti, convened a high level meeting to examine the situation with regard to people with disabilities and to chart the way forward for an inclusive Region.
Among the outcomes of that meeting was a political document, the Pétion-Ville Declaration, which identified a number of actions for advancing the goal of an inclusive society for persons with disabilities. The appointment of a CARICOM Special Rapporteur on Disability, and the creation of a network for regular consultation among representatives of the regional community working in the interest of persons with disabilities, are among those.
The CARICOM Special Rapporteur on Disability will monitor and assess the implementation of the Pétion-Ville Declaration, in an effort to advance progress towards a disability inclusive society for all in CARICOM Member States.
Senator Dr. Floyd Morris
CARICOM Special Rapporteur on Disability
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