One in ten Guyanese disabled -says Bisnauth
Stabroek News
March 30, 2003

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A country such as Guyana can hardly be described as on its way out of poverty as long as 10% of its people, who constitute the disabled, remain among the poorest of the poor without an enabling environment to assist them to realise their potential.

So said Minister of Labour, Human Services and Social Security, Dr Dale Bisnauth at the opening session of the two-day annual seminar of the National Federation of and for Disabled People. This was opened at the Umana Yana in Kingston, Georgetown on Thursday under the theme `A way forward in development'.

Bisnauth suggested Guyana's figures "are not necessarily reliable." But safely assuming that "Ten per cent of the Guyanese population is disabled" when defined in the traditional way, the minister said that the World Health Organisation claimed that every sixth person living in poverty is affected by moderate or severe disability.

Bisnauth held the view that disability and poverty were part of a vicious cycle with poverty causing disability and disability causing poverty. Disability leads to a higher proportion of disabled people being poor in all societies with poverty being a major cause of impairment due to inadequate nutrition, poor sanitation, lack of health care, conflict, lack of access to information, lack of access to employment and to social mobility.

He said that together with other CARICOM countries, Guyana has pledged to work for the integration and full participation and equality of persons with disabilities in the world of work. Unfortunately the policy on the rights of people with disabilities was still in draft form, after four years in the making.

He said his ministry had held workshops on the position of an enabling environment to realise the potential of persons with disabilities but this was in a society in which unemployment was a problem.

He said the ministry had also taken part in many international meetings which dealt with the issue of the unemployment of the disabled. But he said the time was long past for Guyana to transform this ideal to a credible reality.

Moving from pledge to performance, he said, would require everyone to be involved: government for planning and implementing programmes for national inclusive development; the private sector to look at its employment policy with an eye for the special needs of the disabled; and the informal sector, such as, non-governmental organisations and civil society that could help to change attitudes and perceptions of people; and more importantly the disabled people themselves and their organisations.

Disability rights activists have argued that to build an environment, social or physical that benefits only some people, is discriminatory and unjust. Failure to offer opportunities results in valuable human resources being left untapped and in the violation of these peoples human and civil liberties, Bisnauth said.

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