Govt promises more focus on disabled, special needs citizens
The government is in the final stages of drafting legislation meant to give people with disabilities more rights and expects the law to be passed before the end of the year, according to Minister of Social Services Melanie Griffin.
Griffin also announced that the government will sign on to a United Nations Convention for equal opportunities for people with disabilities on September 24.
Griffin made the announcement at The College of The Bahamas’ Harry C. Moore Library during the opening ceremony of a three-day autism seminar hosted by the United States Embassy in Nassau.
After the ceremony on Wednesday, Prime Minister Perry Christie told reporters that he is on a personal crusade to ensure public policies are created to bring “relief” to Bahamian children with special needs.
The issue is also a personal one for the prime minister. He has a 25-year-old autistic son.
“I am on a decided course to bring major relief to them through the form of sufficient classrooms for those who are at the [learning] stage of their life and also to ensure that work is in progress to find out what is happening in the islands,” Christie said.
During the ceremony, Christie said the government is confronted with the problem of how to design public policies to benefit people with special needs and learning disabilities that can be implemented across the country.
He said he wants researchers at The College of The Bahamas to use its resources to get data on the number of residents with disabilities so it can be used to influence public policy.
“Every child in this country must be [afforded] the right to participate in the equity or the resources of the country,” Christie said.
“When you share out the resources in education, there must be facilities for that child and those facilities must be adapted to ensure that the child is able to have the opportunity similar to the other children.”
Christie also spoke of the government’s plans to give special needs students more learning opportunities.
He said the former Our Lady’s Primary School will be used to instruct more than 100 students with special needs.
Christie said the government has identified an area on Gladstone Road for the construction of a facility for adults with disabilities.
“[It will be] a facility where special kids who have grown up will be able to go, will be kept while their parents and caretakers go to work, will even be able to spend a night if they have to,” he said.