Questions still to be answered
Published on: 4/28/2009.
ANOTHER MONTH of the Disabled (March) has marched into eternity.
Another set of activities: a cruise, a concert, a few features in the papers, and so on have been held. But what of the fundamental changes that have been requested by persons with disabilities for years.
Why is it that those persons who are wheelchair users still cannot access public transportation?
Why are the wheelchair-friendly buses still sitting on the lot at Simpson Motors, tied up in red tape?
Even though they are side loading, won't the lay-bys help to alleviate the threat of impatient drivers running over the wheelchair-mobile?
Why is it that people with mobility issues still cannot access most Government buildings?
Why is it that almost all the new buildings at the University of the West Indies are inaccessible to wheelchair users, even though they were built within the last five to ten years, and with taxpayers' money? Why is it that those students with mobility issues still have to hobble up two flights of steps if their classes are on the second floor of these buildings?
Why is it that persons with certain types of physical disabilities still cannot have access to a life insurance policy, since they are seen as a liability to the insurance company?
Why is it that persons with MS (that's multiple sclerosis), spina bifida, muscular dystrophy and suchlike, still cannot hold an insurance policy, much less medical insurance, at some of the same companies which have enough assets to build huge glass-fronted buildings all over this island? I used to think people mattered. Now I am old and cynical.
Any why is it that to this day there is no comprehensive data as to the number of disabled children currently attending private or public clinics here in Barbados?
Why is it that the Ministry of Education still does not know how many students with physical or cognitive disabilities they will be expected to cater to within the next five years?
Why do doctors fail to either document, refer or counsel parents of children with disabilities, or share this information with the relevant Government agencies?
Why would nurses at a hospital give a baby with an obviously at risk APGAR profile to a mother with the words "Good luck with the baby?"
Why have successive governments not compelled doctors to submit these data?
Why are we still fighting this battle? Why do we still only have one Children's Development Centre with only one developmental paediatrician?
Why do we still have no speech or occupational therapist attached to our education ministry?
Why are there still only one social worker and one- and-a-half psychologists?
Why are we going to international conferences and pretending that our citizens with physical, intellectual and specific learning disabilities are enjoying equal status in a first-world setting? Why don't we come clean and stop taking the donor countries' aid money under false pretences?
And finally, why is it that persons with certain 'severe disabilities' are still only given $33 per week to live on?
What are they supposed to do with that, since not even the Government is willing to employ them?
How can they access dental care when they are not given free dental care as adults at the polyclinics?
Am I mistaken? Then someone please correct my misinformation. And if I am not wrong, then extract every reference to "disability" and replace it with "black". Reads differently now, doesn't it?
- JANICE D. GIBBS
The reference to "Why are the wheelchair-friendly buses still sitting on the lot at Simpson Motors, tied up in red tape" is especially disturbing. Over recent days much comment has been made about medical treatment in Barbados with claims (not so far contradicted) that significant pieces of equipment lie unused in the nation's main hospital. Before someone accuses me of saying something else bad about Barbados, this is the kind of comment made by Bajans that should always be worrisome. This is a very small nation and claims like this by locals should be taken seriously: they are either true or they are widely believed, and without counter claim must be taken as true. Caring is not the veneer of concern that comes from signing conventions and having lists of things, if in reality nothing much is happening on the ground.