International Day of Persons with Disabilities is observed under the theme “Transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fueling an accessible and equitable world”.
This year’s theme aptly reflects the values underpinning the development agenda of our Caribbean Community (CARICOM) as we work collaboratively to build social resilience, evidenced by an improved quality of life for all.
At the core of our development agenda, is the vision of the ideal Caribbean person who must have equal access to opportunities to promote physical, mental, economic and social well-being. The Community’s Pétion Ville Declaration, in spirit and in letter, captures the Region’s commitment to developing an inclusive society which caters for and embraces its citizens with disabilities.
The observance of this day helps to improve the visibility of persons living with disabilities, their challenges and triumphs, and promotes dialogue around the issues they face and the support they need to live to their full potential.
The World Bank Report on Disabilities in Latin America and the Caribbean characterized some common challenges faced by persons living with disabilities in our Region: stigma and discrimination, unemployment, poverty, lack of access to education and job opportunities.
As a Community, we are constantly reminded that our development agenda should be inclusive so that no one will be left behind. This means that we need to intentionally and actively implement rights-based and inclusive strategies to prepare persons living with disabilities to share their talent and skills in a rapidly changing technologically driven society.
The Secretariat acknowledges that inclusive development, with a focus on disabilities, should be addressed through an integrated and multi-sectoral approach. State and non-state actors across all sectors have a critical role to play to improve the quality of life of persons living with disabilities.
At the national and regional levels, the dialogue on human resource development should continue to focus on creating an enabling environment that provides quality education for persons living with disabilities throughout the life course. This includes the consideration of their needs in the infrastructure design process of learning centres, in order to promote their inclusion alongside their non-disabled peers.
The private and public sectors also need to continue the dialogue on diversity in the workplace and should make every effort to incorporate assistive technology, tools and infrastructure to improve the employment opportunities and options for persons living with disabilities.
The practice of sports is also considered a fundamental human right, and persons living with disabilities should be given equal opportunity to participate in sports and sporting events.
In closing, I wish to reaffirm the Secretariat’s commitment to honor the Pétion Ville Declaration and to continue to promote inclusive development for all.