Social Services deploys digital pathways to Disability Empowerment

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Hon. Myles LaRoda at the Disability Empowerment Month launch press conference at Stephen Dillett Primary School, Saturday, May 25, 2024 

NASSAU, The Bahamas — Minister of Social Services, Information and Broadcasting, the Hon. Myles LaRoda at the Disability Empowerment Month launch press conference at Stephen Dillett Primary School, Saturday, May 25, 2024 relayed that empowerment of Persons with Disabilities is an initiative that is very intentional in its nature. For too long persons with disabilities have been viewed as objects of charity, of medical interventions for their varying disabilities and requiring social protection.

He addressed the community of Persons with Disabilities, students, volunteers, NGO’s, Disability Affairs Division in the Department of Social Services and the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), and noted that technology facilitates that path to empowerment.

The Bahamas, as a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, upholds that disabled persons are citizens in their own right, capable of making their own decisions, active members of the society, who should be afforded every opportunity to thrive independently.

Minister LaRoda said empowerment of persons with disabilities in society is crucial and requires skills training programs for them with the necessary technological tools — adaptive and assistive devices that will enable the learning and acquisition of such skills.

Following the training and education, there must be job opportunities for persons with disabilities.  He advocated for their inclusion (the law states that for every 100 persons employed, one must be a person with a disability) and thereby empowerment to achieve their fullest potential.

Disability Empowerment Month is the springboard from which initiatives are launched that will empower persons with disabilities and create a pathway towards greater independence for them.

Several initiatives by the government and the NCPD in the recent past have empowering effects:

The 52-week program resulted in 20 persons with disabilities being employed in the private sector and 30 persons in government ministries.

The NCPD launched the AccessAbility Bahamas app using the technology solution for access to current information, one click access to emergency services, bus routes and direct NEMA alerts. Through the APP a  person who may be in the path of a disaster can be located and rescued. Through the APP, Social Services is working to have job listings available in conjunction with the Department of Labour.

Through the  software program called ‘JAWS’, or Job Access with Speech, for the visually impaired, Social Services has trained 10 young persons towards being eligible for jobs.

In remarks, the minister noted technology may be the equalizer for disabled persons and apart from the APP, there have been discussions with the digital transformation unit which resulted in the inclusion of the NCPD’s registration form on My Gateway, also in accessible formats. The web content accessibility guidelines stipulate and define the requirements for designers and developers to improve accessibility for those with disabilities to the website’s content.

The minister noted, through training and education, persons with disabilities who have business ideas and become entrepreneurs should be enabled to reach for their dreams, and in this regard the Ministry is currently in discussion with the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC). 

Encouraging embrace by the community at large, Disability Affairs organized a sensitivity training workshop for the uniformed forces last year.

The minister maintained that empowerment transforms the lives of persons with disabilities, giving the individual the courage also to become a productive citizen no matter what the circumstances.   

DISABILITY EMPOWERMENT MONTH (JUNE) SCHEDULE

  • Saturday 1st June, 6 PM: Expo and Opening Ceremony, Story Porch, Arawak Cay
  • Sunday 9th June, 3 PM: Church Service, Tom Grant Park, Yellow Elder Gardens
  • Monday 17th – Tuesday 18th June, 9 AM: Work Skills and Entrepreneurship Symposium, Stapledon School Auditorium
  • Saturday 22nd June, 12 – 8 PM: Youth Explosion, Collins House Grounds
  • Tuesday 25th June, 6 PM: Toastmasters National Debate on Disability in the Bahamian society
  • Sunday 30th June, 5 PM: Disability Icon Awards, Police Headquarters

(BIS Photos/Anthon Thompson)

Participants at the Disability Empowerment Month event at Stephen Dillett Primary School, Saturday, May 25, 2024