Living with disabilities should not prevent one from attaining the highest possible quality of life and making a contribution towards their nation’s social, economic and political development.
With this in mind, a major meeting, the ‘I AM ABLE’ Conference, will convene in Antigua and Barbuda in early December 2017.
It will seek to address the marginalization and discrimination of persons with disabilities (PWD) and to offer solutions that will breathe life and momentum into the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
The Minister of Health & the Environment, Hon. Molwyn Joseph, is of the view that when society looks at people with disabilities, it does not look past the physical to see the abilities. “We need to create an awareness where we view people with disabilities as having the potential to be productive in society.”
The Minister noted that his government recently passed legislation focussing on persons living with disabilities and one provision is that of equal opportunity for employment.
He said the conference must send a clear message for society to focus more on ability than disability and for the need to see persons with disabilities as equals. “History,” he reminded, “is filled with great minds and outstanding achievers who were also persons with disabilities.”
The ‘I AM ABLE’ Conference takes place Monday, December 4th to Wednesday, December 6th, 2017, at the St. James’s Club.
The Conference will attract local, regional and international participants and will focus on four main areas that will benefit Persons with Disabilities – Education, Employment, Political Participation and Health.
The three-day capacity building and public awareness campaign will aim to create a roadmap for promoting, protecting and monitoring the rights of Persons with Disabilities, especially those of young people with disabilities.
The ‘I Am Able’ Conference is being organized by the Ministry of Health & the Environment, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the Ministry of Social Transformation and Public Education in conjunction with the Antigua and Barbuda High Commission and the Commonwealth Youth Council.
The ‘I Am Able’ concept originated with the Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC) and the initial project was launched on December 3rd, 2016, International Day for Persons with Disabilities, seeking to contribute towards a more inclusive society by promoting the rights of persons with disabilities.
As a result of the advocacy of Ambassador Karen – Mae Hill, the Antigua and Barbuda High Commission in London is partnering with the Commonwealth Youth Council and the various government ministries in Antigua and Barbuda to localize the ‘I Am Able’ project.
The Commonwealth Youth Council will hold a Youth Forum at the Antigua State College on December 1st, just prior to the start of the ‘I Am Able’ Conference.
It is estimated that at least ten percent of Antigua and Barbuda’s population currently live with some form of disability.
Many of them experience high levels of poverty, vulnerability and discrimination. This is due to several factors including lack of family support and abandonment, unemployment due to discrimination and/or health issues, poor quality housing and susceptibility to theft, intrusion and abuse and the unavailability of effective and inclusive PWD services such as special education programmes.