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Disability Act will force amendments to other pieces of legislation

Disability Act will force amendments to other pieces of legislation
MINISTER ORANDO BREWSTER (left) speaking with a stakeholder during the consultation

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Amendments are expected to be made to various pieces of legislation within the overall laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), including the Town and Country Planning Act, when the Disability Act comes into effect. This was pointed out by Dr. Jason Haynes, Deputy Dean for Graduate Studies and Research at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, who is the Consultant working on the drafting of the Disability Act.

Disability Act will force amendments to other pieces of legislation
DR JASON HAYNES, Deputy Dean for Graduate Studies and Research at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus

Responding to concerns by participants at the second consultation on the May 2022 Draft Disability Bill, held on May 6-7 Dr. Haynes gave one example. He pointed out that with this piece of legislation, “it is mandating that the planning department has within one year to review the building code of St. Vincent [and the Grenadines] to make sure that it is fully compatible with the rights of persons with disabilities so that when they are given approval, the requirements would have to be satisfied in accordance with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and in terms of access in particular. “Not just that but the Education Act will be amended as well to remove some of the very outdated language that it uses to describe persons with disabilities or children with disabilities as

such.” He said, “this Act is comprehensive, very comprehensive in nature. It covers all government agencies, because it binds the government, as well as other private bodies that offer public services to persons.”

The Act ensures that all public and private sector institutions offering various forms of service to persons with disabilities would all be obligated in ensuring access to all persons with disabilities.

“There will be a transformation in terms of how things are done. And certainly, I hope that in 10 to 15 years from now, we look back at this and see it as really a defining point in our history in terms of how we relate to persons with disabilities,” Dr. Haynes added.

Meanwhile Minister for Gender Affairs, Youth, Social Development, and the Family, Orando Brewster told the assembled participants, that, “This Act that deals with disability was needed for quite a long time; and I have family or families who have persons with disabilities. And this is one of the pieces of legislation that I am working closely with, because we must get this right here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

In response to a question in Parliament one day prior, on Thursday May 5, 2022 concerning what support programmes are in place for persons with disability to move into employment, the minister pointed out that, “this is a grey area, especially with the employment. I am not saying that there are not other grey areas such as in education, and in housing and so on, but the employment aspect is very troubling.”

Minister Brewster added: “I have had experiences with persons who are disabled coming to me, and they are saying, Minister, I do not need any support that I just go and collect at the end of the month. I need something that would keep me engaged and occupied. And from the ministry, we took the lead in getting some of the persons…with disability to be a part of our YES programming;

the Youth Empowerment Service program.

“But we can only do as much because we need buy-in from the private sector, and not only the government, because this must be done in a holistic manner.”

According to Minister Brewster, “it is not only a government responsibility to take care of persons with disabilities; it is the state’s responsibility and it includes each and every sector within the state.

With housing, we must make housing suitable for persons who are disabled. Some of the areas where persons with disabilities are living, it’s difficult for them in the mornings to just get out of their home to catch a van, and even the transport sector we have to work with them to improve access. For persons who are disabled to get to and from the banks, we have to work with them to make sure that they incorporate persons with disabilities,” Brewster pointed out.

“I am looking forward not only for the act to be crafted and shelved, but I am looking forward to the actual implementation for us to see some of these actions moving. We need to have the action taking place.”

The minister added that when the question was posed in Parliament by the Opposition on May 5, he used the opportunity to update Parliament on the Act. “There is interest there. I think generally there’s a total buy-in not only from us in the government, but the opposition as well.”