The Parliamentarian 2018: Issue Four

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HUMAN RIGHTS AND PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES IN THE ANGLOPHONE CARIBBEAN

HUMAN RIGHTS AND PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES IN THE ANGLOPHONE CARIBBEAN

Senator Dr Floyd Morris is the Director

for the University of the West Indies (UWI) Centre for Disability Studies based at Mona, Kingston, Jamaica. He is a former President of the Senate of Jamaica, the first blind person to hold the position. He is a specialist in Political Communication and Disability Studies. His research looks at the inclusion of persons with Disabilities in Jamaican life. He runs an international consultancy, presents a talk radio show and is a member of the National Advisory Board for Persons with Disabilities in Jamaica. He is married to Shelley-Ann, is a sports enthusiast and a deft domino player. His motto is“It is nice to be nice.”

Introduction According to the United Nations (UN), all citizens are entitled to certain inalienable rights and freedoms. These rights and freedoms were enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenants on Human Rights (United Nations, 1948). Persons with disabilities are entitled to these fundamental rights and freedoms as they are human beings (Gill & Schlund-Vials, 2014). However, their rights and freedoms have been violated in countries that have signed and ratified these UN conventions. Countries within the Anglophone Caribbean have signed and ratified the UN Convention that enshrines these fundamental rights and freedoms. As a matter of fact, these countries have gone as far as entrenching these inalienable rights and freedoms in their constitutions. But in spite of this constitutional entrenchment, we are still seeing blatant violation of the indispensable rights and freedoms of certain groups within Caribbean societies. One such group is persons with disabilities. In this article, I will examine the situation of persons with disabilities from a human rights perspective in the Anglophone Caribbean. These are countries that were once subjects of the British Empire and who adopted the British Westminster System. They form the core of the regional body known as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). I will focus on certain fundamental rights and freedoms that are of significant importance to the development of persons with disabilities and examine how

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these rights are being violated in the context of the Anglophone Caribbean. I have populated the article with some suggestions for action. Persons with Disabilities in the Anglophone Caribbean It is estimated that there are approximately 750,000 persons with disabilities living in the Anglophone Caribbean. This is approximately 15% of the population of individuals living within the region. For clarity, the countries within the Anglophone Caribbean include: Jamaica, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Belize and Montserrat. All these countries came out of a certain colonial experience as they were all under British hegemony. They all subscribe to a democratic tradition that has been very rich in the region. They all embrace the inalienable rights and freedoms contained in the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and most recently, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The CRPD In 2006, the UN established a specific treaty to deal with the rights and freedoms of persons with disabilities. The CRPD has not accorded any new rights to persons with disabilities. Neither has it taken away any of the rights articulated in the previous conventions (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2010b). According to the CRPD, its purpose is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal

enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities and to promote respect for their inherent dignity (United Nations, 2006). Since its formation, most countries within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have signed and ratified this global treaty, signalling their commitment to preserving and protecting the rights and freedoms of persons with disabilities (ECLAC, 2017). Regional Support for Human Rights The CARICOM Members (as in Member Countries) have developed their own frameworks for supporting the human rights of persons with disabilities. The Kingston Accord that was formulated in 2004, even though preceding the CRPD, expressed its support for the process that would ultimately lead to the development of this global treaty (MLSS, 2004). Subsequent to the Kingston Accord, Member Countries of CARICOM gathered in Haiti in 2013 and formulated the Declaration of Petion Ville (CARICOM, 2013). This regional roadmap to transform and empower persons with disabilities, also reiterated the government’s commitment to the human rights of persons with disabilities. But what is the reality of the human rights situation of persons with disabilities in the Anglophone Caribbean today? In answering this question, I will examine five fundamental areas that are germane to the sustainable development of persons with disabilities. These are: right to education, right to work and employment, right to information, right to justice and the right to