HAVING recently celebrated another International Day for Persons with Disabilities on December 3rd, it is useful to recall the progress made since the last annual observance. According to the World Bank, one billion people or roughly 15% of the world population experience some form of disability, and the prevalence is higher in developing countries like ours. These staggering statistics should prompt us to take significant steps to address that situation in our society. You may observe that many sidewalks in Castries have been smoothed, and ramps now afford wheelchair users a greater degree of comfort when crossing the road. Good progress, but our work is not done until people with disabilities are truly regarded as equals, and not second-class citizens.
This week, I exited a building at Pointe Seraphine and was impressed with its spacious and attractive wheelchair ramp leading to its car park. It was delightful to be using such a facility, and for a few moments, I was transported to my earlier life overseas, where most public buildings have wheelchair ramps to cater to the needs of the mobility impaired. At a workshop earlier that day, I witnessed a right-handed colleague signing the register with his left hand. When I inquired, he cheerfully commented that he was ambidextrous, and able to sign with either hand. Very impressive!
If you recall the news from February this year, of a police officer with a broken neck who wanted to work and needed some technology to help her with her disability, you would recognise that we have much more work to do. As a society, we stand to gain tremendous benefit when we operate alongside people with disabilities whose tremendous daily struggle can serve as a reminder of what we can all accomplish.
As a former governor of a Special Needs school in England, I had the opportunity to observe many students with multiple and profound learning disabilities. These students were supported by several ICT and assistive technology devices to make their daily struggles a little bit easier. In the same way, the wheelchair and computerised voice technology used by the well-known scientist Stephen Hawking, greatly empowers him to make a significant contribution.
When we can finally equip and empower those who face such challenges to operate in a near-normal fashion, then we will have achieved a long-overdue measure of greatness.
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About the Author
Dr.Lyndell St. Ville is an ICT Consultant based in Saint Lucia. His expertise includes systems analysis, design, and business intelligence.