Charity puts focus on educational opportunity
A charity that campaigns for people with disabilities plans to carry out a review of educational opportunities for differently abled children, it was revealed yesterday.
Sherrie Lynn Lilley, the executive director of Inspire Bermuda, said that pupils could be missing out on the encouragement and skills they need to attend college or university overseas.
Ms Lilley, who is studying for a master’s degree in mental health counselling at Fordham University in New York, added: “How can we advocate for students entering the school system and engaging them, right out of the gate, with some of the things that they may need to be successful, to remove some of the limitations?
“For example, the little bit of research I’ve done already told me that students coming in with disabilities are usually offered functional skills as opposed to the opportunity to earn a regular certificate or diploma with their graduating. So how do we make an assessment of who functional skills really applies to?
“We’re looking at which disabilities are most prevalent, we’re looking at what is the process in place right now, we’re looking at numbers, we’re looking at how the paraeducators are engaged in the classroom.
“So we’re going to do an in-depth, comprehensive, educational analysis right up to the college level.”
She was speaking as the charity prepared to mark its first anniversary yesterday.
Ms Lilley lost her sight to a degenerative disease of the retina, retinitis pigmentosa, and launched Inspire Bermuda to help to create greater opportunities to people with disabilities.
She said that the group wanted to find out where there were gaps and how existing services could be improved.
The mother of five added: “We’re looking to make sure that students have the accommodations that they need — academically, socially, community-wise — to make sure they’re getting an optimal experience with education, so that by the time they get to the end, they have a choice.
“They may still choose to say, I want to do something local, I want to pick up a trade, but we also want to identify students that potentially have the ability to go away and have a higher education.”
Ms Lilley said the charity’s evolution over the past 12 months was “incredible” as it established itself as a pressure group designed to work with service-provision organisations.
Inspire Bermuda’s first anniversary was marked by a gala dinner at Grotto Bay Beach Resort on Saturday night.
Ms Lilley said the charity had a full house for the event, which included the presentation of a lifetime achievement award to Ianthia Wade-Simmons.
The charity also recognised Crystal Holdipp at the ceremony with an award for exceptional achievements in caregiving.
Ms Lilley said she also told guests about “2020 vision” — the charity’s theme for the year ahead — with a focus on how to introduce legislation to protect people with disabilities across all aspects of their lives.
Ms Lilley, who noticed a problem with her sight when she was a pupil at Warwick Academy, explained: “Even if you think of a person that does not have a vulnerability, a disability, there are different components to who we are.
“There’s work — so employment. There’s community — so how do I serve or live or enjoy life in the community? There’s education, which is so key.
“Then there are other aspects which allow all of these things to function, such as technology. How do we make technology accessible to people with disabilities across the spectrum?
“The legislation is going to be very specific to addressing the accommodative needs of people living with disabilities.”
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