‘No limits, no barriers’ message on international day for those with disabilities
“We each have a special role to play in life. Please don't doubt yours.”The occasion was marked with songs, poetry and rousing speeches on how Bermuda needs to become a more inclusive society.
That was the message to those suffering physical and mental challenges, as Bermuda marked the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities yesterday.
The urge came during a speech by Sia Castle, of WindReach Bermuda, who is paralysed from the waist down. She recently represented Bermuda in archery at the Desert Challenge Games in Arizona.
She explained to a crowd gathered for a ceremony at Par-la-Ville Park in Hamilton that the day “provides an opportunity to mobilise action to achieve the goal of full and equal enjoyment of human rights and participation in society by persons with disabilities”.
Health Minister Zane DeSilva told those assembled: “There are perceptions in our community regarding a person with a disability, and these people are labelled in a manner that does not do justice to their abilities.”
He acknowledged that, unlike many countries, Bermuda does not have legislation that specifically addresses persons with disabilities.
However, he said the Ministry has been addressing the impact of the built environment on those with physical challenges. Meanwhile the Ministry of Education has been supporting children to participate in mainstream education.
“Given Bermuda's scarce resources especially human resources it is essential that we ensure that all of our people can make a contribution to society. We must not limit ourselves by putting barriers and restrictions in front of people. What we must do is to strive towards inclusion for all,” he said.
His message was echoed by Lisa Lister, executive officer of the Human Rights Commission, who was born with the condition spinal muscular atrophy. It impedes her ability to walk, but has never inhibited her from achieving her goals.
She is a PATI-certified SCUBA diver, enjoys horse riding and has two children, Jalen, ten, and Mia, eight. She used to be a cheerleader too.
Ms Lister said in a speech that people with disabilities achieve their goals through steadfast perseverance.
“This ultimately requires setting goals, committing to working hard and always going the extra mile wherever possible,” she explained. “A can-do attitude coupled with a positive spirit certainly goes a long way to beating the odds and achieving what seems to be the impossible.”
Ms Lister said while many people with disabilities are gainfully employed in the public and private sectors, initiatives are needed to increase these opportunities further.
Speaking afterwards, she told
The Royal Gazette: “I try to overcome barriers with my attitude but it's insufficient as a society to consider that all persons with disabilities must have a can do attitude. We as a society must use our influence to ensure equality.”
She would ultimately like to see a legislative framework in place to address ongoing inequalities.
Speaking of the challenges people with disabilities face when travelling about the Island, she added: “We can visibly see some improvements within Bermuda, in particular within the city limits, in terms of the built environment, but it's still slow progress.”