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Island’s disabled look forward to Human Rights Amendment becoming law next month

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Legislation aimed at protecting the rights of disabled people in the workplace will come into effect in the coming weeks.

The Human Rights (Unreasonable Hardship) Amendment Act 2011 will become law on December 3, the UN International Day for Persons with Disabilities.

The legislation makes it more difficult for an employer not to hire an applicant because they are disabled.

It states that a prospective or current employee cannot be dismissed on the grounds of their disability if it is possible to modify the circumstances of their employment to eliminate the effects of the disability without causing unreasonable hardship.

Minister Glenn Blakeney introduced a forum discussion on the amendment yesterday at Cathedral Hall.

He said the legislation will allow those with disabilities a fair opportunity to use their skills and talents.

“This legislation represents a significant step towards promoting the rights of persons with disabilities in the workplace,” Mr Blakeney said.

“The legislation is designed to provide expanded protection for persons with disabilities from discrimination while seeking employment, or while employed.

“The Amendment signals more than legislative protection and adherence, it is an opportunity for us all to do more than what is minimally required to affect change in support of human rights in the workplace.”

Lisa Lister, executive officer of the Human Rights Commission said that it is already illegal to discriminate against persons with disabilities, but the legislation would better lay out the rights of employers and employees.

John Payne, acting manager of the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged (NOSPC), said that in the 2000 Census 2,832 Bermudians listed themselves as disabled.

Many view people with disabilities as being less intelligent, Mr Payne said.

He said that was far from the truth, noting that six percent of all high school honour students suffer from a disability.

The key focus of NOSPC, Mr Payne said, is enabling universal access, not only to buildings, but to jobs, information and opportunities.

Rick Williams, a UK disability and diversity advocate, said that for many people, the issue of disabilities is a difficult one to talk about.

“In a survey, 49 percent of people in the UK said they are frightened of interacting with a person with a disability,” he said. “One-third believe that people in wheelchairs are less intelligent.

“And, just so you know, 27 percent of people believe Seeing Eye dogs can read bus numbers. Before you ask me, no, they can’t.”

He stressed that considering those with disabilities when making decisions could have a huge impact in many aspects of Bermuda life, including the tourism industry.

“How many disabled tourists don’t you get each year?” he asked. “This is not a niche market. It’s a big market. We have a lot of money to spend, not as much as we would like perhaps, but we spend it on people who allow us to spend it.”

He explained that prior to going on trips, he always looked online to see how easy it was for persons with physical disabilities to get around.

“I had a lot of trouble finding information about Bermuda. What I did find wasn’t that positive,” he said. “I think the tourism industry is a very good starting point for you guys.”

Left- Lisa Lister, Rick Williams and John Payne.The Human Rights Commission (HRC) and the National Office for Seniors and Physically Challenged (NOSPC) holded a public forum on the 2011 Unreasonable Hardship Legislation yesterday afternoon at the Cathedral Hall. (Photo by Akil Simmons) November 23,2011
Glenn Blakeney Minister of Youth Affairs & Families.The Human Rights Commission (HRC) and the National Office for Seniors and Physically Challenged (NOSPC) holded a public forum on the 2011 Unreasonable Hardship Legislation yesterday afternoon at the Cathedral Hall. (Photo by Akil Simmons) November 23,2011

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Published November 24, 2011 at 9:10 am (Updated November 24, 2011 at 9:10 am)

Island’s disabled look forward to Human Rights Amendment becoming law next month

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