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Minister planning disability rights legislation

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A government minister said she was passionate about equality for people with disabilities.

Tinée Furbert, the Minister of Social Development and Seniors, added that she planned to work towards legislation that would enshrine legal rights related on access and employment.

She said: “There is definitely a passion — I really would like to make sure that we are addressing disability in Bermuda by making sure that we are establishing equity and equality for persons with disabilities.

“I’m looking to definitely start on the track of a disability Act for Bermuda.”

Ms Furbert explained: “Right now we are doing a lot of background information.

“When we study other small state jurisdictions, the path that they have normally taken is to make sure that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been extended to their country.”

She added that a request was submitted to the Governor about two weeks ago for the convention to be extended to Bermuda.

It was pledged in the 2020 Throne Speech that the Government would seek the extension of the convention to the island, “reaffirming that all persons, irrespective of their type of disability, must enjoy fundamental human rights and freedoms”.

Ms Furbert said: “Bermuda has the Human Rights Act which provides a protection against discrimination.

“It’s a very solid Act and actually what we have found is that disability acts tend to pull different acts together to make it one, but where the issues lie is the actual protections for persons.”

She highlighted that, as an example, if someone with a mobility problem was unable to get into a building, legislation would not necessarily mean that a service provider would have to move to a different, more accessible building.

Ms Furbert added: “What it means is that if somebody wants to be able to use your service, what are you doing to make sure that they have access to your product, to your services?

“That could be creating a platform online, that could mean you have a couple of steps and you just need a portable ramp so that they can get into the facility.

“That could mean when they want to see you, you have to change a location or meet them at a location that is accessible.

“So that’s what it means, how are we creating equity and fairness so that persons with disabilities can access a service?”

Ms Furbert added that “the other big area” was employment.

She said: “Employment is a tough one because we see discrimination with employment with able-bodied persons.”

Ms Furbert added it was important to make sure there were protections for people with disabilities to be “at least given a fair chance” if they could perform at the same competence level as an able-bodied individual.

She highlighted that the Progressive Labour Party administration earlier introduced payroll tax relief for employers who hired people with disabilities.

She added: “That was an incentive to look at persons with disabilities a little bit differently.”

Tinée Furbert, the Minister of Social Development and Seniors, kicked off the International Day of People with Disabilities in 2020 (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Ms Furbert said last November that work had started on the development a register of people with disabilities.

Ms Furbert explained this month: “The last information that was collected on disability in Bermuda was a 2010 census, so I’m sure we would find today that our numbers look a lot different than they did in 2010.”

She added: “With the register we will be able to collect a little bit more information as it relates to sex, more demographics — race, age, names, where they live, and keeping that information confidential - then what sorts of services they have access to or would like to have access to.

“Getting that information will help us to plan a little bit better as it relates to policy.”

Ms Furbert said that a forum about disability, equity and equality — held yesterday — was expected to be among several held this year “to create an awareness of persons with disabilities”.

She said that some people look at disabled people and “think they’re not capable of doing anything, but that is untrue”.

Ms Furbert added that it was important to "get away from that narrative“ so that employers were more likely to ”embrace“ disabled people.

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Published February 19, 2022 at 7:50 am (Updated February 19, 2022 at 7:50 am)

Minister planning disability rights legislation

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