CMC: GEORGETOWN, Guyana — The Caribbean Community (Caricom) special rapporteur on disability, Dr Floyd Morris, said yesterday that the novel coronavirus pandemic has caused devastating consequences for individuals across the Caribbean and world, but it has impacted in a significant way, more than others, people with disabilities.

“The crisis has exacerbated old problems that have served to restrict and isolate persons with disabilities from mainstream society. This has been the experience for the majority of persons with disabilities in the Caribbean,” Morris said in a message marking the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD).

Speaking on the theme “Leadership and Participation of Persons with Disabilities Toward an Inclusive, Accessible and Sustainable Post-COVID-19 World,” Morris said notwithstanding the challenges the pandemic has caused persons with disabilities across the Caribbean, “we must dig deep in our inner reserves and face the future with optimism.

“We have to strengthen the resolve that come what may, we are going to continue to advocate for the inclusion, participation and non-discrimination of persons with disabilities in mainstream Caribbean society,” he said.

Morris said that theme to mark the global recognition of IDPD is important, noting that people with disabilities have to become masters of their own destiny and as such, they have to assert themselves and demand participation and inclusion in the post-COVID-19 world.

“The experiences of the pandemic for persons with disabilities in the Caribbean have demonstrated that if we are not included and allowed to participate in the development agenda of the region, further marginalisation of the community will take place.

“Therefore, focus has to be placed on visionary and assertive leadership from members of the community of persons with disabilities, to consistently place on the development agenda, issues that are pertinent to the well-being and advancement of this community in our societies.”

Morris said using the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the Declaration of Petion Ville as a guide, people with disabilities in the Caribbean must demand from their government, greater inclusion, accessibility and a sustainable future in their country.

“In this context, greater inclusion and participation in education and training; increase access to employment opportunities; access to health care; inclusion and participation in the community; accessible transport and public facilities are some of the issues that must be given priority by governments in the region in the post-COVID-19 Caribbean for persons with disabilities.”

He said that at the core of the regional advocacy, there is need to adopt a human rights approach to sustainable development.

“We must ensure that individuals understand that we are human beings and as such; are subject to the fundamental rights and freedoms entrenched in diverse international treaties.