Disability policy issues have long been largely ignored by governments. The responsibility for disability affairs usually sits uneasily and without much attention somewhere in either the ministry of health or the ministry of social services. However, disability issues are not strictly health issues, neither are they social protection issues. Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) are members of our society with the same rights, responsibilities and requirements as the able-bodied members of our society. Therefore, policies must be put in place to ensure that they are able to live active, self-sufficient lives in a dignified manner. Therefore, an important element of our development agenda must revolve around our treatment of people with disabilities. Government must consult with and include the inputs of persons with disabilities in all policies relevant to PWDs.
The advancement of PWDs must be treated as a key agenda item and addressed in all national development policies and programmes.
Children with Disabilities should be empowered through greater investments in accessible classrooms, learning aides, software and assistive technology.
PWDs must be catered for in our technical training institutions in order to facilitate their self-development, employability and marketability.
The process for the allocation of monthly disability stipends should be streamlined to make it easier for PWDs to apply for and receive their assistance in a timely manner.
Income tax exemptions and import duty concessions should be provided to the parents and guardians of PWDs to assist them with meeting the costs of assistive devices, medication and caretaker services.
Income tax exemptions and import duty concessions should be provided to employees with disabilities to help them bear the costs of assistive devices and specialized transportation.
Public infrastructure should be retrofitted to make it accessible to PWDs.
Paved sidewalks, ramps and railings should be installed in all areas that are heavily used by pedestrians to make these areas accessible to PWDs.
Hewanorra International Airport should be transformed into a fully accessible airport.
Constituency Councils should be sensitized to ensure that the issues and concerns of PWDs are taken into consideration in all matters at the local government level, particularly with respect to the workings of the disaster preparedness committees. All PWDs must be identified in the communities and adequate provision made for their safe evacuation in the event of a disaster.
Our police officers should be adequately trained so that they may interact effectively and sensitively with PWDs.
PWDs should be given every possible opportunity to develop and explore their sporting talents.
Sporting events should be developed that provide avenues to showcase the talents of athletes with disabilities.
Greater support should be provided to the National Special Olympics and Paralympics teams.
Provision should be made to allow PWDs to find employment in specialized areas of agriculture such as hydroponics, orchid cultivation, urban and peri-urban horticulture.
Saint Lucia should be marketed as an attractive destination for persons with disabilities.
Resorts should be encouraged to retrofit their facilities to incorporate innovative technologies and infrastructure that will allow them to capitalize on the disability tourism market.
Conditions must be created to give youth with disabilities opportunities to have an active and influential voice in national youth affairs.
Youth with disabilities should be included in all national youth events and activities.
We should pass a "Disabilities Act" that enshrines and protects in law the rights of persons with disabilities.
We should ensure that Saint Lucia is represented at all regional and international fora where matters pertinent to PWDs are being discussed.