Disabled Peoples' International North America and the Caribbean

Regional Happenings May 2005

Message from the Regional Development Officer (RDO), Leslie A. Emanuel (Mr.)

The fact that this is the first newsletter emanating from the Regional Office located in Antigua and Barbuda should be cause for celebration.  Instead, it is a moment for deep reflection on the commitment of the member national assemblies firstly, to its constituents, secondly, to its fellow national assemblies and thirdly and most importantly, to the international movement of persons with disabilities.  DPI Happenings is a bi-monthly electronic newsletter showcasing information on events, activities and other news from the Region.  Unfortunately, mostly for the constituents of the national assemblies, no events, activities or news have been published before now.  Why you may ask?  Because while there continues to be a multitude of activity taking place, the information does not get sent to the Regional Office regularly.  So, while this should have been a message of jubilation being issued in January of this year, it is a message of disappointment being released in May.  Disappointment in the lack of commitment shown by national assemblies to relate the events, activities and/or news from within their organization, but also within their country in a timely manner.

But, behind every seemingly dark cloud there is a silver lining!  Activities have taken place and the Regional Office has intuitively gathered what it could.  Because we are playing "catch-up," you will be told about things that took place in 2003 and 2004 leading into 2005.  The activities throughout the period being addressed are somewhat scattered but interesting to include a capacity building project for the region, national assemblies' celebration of the International Day of Disabled Persons (IDDP) and individual national assembly success stories.

Trinidad and Tobago Chapter of DPI (TTDPI) and President receives award

The Trinidad and Tobago Chapter of DPI (TTDPI) led by its President, Mr. George Daniel, blazed the trail for advocacy in the North America and the Caribbean Region by braving health and possible police brutality to lead a 116-day vigil for the equal employment of persons with disabilities.  This historic event not only brought TTDPI to the forefront of the issues facing persons with disabilities in Trinidad and Tobago, but also gave TTDPI an historic first, an "Award of Merit for Community Group or Organization" for making the most significant contribution to community development in 2003.  Additionally, Mr. Daniel received the award for the "Express Individual of the Year for 2003."   TTDPI's strong advocacy in the Trinidad and Tobago society mustered so much support that they are now recognized by the Government and most NGOs to be the voice of persons with disabilities, and their support is consistently sought on a wide-ranging number of issues.  TTDPI were celebrating its 20th anniversary in June 2005.

St. Lucia gets its first Politician with Disabilities

In 2003, Senator Rosemond M. Clery became the newest person with disabilities in the Caribbean to become a politician in their country.  Senator Clery was appointed to the House of Senate shortly after he became the President of the National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities, the National Assembly representing DPI in St. Lucia.

Wearing both hats has given Senator Clery the enviable advantage of being in tune with the problems facing persons with disabilities on the ground and the perfect opportunity to bring it to the Senate floor for action.  For instance, he has been able to lobby for better training of police officers to be sensitive to the needs of persons with disabilities in traffic, better parking accommodations throughout St. Lucia, ramp and elevator pitch a access in a major Government complex and the installation of curb cuts in Castries, St. Lucia, and of articulate importance is the advancement of a Policy for Persons with Disabilities.  A copy of a first draft to go through the House of Representatives in St. Lucia will be made available through the Regional Office as soon as it becomes available.

Sen. Clery was selected to attend a UNIFEM and UNDP Barbados/OECS Gender, Youth and Political Participation Workshop in Antigua and Barbuda.  Sen. Clery was asked to share his experiences from his political involvement in his home country of St. Lucia.  The Workshop took place from April 11-12, 2005.

Regional Capacity Building Project

Funding from the Abilis Foundation facilitated the launching of a capacity building project for the Region in Antigua from January 12-16, 2004 at the Heritage Hotel on the waterfront in downtown St. John's entitled "Networking & Communications: Increasing the Knowledge Base of North America and the Caribbean Region."  Representatives from all 14 national assemblies participated in discussions on the topics of 7 Principles of Universal Design and their Application, Development and Self-Determined Living, Communications, Community-Based Rehabilitation, and Women, Youth and Children with Disabilities as Under-Represented Groups and the UN Convention on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities.  These sessions were sandwiched between council meetings at the beginning and the end of the week.  The Conference was conducted under the theme "Establishing Our Rights, Recognizing Our Diversity."  The session with youth and children was the liveliest because of its interactive nature.

It gave way to a heated discussion on the independence of young persons with disabilities and their right to participate in social activities.  It was chaired by the now RDO accompanied by a social worker from Antigua, Ms. Cindy Price and the Executive Director of the Dominica Association of Disabled People (DADP), Mrs. Nathalie Rolle.  The Conference had three major successful developments:

1.      The launching a regional web site, http://caribbean.dpi.org;

2.      The reviving of the regional women's committee;

3.      The development of a strategic plan to take the region into 2006 with programs and funding.

The capacity building project will continue in the Caribbean region with one or two day meetings in each country involving government officials and civil society NGOs between now and the middle of July 2005 to discuss the implications of the UN Convention for Persons with Disabilities.  This is the perfect setting for regional government officials and NGO representatives who are intending to attend the Sixth Session of the ad hoc committee meetings at the UN Headquarters from August 1-12, 2005 where invaluable information can be disseminated and views on the Convention and Governments role so far and for the future can be aired.

The final report of the capacity building project can be found through this link http://caribbean.dpi.org/regional_pub.htm.

Regional Office

The Regional Office was established immediately following my appointment as RDO on June 1, 2004, and individuals wishing to attend the DPI World Summit that was staged in Winnipeg in September 2004, wasted no time in bombarding the Office with requests for information.  I was able to effectively coordinate applications for scholarships to attend the Summit and to circulate valuable information on the event.  However, shortly after the Summit, the Office experienced severe equipment (computer) difficulties that tremendously hampered its ability to communicate as quickly and efficiently as before.  This equipment difficulty lasted toward the end of 2004 into 2005.  Thankfully, by February 2005 new equipment was installed and the Office jumped back up to near 100% functionality!  The problems surrounding equipment failures also severely limited the composing of proposals to access funding to acquire staff since the North America and the Caribbean Region did not have an intern assigned to it by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) intern program.

Natural Disaster

On 11th September, 2004, Hurricane Ivan devastated the country of Grenada damaging 90% of its housing stock.  No deaths were reported, but facilities housing children and young adults with disabilities were marginally damaged.  Fortunately, they received immediate assistance from HERO International in Antigua and Barbuda and the Barbados Council for the Disabled (BCD) in collaboration with the UNICEF office in Barbados.  The office of the Grenada National Council of the Disabled (GNCD) was also damaged and the Government of Grenada has refurbished the office, but it is not yet back to normal operation.  National assemblies in the Caribbean Region have pledged money to help GNCD bring its office back to near optimal functioning.

The island of Jamaica also received damage from Hurricane Ivan but not nearly as severe as Grenada.  The office of the Combined Disabilities Association (CDA) was not damaged except for telephone lines; however, much of its already meager resources were used to assist persons with disabilities particularly in rural areas.

International Day of Disabled Persons (IDDP)

Following the devastation by Hurricane Ivan to the country of Grenada, the St. Vincent National Society of Persons with disAbilities treated a number of children with disabilities from Grenada to a Christmas celebration in St. Vincent as a part of their IDDP celebrations.

The Barbados National Organization of the Disabled (BARNOD) in collaboration with the Barbados Council for the Disabled (BCD) had several events to celebrate IDDP including Wheelchair Tennis, Accept the Challenge T-shirt promotion with the words "Nothing About Us Without Us", Lunchtime Concert on Friday, 3rd December, 2004, and an Explosion of Talent variety concert.

After staging a successful Annual General Meeting on Saturday 6th November, 2004, the National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) in St. Lucia sent a 28 person delegation comprising mainly of persons with disabilities, and non-disabled persons to join the Dominica Association of Disabled People (DADP) for their 21st Anniversary Celebrations.  President of NCPD, Senator Rosemond M. Clery and Executive Director of NCPD officiated alongside a panel of judges for the DAPD Queen Pageant on Saturday, 27th Nov, 2005.

The other delegates joined members of DADP in electronic and print media interviews.  The ten-day excursion from Friday, 26th November to Sunday, 5th December 2004 was a continuation of an Educational Exchange Programme between the Organizations.  On Friday, 3rd December, the efforts of NCPD were focused on presenting a completed Policy Document on Disability to the Government of St. Lucia to epitomize the Day.  The Organization also used the Day to highlight the contribution of the Government in awarding a portion of land for the construction of NCPD's Headquarters.

Twenty One Years of Self–Advocacy, a Difference for People with Disabilities was the theme under which the Dominica Association of Disabled People (DADP) celebrated his 21st Anniversary.  The Anniversary was observed with a Week of Educational Activities held from November 27 to December 4 2004, and was part of the Association’s programme in observance of International Day for Disabled Persons (IDDP).  The activities to celebrate the milestone were designed to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Highlight the work undertaken on behalf of people with disabilities in Dominica.

  2. Honor the pioneers and benefactors of the movement in Dominica.

  3. Use social events as another means of educating the public on disability issues.

Here is a schedule the activities as they were executed:

Sunday, November 27: The week was officially opened with a Radio Address delivered by Jahcinta Bannis Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Community Development and Gender Affairs.

DADP Queen Pageant: This pageant was the first of its kind in the cut, well some Dominica and attracted national attention.  Six contestants living with varying types of disability participated. They performed under the theme ‘Looking beyond Disability.'  They expressed their creative abilities on stage in three sections off Talent Displayed in singing, drumming, dancing, keyboard pleading, steel pan Playing, and drama, Casual Wear and Evening Wear.  It was a typical Miss Universe like Queen Pageant!

Ms. Cautilda White (wheelchair user) was crowned the first ever Ms. DADP, followed by Rosemund Shillingford (speech and hearing impaired) as First Runner-up, and Rosemund Christopher (totally blind) in third place as Second Runner-up.  A pool of ladies with experience in organizing National Pageants, as well as members of local cultural and dance troupe assisted the Association with the training of the contestants.  The winner and First Runner-up received prize trips to St. Lucia and Antigua respectively compliments Caribbean Ferries and PAZ Travel.

This Pageant has given the Association even greater recognition and was an ‘eye opener’ for many who still do not understand what is meant by ‘Full and Active Participation and Equality in Social Life and Development.'

Sunday, November 28: Eucharistic Celebrations and Opening of Ramp - Members of the DADP and their St. Lucian Guests attended a Church Service at the Fatima Catholic Church Newtown, organized as part of the celebrations. The Official blessing of a ramp then followed. His Excellency Nicholas J. O. Liverpool, President of the Commonwealth of Dominica, cut the ribbon officially declaring Ramp open.  The Church Service was broadcast via the National Radio Station, Dominica Broadcasting Service (DBS Radio).

Monday, November 29: Radio Programmes & Bank Ramp Project - The opening of a parking area for persons with disabilities in its parking lot and a ramp at the entrance of the Agricultural, Industrial and Development (A.I.D.) Bank for hunting its ‘Access to Disabled Persons Project’ or the highlights of that Day.  At the official opening ceremony, two officials of the bank emphasized the importance of creating an accessible physical environment and opportunities for persons with disabilities to live a full and rewarding life.  Nathalie Rolle, DADP’s Executive Director, cut the ribbon to officially declare open the two areas.  A radio programme on the National Radio Station in the Creole language was aired later in the day.

Tuesday, November 30-Thursday, December 2, 2004: Fun days and television programs.  The television programmes were held on Wednesday and Thursday Evenings with panelists from DADP and NCPD highlighting the work of both organizations.   Other Human Rights and disability issues received focus as well.

Friday, December 3: International Day for Disabled Persons: The day began with a Radio Address by the President of the Commonwealth of Dominica His Excellency Nicholas J. O. Liverpool. In his presentation, he referred to the Day’s Theme ‘Nothing About us Without Us’ in the context of the abilities of people with disabilities.  He noted the awareness that the National Association had raised in getting society to focus on their rights and needs.

The public education for the Day continued with a 1˝ hour Radio discussion on the Nation Station Talking Point Programme. Disability related issues, the work of the movement in the region, some of the achievements of twenty-one years of advocating, and the proposed U.N. Convention on the Human Rights of People with Disabilities were the topics covered.

Later people with disabilities assembled at the Botanic Gardens in Roseau where short presentations were made on how they had benefited from being a part of the disability movement. The day ended with a Social Night and entertainment and Karaoke.

DADP was founded on October 26, 1983.

Month of Disability in Barbados

During the Month of Disability in Barbados in May 2005, BCD held its annual fund-raising cruise, the Special Olympics Committee put on a sports day, the Organization of Parents of the Disabled (OPOOD) staged an Articrafts Extravaganza, and The Learning Centre had in-house games.  Additionally, BARNOD conducted visits to three (3) primary schools to speak/interact with the children under its School Outreach Programme.  The MS Society of Barbados, Inc. held its annual week of activities from May 22-28, 2005, which dealt with the topics: Alternative Medicine and MS, Balance and Exercise, MS and Kidney Function and Facing MS as a Family.  The Barbados Blind Cricket Association made a friendly two-match tour to Trinidad and Tobago over the Whit weekend and won both their matches.  Congratulations to our newest cricketers!!  We may have to contract you guys to help out to the Regional Team.

RDO Goes to the World Bank

The Regional Development Officer (RDO) attended the "Alliances for Inclusive Development" training-the- trainers programme staged at the World Bank in Washington, DC from March 16-18, 2005. The workshop was sponsored by the Austrian Trust Fund and external partnership with Light of the World (Austria), and Handicap International; and internally, with the Office of Disability and Development, the Participation and Civil Society Team and other Sectors and Staff of the World Bank.

The programme was created by the Disability and Inclusive Development Team of the Latin American and the Caribbean Region (LAC) of the World Bank with the support of Trust Funds from Japan.  These funds sponsored four (4) individuals from Nicaragua namely, Genaro Perez Merlo, Alma Nubia B Marcenaro, Orlando Octavio S. Amaya and Emma Maria Delgadillo Perez, and four (4) individuals from St. Lucia namely, Lancia Isidore, Carolyn Archibald, Vanessa Joseph-Menal and Raymond Thomas.  86% of the cost of the airfare of the RDO and his Personal Care Assistant (PCA) was sponsored by the Disabled Peoples' International (DPI).  The deficit costs including accommodation and meals were secured from a Company in Antigua by the RDO.

Disability and Development Advisor to the Bank, Ms. Judith E. Heumann highlighted the positive impact Mrs. Rosangela Berman Bieler and herself had on the Institution since they were the first persons with disabilities to be employed by the Bank.  All departments began to learn from the Disability and Development Office what could be potentially missing from various programs.  The RDO was advised by, Fernando Montenegro Torres to send Mrs. Berman Bieler a proposal asking for access the World Bank Global Communications Network that could facilitate videoconferencing and other forms of telecommunication networking for the North America and the Caribbean Region.  If you would like to have a copy of the RDO's report on the activity, feel free to contact the Regional Office using the aforementioned information.

The programme was launched in Latin America in Nicaragua in May 2004 and was launched in the English-speaking Caribbean in St. Lucia with an "Inclusive Education" workshop from April 11-13, 2005 and an "Inclusive Development" workshop on April 14 & 15, 2005.  A report of both events will be made available as soon as copies are sent to the Regional Office.

Consolidating TTDPI's Position

On Friday, 25th March, 2005, the Information Officer of DPI and Regional Chairperson of North America and the Caribbean, Ms. Mary Mitchell, and the RDO, traveled to Trinidad to assist TTDPI to complete a five-year strategic plan, and update and restructure its Constitution.  Saturday, March 26 was spent at the offices of TTDPI working on both documents and confirming plans for an Extraordinary General Meeting that was held on Sunday, March 27, 2005 under the theme The March to Full Citizenship.  The 5 Regions of TTDPI to include North, South, East, Central and Tobago were represented by 106 persons at the meeting to adopt the following resolutions:

 

  1. TTDPI Being the Umbrella Organization for All Differently Abled People in Trinidad and Tobago

  2. The Approval of the Strategic Plan

  3. The Adoption of the New Constitution

  4. Affiliation with the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs (FITUN)

 

The RDO was asked to chair the meeting that was extremely involved with participants raising concerns ranging from the power that TTDPI now wields as the single cross-disability organization in Trinidad and Tobago speaking for persons with disabilities, to the inquiry as to the need for TTDPI to become affiliated with the trade union movement.  All concerns were answered satisfactorily and the resolutions were unanimously adopted!

St. Kitts/Nevis Association of Disabled Persons

After many years of dormancy, the St. Kitts/Nevis Association of Disabled Persons elected a new Board of Executives in May 2005.  This new Board has already begun to seek ways of obtaining funds in country by staging a concert named "Gospel Night 2005, An Experience with the King."  More information about this event and at the initiatives by the national assembly will be published as they come to hand.

Grenada National Council of the Disabled celebrates 20 years!

This May 2005, GNCD celebrates its 20th Anniversary, and they will be executing some exciting events to raise public awareness regarding the accomplishments and challenges of persons living with disabilities in Grenada. One of the events on GNCD's calendar is a public forum to which they have invited delegates from around the Caribbean to attend.  It is hoped that the various challenges facing persons with disabilities in countries throughout the Caribbean will be discussed, as well as the progress that each island nation has made through years of advocacy and empowerment.  The public forum was held on the afternoon of May 25th, 2005; however, GNCD is unable to fund the participation of their Regional brothers and sisters because of the devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan.  The theme for May Month of Awareness is “GNCD: 20 Years of Progress…Pushing toward Equality.”  GNCD is anxious to discuss important issues facing persons with disabilities in the North America and the Caribbean Region, with the hopes of learning from one another, increasing the awareness of the general public, and generating the necessary ideas and momentum for promoting a better quality of life for all persons.  In the absence of representatives being unable to attend this forum, GNCD is investigating the possibility of an inter-island radio connection through which persons can still dialogue concerning the journey of persons with disabilities on various islands.

HIV/AIDS Training and Personal Development Seminar

An historic and groundbreaking HIV/AIDS training and personal development seminar entitled, HIV/AIDS -The Epidemic and Its Impact on Persons with Disabilities, was recently launched by BARNOD Inc., Barbados.  The three (3) part program is being funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) Gender Fund, Canadian High Commission, and the National HIV/AIDS Commission.  The first module focuses on areas of concern to the disabled namely:

  • Conflict resolution

  • Effective communities

  • HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment

  • Goal setting and Protection Under the Law - to lobby for inclusion of persons with disabilities as they fight for their right to have their voices heard for justice within the family circle, peer groups and the wider society

  • Understanding and developing self as persons with disabilities, positive self-image, self-esteem, and motivation towards success;

The second module is a half-day evaluation session, and the third module is the production of a video to highlight the issue of HIV/AIDS and the disabled.  The seminar ran for 6 weeks - 1 day each week - from 5th April to 17th May 2005. The overall project was coordinated by Perro Holloway, Public Relations Officer of BARNOD Inc. and assisted by a team of BARNOD Inc. members.

Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)

On March 18 and 19, 2005, CCD held its groundbreaking roundtable consultation with government officials, NGOs, CSOs and its member organizations to discuss the UN Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities.  Mr. Steven Estey has kindly given consent for his report on this very important event to be adopted and used by the national assemblies in the Caribbean Region to put on any similar roundtable consultation in order to complete the capacity building project for the Region that was launched in Antigua in January 2004 funded by the Abilis Foundation.  The Consultation was held in Ottawa, Canada.

In April 2005, CCD participated in the national conference of a CCD member group, the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians that provided an excellent opportunity to learn about the issues concerning this community and to share with the Members CCD's work on disability related supports and the impact the current political climate has on advancing this agenda.

Jim Derksen, Clare Simpson and Laurie Beachell met with the Minister of Social Development Canada the Hon. Ken Dryden and the Hon. Reg Alcock, President of the Treasury Board on Monday, April 26, 2005 in Winnipeg.  Minister Dryden announced $7,225,608 in funding for action on disability issues.  The announcement included multi-year funding for CCD and provincial cross disability advocacy organizations.  While previously funding was allocated on a yearly basis, this announcement provides funding for three years.

CCD, as part of the 20 Year Anniversary Committee, has been working with other equality seeking groups to mark the 20th anniversary of Section 15, the Equality Rights Section, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, coming into force.  A joint statement made by NGOs including CCD on April 14 2005 states:

'On 17 April 1985, the equality guarantees in Canada’s new Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into force.  “The constitutionalization of this equality guarantee was a huge step for Canada,” said Andree Cote, speaking for the

20th Anniversary Committee, a broad coalition of equality-seeking organizations. Many equality-seeking groups contributed to the wording of this section—through parliamentary hearings—making it a model worldwide for constitutional equality guarantees.  For example, it was one of the first to include a guarantee of equality for persons with disabilities.  This is something to be proud of.

Canadian constitutional case law is recognized as a model around the world because in the early days our courts established that the purpose of Section 15 was not jut to deal with any inequalities in laws, but to dismantle old, entrenched patterns of disadvantage.

Unfortunately, over the last 20 years the promise of the equality guarantee has not been fulfilled—either by governments, for whom it should be a source of primary guidance in their decision-making, or by the courts.  On this anniversary, we want to celebrate the equality guarantee itself and highlight the importance of equality as a fundamental value in our society.  But we also want to urge governments and courts alike, to renew their commitment to substantive equality.

We want the Charter’s equality clause to deliver real results and to affect the lives of the most disadvantaged Canadians in positive ways.  We have been disappointed by governments’ failure to take its constitutional equality obligations seriously and to design consistent steps necessary to address systemic inequality over time.

While there has been some progress since 1985, basic issues, such as access to transportation for people with disabilities, pay equity for women, appropriate recognition of credentials for internationally trained professionals and high rates of poverty for Aboriginal people, single mothers, people of color and people with disabilities remain outstanding and largely ignored.

A simple recent example of government failure to take its equality obligations seriously can be found in VIA Rail’s decision to appeal a ruling by the Canadian Transportation Agency, which would require VIA to improve train access for persons with disabilities.

Moving forward also requires the Supreme Court of Canada to play an active role as a Charter watchdog and to keep government on the equality path.  Many equality-seekers feel betrayed by the McLachlin Court which has often opted for narrow interpretations of the equality guarantee.  Last December, the Court allowed the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to discriminate against its female employees by erasing pay equity payments for a three-year period on the grounds that it was facing a deficit, in effect agreeing that a government could refuse to treat women equally. [CCD intervened in the pay equity case.]Equality-seeking groups say there are ways that governments could show their commitment to equality, including by, improving human rights protections along the lines recommended by Justice LaForest’s panel that reported in 2000, ensuring better access to the courts for disadvantaged Canadians … Another very positive measure would be to extend the Court Challenges Program to cover cases under provincial jurisdiction.

The members of the 20 Years Anniversary Committee are: the African Canadian Legal Clinic, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, EGALE Canada, Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, Poverty and Human Rights Center, Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, National Association of Women and the Law, Charter Committee on Poverty Issues.'

Also in April 2005, the CCD Human Rights Committee and the CCD Transportation Committee carefully studied the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision in CCD’s case regarding the inaccessibility of the VIA’s Renaissance cars.  The advice of administrative law expert Ken Norman was sought by the Human Rights Committee.  After careful deliberation it was decided that CCD would seek leave to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.  David Baker has been retained as counsel and has prepared CCD's affidavit.  CCD has sent out correspondences seeking support from its various member groups and other national disability groups.  The impact of this decision could be far reaching an extremely negative for all collective communities, hence the need for a broad-based support for CCD's vision position and action.