Disabled Peoples' International North America and the Caribbean
Regional Happenings July 2005
General Elections in the Commonwealth of Dominica
Governmental General Elections were held in the Commonwealth of Dominica on Thursday, 5th May, 2005 and the Dominica Association of Disabled People (DADP) reported it was peaceful and incident free. DADP further confirmed that people with disabilities participated fully in the democratic process, attending the various rallies and conventions, and supported the candidates of their choice.
One candidate with a physical disability, an individual with amputation of the leg, contested a constituency representing the Opposition United Workers Party, but was unsuccessful. Disability related issues did not form any significant part of the campaign and only found a short space in the Opposition Party's manifesto.
Schools, churches and private homes were mainly used as Polling Stations and since most of these were inaccessible, the physically challenged elector was severely handicapped. However, their privacy was not affected in any way whenever they got the opportunities to vote. The Law makes provision for everyone to cast their ballots secretly. In the case of the visually challenged, provisions are made for them to be assisted by a member of their family or friend who has to take an oath of secrecy.
DADP was compelled to respond to some unsavory remarks made by one member of the ruling party who at one of his rallies made a mockery of the opposition candidate who was disabled. The Association called for an apology and this was obtained. The Opposition candidate is not a member of the Association in spite of several invitations.DADP is a non-partisan, non-political organization and works with the “government of the day." People with disabilities are expected to benefit from the Dominica Social Investment Fund established by the ruling party to assist poor and vulnerable groups and who are represented on its Board of Directors. The Association is also looking forward to an increase in its annual subvention.
St. Kitts/Nevis National Assembly stages inclusive fund-raising event
The St. Kitts/Nevis Association of Disabled Persons staged a fund-raising concert dubbed Gospel Night 2005 entitled "An Experience with the King" at the McKnight Community Centre in Basseterre, St. Kitts on Friday, 6th May, 2005 that kicked off at 6:00 p.m. President of the Association, Mr. Zethur R. Henry, was the Master of Ceremonies for the event and Vice President Mr. Rokliffe Bowen gave the opening remarks. Approximately 100 persons including a significant number of non-disabled persons attended the concert that featured the following performances:
-Mrs. Weeks (a person with disabilities)
-Ante Pemberton (singing solo)
-Total Praise (singing group)
-Alexia Stevens (dance solo)
-Shalom Ministry (singing group)
-Daughters of Zion (dance group)
-Three Hebrew Boys (dance group)
-Anointed Harmony (singing group)
-Templites (dance group)
-Divine Praise (dance group)
-Encourager Gospel Outreach Ministry (singing and outreach group)
This was a truly inclusive event with the participation and support of several churches, individuals and the private sector. For example, refreshments were prepared and served by members of different churches, Pastor Lincoln Connor gave monetary and tangible contributions in the form of chairs for the Centre, and companies like RAMS Wholesale, OD Brisbane and Horsford Value Mart made substantial contributions. Pastor Bernard Boland gave some Bible principles about disabled persons being a main focus of Jesus and that they can make a great contribution just like anyone else. Unity Is Strength sound system owned by Mr. Ian Francis provided hi-fi entertainment. There was even a house band named Shalom Ministry. The Encourager Gospel Outreach Ministry is partnering with the Association in its endeavors and the leader, Mr. Rudell Williams is an executive member of the Association.
The Constitution governing the St. Kitts/Nevis Association of Disabled Persons dictates that non-disabled persons are eligible to become executive members; however, it stipulates that a majority of the Board of Directors must be persons with disabilities.
Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) May 2005 Activities
Dis-IT Institute-On 10th-12th May 2005, Dis-IT sponsored the Inclusive Information Technology and Business Success Institute in Disability Studies which was held in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Institute attracted participants from the following sectors: universities (i.e. McGill, University of Calgary, and University of Manitoba), consumer groups (i.e. CCD, Neil Squire Society, and Winnipeg ILRC), government (Industry Canada), business (i.e. Rogers, IDEAL Group) and NGO (Canadian Standards Association). On the first day, the Institute participants examined what is required to create a Canadian information technology industry that is successful and profitable and produces technology that is accessible to and inclusive of people with disabilities. The discussion was led by Dr. Gerard Goggin (University of Queensland, Australia), Kier Martin (Council of Canadians with Disabilities) and Jim Tobias (Inclusive Technologies, USA). Some of the mechanisms that were examined for achieving an inclusive information technology industry were: accessibility standards, regulations, and guidelines. The Institute also provided an opportunity to hear how Australian consumers have been promoting inclusive information technology. Tim Noonan (SoftSpeak Consulting) engagingly related how various organizations have been keeping accessibility on the agenda in Australia. The Institute also provided an opportunity to learn more about the Canadian Standards Association and how it develops standards. Steve Jacobs of the IDEAL Group demonstrated the I Vocalize program, which enabled a number of people situated in various locations throughout Canada to participate in the proceedings of the conference. To learn more about the work of the IDEAL group go to: http://www.ideal-group.org. Gary Birch (Neil Squire Society) and Aldred Neufeldt (University of Calgary) shared some of the realities of what it is like to be a researcher working in the field. They shared some of the difficulties they have experienced as non-industry researchers who want to engage and collaborate with the information technology industry.
Outreach to Colleagues in Australia-On 13th May 2005, CCD participated in a consultation with Dr. Gerard Goggin and Tim Noonan. Gerard and Tim shared some useful links to Australian information: Australian Communications Authority www.aca.org.au, Australian Communications Industry Forum www.acif.org.au, Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (Australia) www.dcita.gov.au, Disability Studies and Research Institute www.dsari.org.au, Gerard Goggin website: www.geraradgoggin.net and www.cccs.uq.edu.au and http://hyptertext.mit.edu.au/~blogs/gerardgoggin, and Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission www.humanrights.gov.au/disability_right.
Health Reform Committee’s New Business-On 28th April 2005, CCD participated in a Provincial Round Table on Public Health Goals for Canada, which was held in St. John’s, Newfoundland. CCD’s Vice Chair Mary Ennis, who Chairs CCD’s Health Reform Committee, attended this event on behalf of CCD. The Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of State (Public Health, Government of Canada) and the Hon. Theresa Oswald, Minister of Healthy Living (Government of Manitoba) are co-chairing a national process to develop goals and objectives to make Canadians a healthier people. Detailed information can be accessed at www.healthycanadians.ca. The process looks at the functions of public health, the determinants of health, and a number of themes, including opportunities for healthy development and learning throughout life; supportive communities and healthy working environments; sustainable, diverse and safe environments; vulnerable populations; supports for personal choices, skills and capacities that enhance health; and an integrated, supportive health system.
Access to Technology Committee-The Committee met on 13 May 2005 to discuss activities for the coming months. The CCD received a Small Projects Grant from the Canadian Center on Disability Studies (CCDS) to undertake research that will assist CCD determine its priorities with respect to the access to technology issue. The outcome of this piece of research could form part of the Committee’s mission. The Committee also works with the Dis-IT research alliance, which is investigating accessible information and communications technology.
In May, 2005, CCD participated in a Provincial Round Table on Public Health Goals for Canada, which was held in St. John’s, Newfoundland. CCD’s Vice Chair, Mary Ennis who Chairs CCD’s Health Reform Committee, attended this event on behalf of CCD. The Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of State (Public Health, Government of Canada) and the Hon. Theresa Oswald, Minister of Healthy Living (Government of Manitoba) are co-chairing a national process to develop goals and objectives to make Canadians a healthier people. Detailed information can be accessed at www.healthycanadians.ca. The process looks at the functions of public health, the determinants of health, and a number of themes, including opportunities for healthy development and learning throughout life; supportive communities and healthy working environments; sustainable, diverse and safe environments; vulnerable populations; supports for personal choices, skills and capacities that enhance health; and an integrated, supportive health system.
Wrapping Up Old Committee Business-CCD is pleased to announce the publication of the research report, “A National Snapshot of Home Support from the Consumer Perspective: Enabling People with Disabilities to Participate in Policy Analysis and Community Development.” This research project was undertaken by Mary Ennis and Kari Krogh, as co-principal investigators.
In this research project, people with disabilities from across Canada described home support as a requirement for reaching their human potential, attaining life goals, and exercising full citizenship. Good quality home support for many meant: consumer control regarding scheduling, location and type of service and well-trained staff who valued consumer expertise. Participants from the Territories described cultural and geographic factors, influencing home supports. Recommendations addressed: assessment and eligibility, regionalization and portability, user fees, appeal mechanisms, staff training, direct funding, unionization and privatization. In brief, recommendations included: broaden eligibility requirements and definition of health, maintain services between and within provinces/territories, abolish user fees, legislate arms-length appeal mechanisms, involve and remunerate consumers in home support worker training, make direct funding programs universally available.
CCD Human Rights Committee-CCD wrote to Prime Minister Paul Martin expressing appreciation for the Government of Canada’s decision to provide significant funding support to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Clare Simpson and Jim Derksen have been working with Museum officials to ensure that the human rights struggles of persons with disabilities are included in the future Museum’s programming.
CCD Transportation Committee-CCD filed its application with the Supreme Court of Canada to appeal the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision in the VIA Rail case. As you may remember, this decision did not uphold the decision of the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) that the 14 barriers in the Renaissance cars were undue obstacles to mobility because there were other options in the VIA network available to people with disabilities. In essence, the Federal Court of Appeal took a “separate but equal” approach to the equality of persons with disabilities. The approach that the Federal Court of Appeal took is similar to saying that women can take the train on Tuesdays but men can take it every day.
One Person/One Fare Issue-The Canadian Transportation Agency held a one-week public hearing in Toronto beginning 30th May, 2005, to investigate CCD’s complaints concerning the cost of domestic air travel
for persons with disabilities who require additional seating to accommodate their disabilities, whether for themselves or for their attendants. Members of the general public were welcome to attend as observers. Complaints were also filed by three individuals are against Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz and WestJet with respect to air fares, and against the Gander International Airport Authority and the Air Transport Association of Canada with respect to airport improvement fees. The issues surrounding the fares and charges levied on persons with disabilities in air travel are long-standing and complex. Throughout the oral hearing, the Agency gathered further information from the applicants, respondents and expert witnesses so it's cold determine if these fares and charges represent undue obstacles to the travel of persons with disabilities and if so, should the Agency order corrective measures. The Agency concluded that a two-stage hearing was required to hear and consider the evidence and to allow the parties themselves adequate time to prepare their positions as well as to challenge the other parties' positions. The second stage of the hearing is likely to be held early in 2006.
The Canadian Transportation Agency is an independent Government of Canada quasi-judicial tribunal. Its mandate includes the responsibility to eliminate undue obstacles to the mobility of persons with disabilities within the federal transportation network. Its mission is to administer transportation legislation, regulations and Government of Canada policies to help achieve an efficient and accessible transportation network.
Trinidad and Tobago Chapter of DPI (TTDPI) facilitates the deaf community
In an effort to give the deaf community in the South Region of Trinidad A Voice of Their Own, the President and 1st Vice President of TTDPI, Mr. George Daniel and Mr. Michael Fraser respectively were invited to the Agape Deaf Centre (ADC) located in Siparia by a group there to preside over the election of officers on Thursday, 12th May 2005. The group also sought the advice of the TTDPI representatives on the operating of the new organization. The elections resulted in the following Interim Executive:
President: Mr. Ian Dhanoolal, Deaf
Vice President: Mr. Shevon Weston, Deaf
Secretary: Ms. Cheryl Maniram, Deaf
Assistant Secretary: Mr. Bryan Rodriguez, Deaf
Treasurer: Ms. Linda Latchman, Deaf
Public Relations Officer: Ms. Nalini Ramlochan, Deaf
Director: Mrs. Olga Anthony, Not disabled
The new interim executive and members of ADC unanimously voted to become a member of TTDPI. This is the first time in Trinidad and Tobago that an organization of persons with hearing impairments and/or deafness has an executive comprised of persons with hearing impairments and/or deafness speaking for the deaf community!
CCD National Council of Representatives Annual General Meeting (AGM) - June 10-12, 2005-CCD said a warm farewell to outgoing Vice Chairperson and Secretary respectively, Henry Peters and Donna Duxbury, and thanked them for their contribution to both the CCD Executive Committee and the CCD National Council of Representatives. Congratulations are being extended to their elected replacements, Margot Brunner-Campbell and Earl Flynn, respectively.
Inter-Organizational Relations-Representatives from the CCD Executive Committee held meetings with representatives from the Canadian Center on Disability Studies (CCDS), the Canadian Association of the Deaf, and the African Canadian Disability Community Association. During these meetings, commitments were made to continue to dialogue on issues of mutual concern and interest.
Citizens with Disabilities Ontario-Stefanie Maranich, representing Citizens with Disabilities Ontario (CWD-O) attended the CCD’s National Council meeting and updated the Council on recent milestones accomplished by this new organization including:
• CWD-O has been formed and has been recruiting members
• It will have a board of 14 persons, drawn from Ontario’s 14 regions
• CWD-O will be working toward the full participation of persons with disabilities in the social, economic and political lives of their communities. The organization will be focusing on community development, social action, social development, referral and membership development.
• Membership recruitment was done at People in Motion, a trade show for people with disabilities.
• CWD-O has developed a newsletter. CCD has been providing some limited support to consumers in Ontario to assist in the development of a provincial cross disability advocacy organization. The Council was very pleased to learn of the progress that is being made.
Youth Roundtable-The National Council decided to hold a Youth Roundtable in the fall. The intent of this roundtable is to identify which issues of concern to youth fall within CCD’s mandate and to ensure inclusion of same; to discuss mechanisms for including youth in CCD’s Committee structure on a consistent and on-going basis. CCD is seeking participation of youth who are informed and knowledgeable about the issues in question.
CCD Conference-The National Council struck a Sub-Committee, consisting of Mary Ennis, John Rae, and Allison Beattie, to look into the feasibility of CCD sponsoring a national conference. Individuals and organizations are asked to forward their ideas to Conference Sub-Committee.
CCD Award Winners-The following are recipients of the 2004-05 CCD Award:
BCCPD — Paul Gauthier
ACCD — Maryetta Thielen, Jonathan Thielen
Saskatchewan Voice — Maurice Bourassa
MLPD — Randy Lindbloom, Mary Ann Carlisle
COPHAN — Louise Saint-Pierre
NS LEO — Claredon Robicheau
PEI Council — Anne Christopher
NNMH — John Collins (Posthumously)
TVAC — Jocelyn Bergeron
People First — Richard Ruston
AEBC — Beryl Williams
NWT Council — Cornelius Van Dyke
CCD Committee Chairpersons-The following CCD Committee Chairpersons were appointed at the Annual General Meeting:
• Kieir Martin: Chairperson of the Access to Technology Committee;
• Mary Ennis: Chairperson of the Health Reform Committee;
• Steve Estey: Chairperson of the International Development Committee;
• Pat Danforth: Chairperson of the Transportation Committee;
• Yvonne Peters: Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee;
• Marie White: Chairperson of the Social Policy Working Group;
Research Activities-CCD is participating in a number of research initiatives in which Dr. Deborah Stienstra is the principal investigator to include the DIS-IT Research project, the Vulnerable Persons and End of Life Issues research project, and the Research Cluster project proposal.
DIS IT-This is a three year project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). CCD is a major partner in DIS IT. The DIS-IT partners come from government, industry, service providers, academia and the community. The four focus areas are workplace accommodation, e-learning, e-democracy, and retail and public services. CCD has been most involved in the e-democracy stream. One of the activities of the e-democracy stream has been the development of a public policy web site. The CCD/CACL VSI project had begun to develop a web site storing disability public policy documents. At the end of the VSI project, DIS-IT volunteered to taken over the disability public policy web site. A result of this work was the launching of the web site, www.disabilitypolicy.ca. Several disability groups, including CCD, partnered to develop this site. DIS-IT has sponsored two spring institutes for the members of the project and interested people from the community and the general public. Two members of CCD’s Access to Technology Committee participated in the last Institute. In the fall of 2006, there will be a major conference.
VP Net-This is a five year project funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research. The purpose of the project is to create new knowledge that will help to change how palliative
care is delivered and how end of life issues are understood. Jim Derksen is the consumer voice in the research project and he assistant in the policy theme.
Disability Research Cluster Project-The Disability Research Cluster Project developed a proposal that has been submitted to SSHRC. The research areas that this proposal focuses on are law, policy and culture. If this proposal is granted it could significantly increase the amount of research funding that is directed toward public policy research on disability issues.
CCD Human Rights Committee-Yvonne Peters is undertaking a research project which will provide CCD with some insights into how well the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) is serving people with disabilities.
Disability Rights Defense Fund-At the AGM in June 2005, the Council established a Disability Rights Defense Fund for the purpose of raising funds for the advancement of disability rights by test case litigation and endorsed the plan put forward by Jim Derksen that will help CCD become more active in fund raising to build the Defense Fund.
Canadian Museum for Human Rights-Based upon a recommendation from the CCD Human Rights Committee, the CCD National Council decided that CCD would continue to support and engage with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights for the purpose of achieving public profile and education concerning the human rights of persons with disabilities. It was also decided that CCD should collect stories for further research and consideration for submission to the Historica Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The Council also agreed that the following list of 4 stories be given priority for further research, consideration and possible submission to the Historica Foundation and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
CCD Transportation Committee-CCD initiated a complaint to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) regarding the one person one fare issue. The hearing resulted in considerable media attention. For example, a CBC camera crew filmed Steffanie Maranich’s airplane trip from Toronto to Winnipeg to attend the CCD Council Meeting. Some positive media coverage resulted from these initiatives.
CCD International Committee-The CCD International Committee met by conference call on 14 June 2005 to discuss the UN Convention, CIDA, UNESCO and projects being undertaken by other organizations. The UN Convention continues to be a significant priority for the Committee so Committee member Mary Ennis initiated an email consultation regarding how the Convention should address the human rights of women with disabilities. During the conference call meeting, it was reported that NEADS has been considering the contents of the Convention’s article on education and CAILC has been looking at the IL article. Steve Estey and Mary Ennis will be participating in the Ad Hoc meetings at the UN in August. In March, the Committee conducted a consultation on the Convention. The report from this meeting will soon be available on the CCD web site. CCD continues to inform government officials at Foreign Affairs and ODI about our perspective on how the articles of the convention should be drafted. Most recently Committee Chair Steve Estey and, Mary Ennis met with Foreign Affairs on 21 June 2005 in Ottawa. On Sunday, 19 June 2005, Steve Estey did a session on the Convention for the COD Annual General Meeting.
CCD continues to work to have CIDA establish a policy on disability and development. The Committee has been looking at different ways to pressure CIDA to address this long overdue issue. Most recently, the Committee has been holding discussions with the Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Human Rights and Official Development Assistance.
Steven Estey has been working on a request from CIDA’s Mines Action Unit to develop a proposal regarding the mainstreaming of Landmine Victims Assistance programming. On 22 June 2005, Steve Estey and Laurie Beachell met with CIDA officials to discuss the need for a CIDA policy on disability and development and integrating landmine survivors’ assistance into CIDA’s programming.
New Publication Available-Accessibility for All report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities is now available. To read the report, go to http://www.parl.gc.ca.
Executive Director of USICD releases book-After working on a project for two years involving the interviewing of elected and/or appointed people with disabilities in high public positions around the world, Ilene Zeitzer, the Executive Director of the U.S. International Council on Disabilities (USICD), released a book on the project. The project goal was to see if having people with disabilities in positions of governance made any difference in governmental policies, in the perceptions and awareness of their non-disabled peers, etc. Ilene also looked at countries where there were dedicated policy bodies on disability. Called "Change from Within: International Overview of the Impact of Disabled Politicians and Disability Policy Bodies on Governance" the project was funded under a grant to the World on Disability from the U.S., Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. Several of the interviews as well as the analysis were also published in Disability World www.disabilityworld.org > -- the webzine.
USICD prepares its delegates for the next Ad Hoc Committee Meeting-Delegates representing USICD at the next Ad Hoc Committee Working Group Meeting from August 1-12, 2005 will take with them a paper dealing with concepts around the right to work/employment section of the UN International Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities.
USICD hosts high-level delegation-USICD recently hosted a high level delegation of members of the Japanese Parliament, heads of Prefectures that are similar to the States that make up the USA, press and media representatives, and academics -- all organized by their friends at a Japanese NGO called Prop Station. Prop Station was founded about 15 years ago by Nami Takenaka, a mother of a daughter with profound disabilities. Nami saw technology as the way to level the playing field for people with disabilities to get jobs and now through Prop Station she trains hundred of Japanese with disabilities and helps them get work using IT. One of her big supporters is Bill Gates whose Japanese affiliate hires many of her trainees. USICD will have more about the visit on its website www.usicd.org shortly!
Antigua & Barbuda Centre for Dyslexia Awareness (ABCDA) honours founder
On Tuesday, 5th July, 2005 the Antigua & Barbuda Centre for Dyslexia Awareness (ABCDA) honoured one of its founders, Hyacinth Rose-Manners, during a graduation and honour ceremony held at the Jolly Beach Resort. Rose-Manners, a Trinidadian by birth, lived in Antigua for several years, during which time she became interested in the field while seeking help for her dyslexic son. That interest and the interest of other parents and teachers saw the birth of the ABC Dyslexia Awareness in 2000.
Also honoured at the ceremony was educational psychologist Dr. Gianetta Corley, who had played an integral role in the development of the ABCDA, as a tutor on the assessment and teaching of dyslexic persons. Dr. Corley initially began working with the ABCDA in 2002, as a part of a British Executives Overseas (BESO) project.
Twelve students participated in the graduation exercise, having completed certification courses in dyslexia and literacy. The graduates are all teachers at educational institutions in Antigua. The gathering was addressed by the Minister of Education, Hon. Bertrand Joseph, and Cicely Norris, Director of the Organization of American States' (OAS) office in Antigua, which is a major sponsor of the ABCDA.
Roundtable Consultations on the UN Convention for Persons with Disabilities
Replicating the program of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), national assemblies in the Caribbean Region of DPI have begun to stage roundtable consultations on the UN International Convention for Persons with Disabilities in preparation for the ad hoc committee working group meetings next month. CCD held such a consultation in Ottawa in March 2005, and with the help of the CCD human rights expert Steven Estey, a similar program was developed for the national assemblies in the Caribbean Region.
National assemblies will be expected to organize a roundtable meeting with officials from their Ministries/Departments of Foreign Affairs to discuss matters related to the UN Convention. Officials from that branch of government that deals more directly with disability, civil society NGOs and their members should all be invited with a strong emphasis on the Foreign Affairs Ministries/Departments since they are the ones who will most likely be able to attend the meetings in New York. Strategically, almost all countries have an embassy at the United Nations in New York, and if we can educate Foreign Affairs officials at home, they can in turn encourage a greater level of participation by their counterparts at their UN Missions in New York.
The Dominica Association of Disabled People (DADP) was first off the block putting on its Roundtable Consultation on Wednesday, 15th June, 2005 followed by the Barbados National Organization of the Disabled (BARNOD) on Monday, 11th July, 2005. The Combined Disabilities Association (CDA) of Jamaica has earmarked Monday, 18th July, 2005 to be sharply followed by Disabled Persons' Organization (DPO) of the Bahamas on Thursday, 21st July, 2005 to stage their Roundtable Consultations. Other national assemblies are yet to submit their dates to the Regional Office.The outcomes of these Consultations will be published on the DPI North America and the Caribbean web site.
LESSONS TO BE LEARNED
By Senator Rosemond M. Clery (J69BB) Amateur Radio Operator, St. Lucia
Hurricane Ivan, the tormentor of many countries during the 2004 hurricane season left its mark as a classical, long-lived Cape Verde hurricane, reaching Category 5 strength three times on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale (SSHS). It was also the strongest hurricane on record that far south east of the Lesser Antilles. This force of nature besieged everything in its path. Some of the most apparent losses were that of livestock, agriculture and telecommunication devices.
In such a period it is of utmost importance to maintain communication; however, this was made difficult as regular transmissions were interrupted due to the damage caused by the storm, but behind the curtains lay an alternative...…
Amateur radio services provided a reliable alternative at this time as well as during other times of disaster. Stationed watchful in the background, Amateur Radio Operators as they are popularly known worked tirelessly to keep information circulating about the status of the hurricane.
When the dreaded Ivan had taken its leave, the job of the amateur radio operators continued, as they provided a necessary communication link to the world in the absence of regular radio, television, phones and internet access.
Amateur radio operators undertake their duty to serve their country and their region voluntarily and vigilantly. The strength of amateur radio lies not only in the equipment but in the consistency and dedication of the many individuals who have adopted this activity.
As an amateur radio operator, the recent actions taken by the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) of imposing a deadline for the payment of license fees and/or you by Thursday, 30th June, 2005 on (emergency) amateur radio operators were quite unnecessary. Ironically, NTRC had nothing in place earlier this year to accommodate amateur radio operators paying their licenses. Many expressed their displeasure with being asked to return as NTRC had yet to put a system in place for payments of fees. Now, NTRC is advising amateur radio operators that they must pay their fees by Thursday, 30th June 2005 or lose their license to operate.
I pose this question to NTRC. Have reservations been made for individuals with legitimate reasons for being unable to adhere to this deadline? Note for example my current situation. I am out of the island receiving emergency medical attention for 7 weeks and will be returning weeks pass their deadline. Does NTRC expect that I FedEx the money or maybe send it through Western Union to ensure that I am not stripped of my license to operate?
I urge NTRC to seriously consider and weigh the likely outcome of their decisions. In the last few years, there have been no facilities in place for the training and certifying of amateur radio operators. How then are we going to recruit persons to fit into the shoes of individuals who have lost their licenses when there are no facilities whereby interested persons can receive their training? The senior amateur radio operators should be called upon to assist in the recruitment of new operators. By so doing, a feeling of appreciation and importance will be developed within the amateur radio operator’s fraternity. It is important to note that we cannot throw away what we have seen for what we do not know.
In light of an already extraordinarily active 2005 hurricane season with five named storms less than six weeks after the hurricane season officially began, it is a most inopportune time for NTRC to enforce a decision that could lead to the absence of necessary amateur operators during this time. Is it that they have eyes but fail to see the invaluable contribution of amateur radio operators? Do they not realize that amateur radio operators are volunteering their time, money and effort towards providing service to the country? What if the table were turned? What if amateur radio operators decide that they are no longer going to offer their services voluntarily and impose their deadline for prepayments to provide their service?
The issue at hand is not the green bills but the inconsideration of NTRC towards amateur radio operators, the persons who ensure that communication continues when all other means are unavailable. When will NTRC and society appreciate the priceless contribution of amateur radio operators?
It is my view that we need to live by the example set by New Zealand and reward the efforts of the noble persons who are involved in amateur radio. This reward we seek is not of monetary value. The reward we seek is SUPPORT and APPRECIATION for our efforts. New Zealand is one of the first countries that has recognized the importance of this activity and has shown its appreciation by subsidizing the annual fees paid by operators and putting mechanisms in place that allow amateur radio enthusiasts to conveniently access licenses.
I beg of the Caribbean region to take heed! I am not implying that we imitate what happens elsewhere. I am only asking that we come to realize and appreciate amateur radio operations. It is most definitely not encouragement when operators are threatened with losing their licenses that most of them have had for over twenty years (20), if they fail to meet the deadline of NTRC.It is my hope that NTRC has taken heed of the concerns of amateur radio operators and is willing to meet us half way.