Addressing the public on the occasion of International Day of People with Disability which is commemorated annually on 3rd December, Minister Liburd said that persons with disabilities likely suffer “high rates of unemployment and often lack access to adequate education and health care.” She further explained that “in many societies, there are simply no provisions made for this group and they end up living in isolation, disconnected from their own societies.”
Liburd explained that her Ministry notes the “negative impacts” which these trends can have and as such, her Ministry has pledged to continue working with the local chapter of the Association of Persons Living with Disabilities. She also outlined a number of initiatives which her Ministry has intention of implementing.
“In the long-term, we are committed to integrating their needs into our national millennium development goals agendas. The spectrum of portfolios which I currently have the honour of managing is well positioned to achieve this given the range of services being offered. It is however necessary for us to better utilize resources to make a difference in the lives of persons living with disabilities.
“Most recently being mindful of our responsibility to create the appropriate enabling environment for persons with disabilities to enjoy a better standard of living, the ministry lobbied successfully for a number of items to be zero rated under the VAT legislation. This is intended to provide affordable access to a number of basic pieces of equipment required to further their integration in all aspects of national endeavours. We will continue to monitor this initiative so that our ministry can work with the Ministry of Finance to ensure that persons with disabilities receive the intended benefits”.
The Health Minister informed that another facet of her ministry’s efforts involved an ongoing partnership with a local non-governmental organization, Caribbean Foundation for Children, in conjunction with the USA-based Starkey Hearing Foundation “to provide state-of-the-art hearing aids for 130 citizens of St. Kitts Nevis.”
It is necessary, the Minister explained, for the people of St. Kitts and Nevis to “pledge to keep the promise of the goals alive in the community of persons with disabilities. We must take collective and individual actions to include them, not only as beneficiaries, but as valued agents of change in our five-year push to reach these goals by the internationally agreed deadline of 2015.”