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Government of Saint Lucia

 ADDRESS BY HER EXCELLENCY DAME PEARLETTE LOUISY On the Occasion of the 20th Anniversary of The National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities

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Ladies and Gentlemen,


During the month of September the National Council of and for Persons with disabilities will be observing its twentieth anniversary marking twenty years of service to the island’s disabled community.     This is no mean achievement especially when one acknowledges that many a local initiative has not been able to stand that test of time.   Yet for all this very few of us know about the Council and even less of the many ways in which it has been assisting in enhancing the quality of life of the many disabled people in our midst.   I invite you therefore to give me a few minutes of your time while I share with you the hopes and aspirations of the National Council, its struggles and trials, the pain and hurt of the clients it serves, their feelings of isolation, frustration and disenfranchisement.   If by the end of the month of activities which the Council has organised in observance of this anniversary, we will have become more sensitive to their situation, to their needs and entitlements, then we will be well on our way to helping them live useful productive lives.


Established in 1981 to commemorate the United Nations International Year of the Disabled, the National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities has adopted as its mission the promotion of policies, programmes, practices and procedures for persons with disabilities and the empowerment of the disabled community to achieve equality, independence and economic self-sufficiency.    This mission is based on the premise that each one of us, whatever his physical or mental attributes, has a contribution to make in our community, and therefore every effort has to be made to enable us to make that contribution, however small and limited that contribution may be.   I am sure you will all agree that the more challenged we are, the more difficult it is for us to function.   We need therefore to give especial care and attention to the less able, the more vulnerable among us to help them overcome, or at the very least to deal with, their challenges.    This, after all, is the hallmark of a caring, humane society.    The National Council with its thirteen member organizations is committed to providing for the betterment of its disabled clients, and it begins this process by holding out the hope that they have the ability to overcome their disability.    In fact, the theme for the anniversary activities is precisely this:  “The Ability to Overcome Disability”.     


And indeed members of the public will have an opportunity to see the potential and ability of the disabled in our community and some of the ways they are overcoming their disability, at the week-long Exhibitions which will be mounted at the Vieux-Fort and Castries Town Halls during the course of the month.    Indeed the commendable performance of two of our totally blind students at the recent CXC examinations is a fitting upbeat note on which to begin the celebrations of this anniversary.   To the two young ladies, I extend my personal congratulations and those of the Council, and to the Principal, Staff and students of the schools they attended sincerest thanks for their support and for helping them on the way to overcoming their disability.


From its Head Office at La Toc Road in Castries and its premises in New Dock Lane Vieux-Fort, the Council administers its programmes and provides support to its member organizations island wide.   Its Special Services include the manufacture of mobility aids - wheelchairs, bath chairs, walkers, canes and commodes, to name a few, and of prosthetics for amputees.    On behalf of the Council I would like on this occasion to express deepest gratitude to the Rotary Club of St. Lucia whose sponsorship of the Limbs for Life Project enables amputee clients to get their prosthetics free of charge.   In addition, the Council’s two Field Officers offer referral services and serve as intermediaries between the disabled and other agencies like the Human Services Department of the Ministry of Health, and the Small Enterprise Development Unit; they take care of the sourcing and distribution of food supplies to the disabled poor and indigent; they arrange physiotherapy sessions for the housebound – as so many of our disabled unfortunately are.   The demands and the needs are many; the workers are few; the resources meagre and woefully inadequate.   Thankfully, there have been some encouraging avenues of assistance which have opened up during this last year, and I take the opportunity of this address to thank:

·        The Government for the increase in the annual subvention to the Council;

·        Sandals Golf Resort and Spa for sponsoring the island-wide Walk-a-thon  in January;

·        Che Campeche for the donation of the proceeds of their dramatic production in May;

·        Windward and Leeward Brewery Ltd. for sponsoring the Fund-raising Ting Walk-a-thon in June.

·        The commercial houses that have been making regular donations of food supplies for distribution.                


But all this civic-mindedness and generosity of a few will amount to little unless the general public becomes more sensitive to the situation of the disabled in our communities all over the island, and unless we make a conscious effort to accept them and integrate them into the mainstream society.   We hear accounts of parental insensitivity, neglect and indifference;  of acts of vandalism of the very facilities that provide the more able ones with opportunities for economic self-sufficiency and for overcoming their disabilities.   We hear of the reservations on the part of employers to take even the physically handicapped on their staff;  of the problems of integrating them into the mainstream education system.   We see for ourselves the scant regard that the public displays even towards those who try to make a decent honest living for themselves.   A white cane means so little to some of us;  a guide dog is fair prey to some;  disabled parking spots are not always respected;  severely disabled people are sometimes objects of curiosity to some, even the butt of some of our cruelest jokes.    We do not always appreciate the fact that some of the things that the able-bodied, the sighted among us take for granted are often insurmountable for the disabled.    Crossing the street, for example, accessing public buildings,  casting our ballot in secret at a polling booth. Think upon these and the daily struggles of the disabled, and we will be forced to acknowledge and commend their courage, their tenacity and their forbearance.


September is Sensitisation Month and the National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities looks to your support during their month of Activities.   A society is judged not only by the achievements of the strong, but also by the way in which we care for the weak and the vulnerable.   As Patron of the National Council therefore, I urge and invite you to give much more thought to the way we deal with the disabled among us, and give your support to their efforts at achieving the level of independence and economic self-sufficiency which will enable them to become useful and productive members of our society.   Help them to help themselves to overcome their disability.  And if we stop to think that none of us is immune from disabilities, we will better appreciate the personal and collective responsibility we have to improve our policies, programmes, practices and procedures for the benefit of the disabled community.


I thank you.



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