Discrimination is a disease

Publication1

This blog post was co-written by one of my best friends and colleague in Law School, Shaunakaye Peart.

From our experience working with blind and visually impaired students voluntarily at the Salvation Army School for the Blind and the Visually Impaired in Jamaica, we have witnessed the discrimination they face, whether direct or indirectly.

M.C Hobbs (1973) states that, “the message that a child with a disability receives about himself from his environment determines to a large extent his feelings about who he is, what he can do and how he should behave.”[1] B.A Wright (1960) describes the self-concept as a “social looking glass.” In this looking glass, ideas and feelings about the self-emerge largely as a result of interaction with others.[2] Hobbs further states that that “…community attitudes affect self-perception. They also limit the opportunity to associate with others, the extent of one’s mobility and the possibilities of employment.”[3] R.G Baker et al, (1953) stated that “the self-image of persons with disabilities is therefore, more often than not, a reflection of social stereotypes or reactions to them. Rejection, for example, produces inferiority, self-consciousness and fear”[4] H Triandis (1971) argues that “each group of people learns the stereotypes that others have on it and then develops its auto-stereotypes to match it”.[5]

Measures which can be taken to eradicate Disability Discrimination

Journal of Community Eye Health (2003) indicated that “putting the necessary legislation in place will make a significant difference to self-advocacy and in general the attitude of the population. Policy by way of legislation will help to remove some societal barriers, foster greater self-determination within the population of persons with disabilities and very importantly, contribute to the norm of inclusion rather than marginalization.[6]

The National Policy for Persons with Disabilities, approved by the government of Jamaica, provides the basis for the formation of a Disabilities Act of Jamaica states that “while it is recognized that there are times when specific solutions for the unique problems of certain groups are required given the available resources; structures that force any sector of the population to live, move or have their being separately from the rest of the community reinforce attitudes of exclusion and handicap as often happens in the case of persons with disabilities.”[7] A further study on disability in the Caribbean: Rights, Commitments, Statistical Analysis and Monitoring outlines that the United Nations has taken steps to ease social integration for individuals with disabilities by adopting the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, which represented a strong moral and political commitment of Governments to take action to attain equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities.[8]

Hatlen (1996) opines that in order to participate fully within this educational environment students who are blind or visually impaired require instruction in disability-specific or compensatory skills such as Braille literacy skills, assistive technology skills, use of low vision devices, career and life management skills, social interaction skills, independent living and personal management skills and orientation and mobility skills. This disability-specific curriculum for children and youth who are blind or visually impaired is known as the Expanded Core Curriculum[9]. In an article published by G. Manning, “Exodus of Special Education Teachers” (2006)[10] she opines that in Jamaica, “A lack of specially trained teachers is creating a dilemma for institutions catering to children with learning disabilities.

This is just the mere surface of our thoughts on this subject, we will delve more into the Legal Protection offered by the Government of Jamaica, the legal barriers in Jamaica regarding discrimination and we will provide insights from the students which we have helped over the past 4 years at the Salvation Army School for the Blind and the Visually Impaired in Jamaica.

 

N.B: This article is Copyright protected.

[1] Hobbs, M.C. (1973). The future of children categories and their consequences. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

[2] Wright, B.A. (1960). Physical disability: A psychological approach. New York: Harper and BON.

[3] ibid

[4] Barker, R. G., Social Sciences Resource Council, Wright, B.A., Meyerson, L., & Gonick, M.R. (1953). Adjustment to physical handicap and illness: A survey of the social psychology of physique and disability. New York.

[5] Triandis, H., Attitude and Attitude Change, (John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY 1971)

[6]   McGavin, DD Murray Journal of Community Eye Health (2003)

[7] The National Policy for Persons with Disabilities. Retrieved from: http://www.abilitiesfoundation.org.jm/p/DisabilityIssues.htm. Retrieved on: June 4th, 2013.

[8] A further study on disability in the Caribbean: Rights, Commitments, Statistical Analysis and Monitoring. p 40. Retrieved from: http://www.eclac.org/portofspain/publicaciones/xml/2/38242/lcarl237.pdf. Retrieved on: May 29th, 2013.

[9] (Hatlen, 1996; Koenig & Holbrook, 2000) Expanded Core Curriculum

[10] Manning, Gareth “Exodus of special education teachers” Published: Sunday | November 19, 2006

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