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Experts of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Commend Jamaica on Disabilities Act, Asking about Data on Persons with Disabilities and Disaster Preparedness

10 March 2022

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities today concluded its consideration of the initial report of Jamaica on its implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Experts commended Jamaica on the Disabilities Act of 2014, and asked questions about data on persons with disabilities, and measures taken to include persons with disabilities in disaster preparedness.

Committee Experts commended Jamaica on the Disabilities Act in 2014 and the subsequent establishment of the Jamaica National Council for Persons with Disabilities.  A Committee Expert was also interested to know about the voluntary nature of registering persons with disabilities, noting that it was difficult to keep data when registration was voluntary.  What measures were being taken to ensure Jamaica was aware of what was happening to all its persons with disabilities?  Could the delegation describe the measures taken to include persons with disabilities through their representative organizations when it came to disaster and natural risk in Jamaica? How was it ensured that a disaster readiness plan protocol was given to persons with disabilities on time, to ensure they could manage a disaster situation?  Were shelters for persons with disabilities accessible? 

In the ensuing dialogue, the delegation registration of a person with a disability was not mandatory, as that would be an infringement on autonomy and self-determination.  Persons with a disability were required to give consent to the receiving and storage of their personal information, which must be kept in accordance with Jamaica’s Data Protection Act.  The Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities encouraged registration with the Council.  In response to questions about disaster preparedness, the delegation explained that Jamaica had a high exposure to natural disasters including hurricanes, storms, flowing landslides and earthquakes.  Those events regularly impacted the lives of persons with disabilities, and caused the destruction of infrastructure.  In the event of a natural disaster, persons with disabilities were the first to be contacted and receive assistance.  There were challenges in early warning systems, and several attempts had been made to establish technological systems which would allow all people, including deaf people, to communicate with first responders.  While that was not currently in place, there was other assistance provided to persons with disabilities, including shelter, the provision of comfort items, and medical assistance.

Cheryl Spencer, Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations Office at Geneva and head of the delegation, said Jamaica had made significant strides over the review period, implementing several policies to promote the rights of persons with disabilities, including the Disabilities Act of February 2022.  The Act was underpinned by three codes of practices addressing education and training; employment, health care and health facilities; as well as the Disabilities Rights Tribunal to hear and settle cases of breaches of the Act. 

In concluding remarks, Ms. Spencer said no effort would be spared to ensure greater equality of participation and non-discrimination in all spheres of life.  Jamaica would continue to strengthen its public awareness and sensitisation programmes to reduce stigma and discrimination against people with disabilities. 

Samuel Njugana Kabue, Committee Member and Country Co-Rapporteur for Jamaica, commended Jamaica for the Disabilities Act of 2014 and the establishment of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, as well as the Disabilities Rights Tribunal.  He thanked the delegation and said the Committee looked forward to continuing work together, as the journey was not yet complete.

Vivian Fernández de Torrijos, Committee Member and Country Co-Rapporteur for Jamaica, thanked the delegation for their professional responses, calling for the issue of disability to be put on Jamaica’s agenda, with correct data needing to be a priority.

Amalia Gamio, Committee Vice Chair, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue with the Committee, hoping it would assist them in further implementing the Convention.

The delegation of Jamaica consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade; the Ministry of Labour and Social Security; the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities; the Attorney General’s Chambers, the Combined Disabilities Association; the Ministry of Education and Youth; the Child Protection and Family Services Agency; and the Permanent Mission of Jamaica to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

Information relating to the Committee’s session, including reports submitted by States parties, are available here.  The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings will be available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.

The Committee will next meet in public on Friday, 11 March, to begin its consideration of the initial report of Venezuela (CRPD/C/VEN/RQ/1).

Report

The Committee has before it the initial report of Jamaica (CRPD/C/JAM1/Rev.1).

Presentation of the Report

CHERYL SPENCER, Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations Office at Geneva and head of the delegation, said that Jamaica was among the first countries to ratify the Convention in 2007, and the first State in the Caribbean region to have submitted its report, which covered 10 years up to 2017.  That showed the country’s commitment to the progressive realization of the Convention.  Jamaica had made significant strides over the review period, implementing several policies to promote the rights of persons with disabilities, including the Disabilities Act of February 2022.  The Act was underpinned by three codes of practices addressing education and training; employment, health care and health facilities; as well as the Disabilities Rights Tribunal to hear and settle cases of breaches of the Act. 

Ms. Spencer said that during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, the challenges for persons with disabilities varied from isolation to increased health risks and less access to inclusive education and technology, which exacerbated pre-pandemic disability challenges.  Valiant efforts were being made to establish universal social protection measures, to protect the human rights of persons with disabilities.  The Government had introduced several tangible imperatives including COVID care grants; the allocation of funds for the empowerment for persons with disabilities and training programs; modern equipment and software for special education institutions across the island; and the establishment of a Braille and Large Print Unit.  The lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic brought home the need for greater collaboration, greater attention to effective legislation, and the need for improving research and bridging the digital divide.

Jamaica had concentrated efforts toward raising awareness, preventing discrimination, and protecting and promoting the rights of persons with disabilities. The Government, through broadcast media, had made efforts to sensitise the population about issues relating to persons with disabilities.  A plethora of seminars had been held at schools, in private sector organizations, at government agencies and in communities.  Jamaica would continue to actively pursue and heighten efforts through national, regional, and international collaboration, to ensure the full participation of persons with disabilities.

Questions by Committee Experts

SAMUEL KABUE, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Jamaica, noted that while Jamaica had produced the fastest creature on earth in Usain Bolt, it had taken the country 10 years to produce its initial report.  What needed to be done to hasten Jamaica’s pace in terms of the implementation of the Convention?  Jamaica had not eradicated derogatory terms regarding people with psycho-social disabilities; what would be done about that?  There was also an issue regarding the definition of disability.  When did Jamaica intend to align its definition with the human rights model of disability, as in the Convention?   How did Jamaica intend to enhance the participation of persons with disabilities in all matters which related to them, as well as other public matters? 

The Committee was also interested to know about the voluntary nature of registering persons with disabilities, noting that it was difficult to keep data when registration was voluntary.  What measures were being taken to ensure Jamaica was aware of what was happening to all its persons with disabilities?  What was being done to ensure that corporal punishment was eliminated in institutions as well as in the home?  How was Jamaica planning to ensure that persons with disabilities took a lead on raising awareness around measures relating to disability?  The building code which came into effect in 2019 was a very good document, but buildings remained inaccessible.  What was being done to make the entire environment accessible?

VIVIAN FERNÀNDEZ DE TORRIJOS, Committee Member and Country Co-Rapporteur for Jamaica, said she was pleased to see the delegation had a lot of women in it but noted a lack of participation opportunities for women with disabilities in Jamaica.  Jamaica had a maternity act, as well as a property or rights of spouse act, but the laws did not cover women with disabilities.  The State party had said that women participated in boards; could more information and specific data be provided in relation to that?

A Committee Expert asked what measures the delegation was taking to ensure equality between men and women within the Disability Act.  Another Committee Expert asked Jamaica to clarify whether the Disabilities Act from 2014 had taken effect.  Did that mean that the Disabilities Rights Tribunal was in operation?  If not, how were people with disabilities protected from discrimination, including the denial of reasonable accommodation?

Another Committee Expert asked which measures enabled the involvement of those left behind in the National Disability Act of 2014?  Were specific measures being taken to ensure equal access to telecommunication services for deaf, blind and hearing-impaired persons?

A Committee Expert asked if there were any organizations in Jamaica for persons with disabilities that were led by people with intellectual disabilities.  Were people with disabilities involved in providing training about the Convention to the Government?  Were awareness-raising materials about the Convention available in accessible formats?

A Committee Expert noted that violence remained a concern, asking what steps had been taken to ensure the National Shelters Strategy included a physical and communicational provision for persons with disabilities, including women and girls.  What measures had been taken to promote inclusive alternative care instead of institutional settings?  What targeted strategies were in place for de-institutionalisation, with a specific timeframe and budget allocation?  What steps, including budgetary allocations, had been taken to ensure accessibility within the built environment?

A Committee Expert asked which measures Jamaica was taking to fully include women and girls with disabilities in the economic, social, and political life of the nation?  What measures were in place to combat the inequalities being faced by children with disabilities?  What measures were being taken to include the public and the disability community in government awareness-raising campaigns?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said the Disabilities Act was in line with the spirit of the Convention, with the social and human rights model of disability.  A person with a disability had fundamental rights on an equal basis with any other person in society.  The Act made provisions for the right to access training, employment, and health care.  Where those rights were infringed, a complaint could be lodged at the Tribunal.  However, the Tribunal had not yet been triggered, as no complaints had been received since it came into operation in February 2022.  The Disability Act prohibited all forms of discrimination including negative stereotyping.  Various legislation needed to be reviewed to remove offensive language, and Jamaica was committed to that process. 

The delegation said it was important to ensure that persons who were deaf and hard of hearing had provisions for Sign Language to be included in more public communication.  The Disabilities Act was a comprehensive, anti-discriminatory law and legislation in Jamaica was not gender-specific.  Jamaica was in the process of reviewing certain legislation to include a Mental Health Act.  The Government had allocated funds and approved a structure for the Disabilities Rights Tribunal.  Health care providers were obligated to ensure minimum standards were met, so that a range of affordable health services could be accessed. 

Measures were being implemented to remove barriers faced by women and girls.  The board of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities did not have representation by a person with an intellectual disability, but the Jamaica Association on Intellectual Disabilities was represented, and the concerns and issues faced by those persons would be addressed.  A provision was in place whereby persons with disabilities could access assistance from the legal aid clinic, as well as through the mobile justice unit.  The government of Jamaica had ramped up its collaboration with persons with disabilities through the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, to ensure that persons with disabilities participated in producing information that was given to them and the public.  The government had collaborated with media houses with a view to raising awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities, and ensure sensitisation about the issues.  Various seminars and sensitisation sessions had been held in schools, government agencies and communities.  There had been changes in attitudes toward persons with disabilities, based on the most recent perception survey. 

Several measures were being implemented to help children with disabilities.  The Office of the Children’s Advocate aided children who wanted to make a complaint against a relevant authority, which had infringed on their rights and affected their best interests.  A children’s advocate had taken steps to consult with children and their caregivers, ensuring that their roles and functions were implemented in issues affecting them.  The Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities provided grants for children with disabilities to access services.  The Abilities Foundation provided training for persons with disabilities so they could enter the world of work.  Persons who were deaf were provided with a modified curriculum and educational training. 

The Disabilities Act placed emphasis on access to the physical environment, to information and to benefits.  The building code aimed to establish national rules and took into consideration access by persons with disabilities.  There had been challenges, and there were issues relating to sidewalks and other areas, which could become a risk to persons with disabilities.  People who had been affected could lodge a complaint with the Disabilities Rights Tribunal.  Ensuring that persons with disabilities had access to public transport was a challenge in rural areas, and that needed to be improved.  Local authorities were allowed to monitor the progress of building works as necessary.  Failure to construct buildings that were accessible to persons with disabilities allowed for the implementations of sanctions to ensure compliance. 

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert said that while it was positive that work was going on, the rights of persons with disabilities did not need to be delayed for so long.  Could the delegation explain what was being done to ensure the Convention was being adhered to, in ensuring no person was detained against their will?  How many people were in institutions?  Persons with disabilities had difficulties moving around as public transport was not accessible.  What was the government doing to ensure public transport was more available to persons with disabilities, particularly in rural areas? 

A Committee Expert asked whether the delegation could describe the measures taken to include persons with disabilities through their representative organizations when it came to disaster and natural risk in Jamaica.  What measures had been put in place to train members of the judicial community and other government officials to understand disability issues?   Were there any efforts made by the Government to develop assistive devices and aids for persons with disabilities through Government and private sector support?

A Committee Expert asked whether information could be provided about the National Emergency Plan protocol.  How was it ensured that Jamaica’s disaster readiness plan protocol was given to persons with disabilities on time, to ensure they were aware of the protocol and could manage a disaster situation?  Were shelters for persons with disabilities accessible?  How did Jamaica ensure that the Office of Disaster Preparedness and risk management had adequate data on persons with disabilities? 

Another Committee Expert asked whether persons with disabilities had a choice about where and with whom they lived?  Another Committee Expert asked the delegation to provide information about the cases of gender-based violence against women and girls with disabilities, handled within the courts.  Were there any programmes designed to protect persons with disabilities who were victims of gender-based violence, particularly women and girls with intellectual disabilities?

A Committee Expert asked what measures had been adopted to ensure that all health care and services were based on the free and informed consent of persons with disabilities.  In the 2010 report by the Special Rapporteur on Torture, it was indicated that detainees with mental disabilities were forced to sleep on the floor and that the lack of medical attention was damaging to their physical condition.  What steps were being taken to ensure better conditions for persons with disabilities?  How were the multiple forms of sexual discrimination against women and girls with disabilities captured within the harassment policy?  What systems were in place to combat the violence including sexual violence against women and girls? 

A Committee Expert asked which plans were in place to ensure that people with disabilities were in charge of their property and could make decisions on banking and other matters, irrespective of their disabilities?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said the Disabilities Rights Tribunal was operative, however since the Act had come into effect on the 14th of February, no complaints had yet been received to trigger a tribunal hearing. 

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation explained that the Disabilities Rights Tribunal was not yet in effect, as it was in the process of being established.  Registration of a person with a disability was not mandatory as that would be an infringement on autonomy and self-determination.  Persons with a disability were required to give consent to the receiving and storage of their personal information, which must be kept in accordance with Jamaica’s Data Protection Act.  The Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities encouraged registration with the Council, with the Government seeking to bolster social workers, who would be tasked with conducting checks on persons with disabilities.  The delegation said that derogatory terms were used in the Mental Health Act, which was being reviewed, with the view of removing that language. 

Jamaica had a high exposure to natural disasters including hurricanes, storms, flowing landslides and earthquakes.  Those events regularly impacted the lives of persons with disabilities, and caused the destruction of infrastructure.  In the event of a natural disaster, persons with disabilities were the first to be contacted and receive assistance.  There were challenges in early warning systems, and several attempts had been made to establish technological systems which would allow all people, including deaf people, to communicate with first responders.  While that was not currently in place, there was other assistance provided to persons with disabilities, including shelter, the provision of comfort items, and medical assistance. Increasing the number of accessible shelters for people with disabilities was a high priority.  A draft humanitarian assistance policy had been developed to ensure better coordination and response.  Mobile devices and tablets had been used in the distribution of relief supplies. 

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the needs of people with disabilities including food, education, information, and communication technologies had been taken in account.  Partnerships were formed with the public and private sector to provide appropriate responses to the community.  Sign language was provided in all television broadcast announcements from the government regarding COVID-19.  Assistance was provided to help with electricity bills, and a special COVID-19 care grant programme for persons with disabilities was provided over a two-year period, with 8,000 people targeted to receive the benefit.  A partnership was also in place with the United Nations Children’s fund, whereby additional sums were provided to help persons with disabilities.  The government of Jamaica also had an ongoing support system of food packages for vulnerable citizens.

The delegation reaffirmed Jamaica’s commitment to protecting the human rights of all people, including the right to liberty.  A person could be detained pursuant to an application for admission on specific grounds, which included cases where the patient had a mental disorder which required observation or treatment, and detention was in the interest of their health.  The Mental Health Act established a very high threshold for compulsory admission, with the application to be supported by two medical practitioners.  The Act sought to ensure that the patient consented to treatment unless they were in a position where they were unable to give consent.  The clear legislative objective was to protect the person who might have a psycho-social intellectual disability, and might be a danger to themselves or others.  Jamaica’s Constitution expressly protected the right to equality before the law of all people, including those with disabilities.  The Disabilities Act established protection for the legal capacity of persons with disabilities. 

Considerable efforts were made to ensure persons with disabilities had effective access to justice on an equal basis with others.  Special measures could be used in court proceedings, including a witness providing a statement by video recording.  Financial support was provided by the Government for Sign Language interpreters in court for a person who was deaf.  Several court buildings had been retrofitted to ensure accessibility for persons with disabilities.  The Government of Jamaica had provided financial support to legal aid clinics, allowing citizens, including those with disabilities, to access legal services at reduced costs.  The legal aid counsel had launched a mobile justice unit to increase accessibility, providing the opportunity for civil organizations and other groups to specifically request those services.  Police recruits at the national police college received training to build the capacity of recruits in working with people with disabilities. 

The Constitution of Jamaica guaranteed the right of every citizen to be protected from torture, including persons with disabilities.  The Disabilities Act supported that right.  The legislation was not gender-specific and the provisions contained dealt with every person in Jamaica.  In seeking to address gender-based violence, Jamaica had enacted the Sexual Harassment Act, which prohibited sexual harassment in the workplace and institutions, letting workers, students, residents, or patients lodge sexual harassment claims, and prohibiting anyone in a position of authority from sexually harassing them.  Any act of sexual violence committed against a person with disabilities carried an aggravated punishment.  Persons with disabilities were provided the same range of health services as any citizen, and health care providers in breach of that standard had committed discrimination under the Disabilities Act. 

While all government-operated buses provided special seats for persons with disabilities, it was recognized that some passengers had difficulty accessing public vehicles.  A consultant was being procured to draft a code of practice to guide the government on how public vehicles could better accommodate persons with disabilities across Jamaica.  In conjunction with the United Nations Children’s Fund, a strategic framework for de-institutionalization had been developed, with the goal of maintaining children in families.  Over half of all children in child protection systems were living in programmes which included foster care services and family- and reintegration services.  In 2021, empowerment sessions were held for parents on children with disabilities, involving understanding disabilities and the social services available.  The National Housing Trust reserved 5 per cent of its housing stock for persons with disabilities who contributed to the Trust.  Mobility aids were provided via a grant which covered equipment, including technology, canes, crutches, and walkers.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert asked what justice channels had been used in the past for persons with disabilities, prior to the establishment of the Disabilities Tribunal?    Could the delegation provide details on empowerment programmes for parents? There had been complaints that parents were left on their own to deal with their children. 

A Committee Expert expressed concern at the use of new technology during the COVID-19 pandemic, asking if distance learning had been provided for persons of disabilities, and how their needs were otherwise met during the pandemic.

A Committee Expert asked how the State party would ensure that the creation of the Disabilities Rights Tribunal would not reduce the obligations of the other bodies in Jamaica, in compliance with the Convention.

A Committee Expert asked whether the Jamaica Sign Language was adopted as an official language, and if not, what were the current steps for its implementation as such?  It was a key issue for the very basic right to communicate.

A Committee Expert asked the delegation to provide an update the status of Braille as a tool for persons with disabilities.  What were the available grants for parents with disabilities to help them look after their children?  What measures were in place to prevent stigma and discrimination, including ensuring that persons with disabilities had access to sexual and reproductive health care on an equal basis with others?   Could the delegation explain measures to ensure confidentiality at polling booths, including the provision of physical accessibility, and what efforts were made to include deaf persons in the voting process?

A Committee Expert asked which measures were being taken to assist families, particularly mothers with disabilities and women who were caregivers for children with disabilities?  What steps were taken to ensure the programme of health education extended to rural areas?  What efforts were being made toward equal rights to financial services for persons with disabilities, including loans to improve entrepreneurship?  Could the Committee be updated on provisions for reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace, and steps taken to increase the number of persons with disabilities in the open labour market?  What steps had been taken to repeal discriminative provisions and laws?

A Committee Expert asked about legislative measures and positive actions taken by the State party to guarantee access to general education for children with disabilities.  Which measures were taken to ensure access to quality and inclusive vocational education in Jamaica?

A Committee Expert noted the challenges acknowledged by the Government on collecting statistics around persons with disabilities, asking how the information gathered through the national census was being used?  Was there an inconsistency in having the national population database framed around seven impairment types, while the 2014 Disabilities Act identified only four categories?

Another Committee Expert asked for information to be provided about the disability inclusion strategy of the 2030 Jamaica Development Plan. 

A Committee Expert noted that the Jamaican Government had pledged to create a national human rights institution.  Was the Government still working on that?

Another Committee Expert noted that social disruption caused by the pandemic was greater than that caused by a natural disaster, asking the delegation if there was any effective or disaggregated data collection on COVID-19.

A Committee Expert asked the delegation to inform the Committee about measures being taken to ensure that Web sites which gave public information remained accessible to persons with disabilities, particularly those with a visual impairment.  People who had children with high needs had many financial problems, particularly in rural areas; what was the Government doing to address those concerns?  Parents had to delay sending their children to school.  Was the Government aware of that? What steps were being taken to enable parents to send their children to school on time?

Responses by the Delegation

In response to questions about the training of young police recruits, which had not been completed in the past two years, the delegation explained that training had been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  It was also limited due to the disability sensitivity training being carried out based on request.  To mitigate that issue, there were plans for the training to be carried out as part of all orientation training for new recruits.  Prior to the Disabilities Act, a person with a disability who believed they were unjustly terminated would have needed to seek retribution through the courts.  Now, persons with disabilities were given another mechanism for redress in a tribunal specially designed to determine their complaints.  A policy development specialist was being recruited to provide technical and policy information for the code of practice for public passenger vehicles, to ensure persons with disabilities were not discriminated against.  Recommendations were being made for the Government to include a percentage of wheelchair accessible buses in each fleet, some of which would be dispatched to rural parishes. 

In 2021, the Child Protection Agency had facilitated empowerment programmes for the parents of children with disabilities, giving parents a better understanding of the disabilities of their children and how to manage them.  Resources and support were available to assist parents of children with disabilities.  Generally, persons with disabilities who were institutionalised were either children who had been abandoned, or children whose parents had died.  An initiative by the Government was in place to provide social housing for vulnerable persons in Jamaica. 

On the topic of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jamaica had taken measures to ensure distance learning for children with disabilities, with instruction provided through radio and television media.  A YouTube channel had been created to provide sensory training and strategies for parents.  Devices uploaded with resources and relevant apps were provided to over 600 children island-wide. 

The Disabilities Rights Tribunal would not reduce the responsibility of other courts to uphold the rights of persons with disabilities.  Instead, it was another avenue for persons with disabilities to seek redress.  Jamaica’s sign language was acknowledged as an official language used by the deaf community, providing the most reasonable means to access instructions for persons with disabilities.  Through the United Nations Children’s Fund, a Jamaican Sign Language curriculum was developed and used throughout specific schools island-wide. 

Adults with disabilities were allowed to adopt children and were provided with financial and supervisory support.  Several grants were available for persons with disabilities, including the economic empowerment grant, support for school fees and books, assistive aids and prescriptive and medical assistance.  Although not all health facilities were fully accessible in Jamaica, accessibility audits were carried out, with new centres required to be compliant with the Building Code.  Measures were in place to ensure persons with disabilities had access to courts to seek redress.  All persons were entitled to be registered to vote, including persons with disabilities.  Efforts were being made to ensure the availability of sign language interpreters at polling booths. 

The delegation emphasised Jamaica’s commitment to ensuring that persons with disabilities were afforded equal opportunities to participate in cultural, recreational and leisure activities.  The government of Jamaica was working on further amendments to the Copyright Act to expand and strengthen access to public works for those who were blind and deaf.  Measures were being taken to include the provision of support services to assist families, including mothers of children with disabilities, including a conditional cash transfer program called PATH which was non-contributory and provided social assistance to those below the poverty line.  More than 14,000 families with persons with disabilities were on the PATH program.  The Ministry of Education was formalising a school-to-work transition programme for children with disabilities, which was being funded by the United Nations Children’s Fund.  An Early Stimulation Program serviced more than 3000 children with disabilities and their families across the island. 

In response to questions about measures taken to ensure inclusive education, the delegation explained that three teachers colleges offered training at Bachelor level and one at Master level in teaching children with disabilities.  Disaggregated data on persons with disabilities remained a challenge, but the government was committed to addressing those shortcomings.  The Government relied on information from the national census decision-making; it was also used for identifying the number of persons with disabilities in Jamaica.  There was a need for more data collection about persons with disabilities to capture information not provided in the census.  The Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities would be the key coordinating mechanism for all issues involving disabilities.  It had a user-friendly Web site which had resulted in increased awareness around persons with disabilities.  That Council would see an increase in staff to an approved structure of 72 posts, which would bolster the capacity of the team to provide island-wide services. 

Follow-up Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert asked about education, noting that primary care and early childhood had been emphasized in discussions, with no information provided about university education for young people in Jamaica.  How many people with disabilities were included in university-level education in Jamaica? 

A Committee Expert asked what plans existed to roll out the Early Stimulation Programme, as it only existed in 4 of the 14 parishes, with many parents in rural areas unaware of the programme.  How would the Government roll it out, so it could assist everyone in the country?  How did the Government intend to identify more persons with disabilities than those registered by the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities?

A Committee Expert asked whether the Jamaican education system considered the issues of children with disabilities, and if so, what resources were available to ensure that inclusive education was systematic?  What measures were taken for persons with disabilities who were on the autism spectrum? 

A Committee Expert asked about information on the number of women with disabilities at all government levels, Parliament and decision-making bodies.  What efforts were being made to encourage those people to put themselves forward for those positions?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that early childhood and primary education were usually emphasised for persons with disabilities, as those people often couldn’t attain a certain level of education, due to a low level of childhood education.  There were persons with disabilities at the tertiary level in Jamaica.  They had access to grants and were provided with Sign Language interpretation.  The Early Stimulation Programme was active in four parishes, and with the acquisition of three mobile units, an increase had been seen in the number of students with disabilities using the programme. 

The delegation addressed the topic of women with disabilities in politics and what was being done to ensure their engagement, saying that only one person with a disability was in the Senate, and that was a male.  It was an area which could be encouraged further.  The Disability Council made provisions for voluntary registration of persons with disabilities, in a confidential register.  Programmes were available outside the Council, which persons who did not want to be registered could access.  Several educational institutions facilitated persons with autism across the spectrum.

Closing Remarks

CHERYL SPENCER, Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations Office at Geneva and head of the delegation, expressed appreciation to the Committee for the constructive dialogue which had proved valuable as Jamaica moved to ensure the implementation of the Disabilities Act, and realisation of the Convention.  No effort would be spared to ensure greater equality of participation and non-discrimination in all spheres of life.  Jamaica would continue to strengthen its public awareness and sensitisation programmes to reduce stigma and discrimination against people with disabilities.  Jamaica remained proud of the Disabilities Act of 2014 and was convinced that the full implementation of its provisions would result in the protection and promotion of the rights of all persons with disabilities.

SAMUEL NJUGANA KABUE, Committee Member and Country Co-Rapporteur for Jamaica, commended Jamaica for the Disabilities Act of 2014 and the establishment of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, as well as the Disabilities Rights Tribunal.  Several issues needed to be addressed, including legislation which still used derogatory terms in reference to persons with disabilities; the operationalisation of the Disabilities Rights Tribunal; awareness-raising on disability matters jointly with organizations of and for persons with disabilities; the need for accessible transport, especially in rural areas; and putting in place a timeline for transition from segregated to inclusive education.  He thanked the delegation and said the Committee looked forward to continuing work together, as the journey was not yet complete.

VIVIAN FERNÁNDEZ DE TORRIJOS, Committee Member and Country Co-Rapporteur for Jamaica, thanked the delegation for their professional responses, calling for the issue of disability to be put on Jamaica’s agenda, with correct data needing to be a priority.  The State must intensify campaigns on the human rights of people with disabilities, including in rural areas.  Support for families and true inclusion was also vital. 

AMALIA GAMIO, Committee Vice Chair, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue with the Committee, hoping it would assist them in further implementing the Convention.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2022/03/experts-committee-rights-persons-disabilities-commend-jamaica