Executive Director Leslie Emanuel

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – A global rise in the number of persons with disabilities is being reflected in a similar trend in Antigua & Barbuda.

That is according to President of the Antigua & Barbuda Association of Persons with Disabilities Bernard Warner, who said despite the absence of statistics, that the rise is plain to see.

Warner, who also works as a community development officer in the Ministry of Social Transformation, said he has witnessed the increase through that role.

“As I go about my business day-to-day, I will meet up with so many new faces of persons who acquire disabilities in Antigua & Barbuda,” Warner said.

A joint World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Bank report released in June this year, said that about 15 per cent of the world’s population – some 785 million people – has a significant physical or mental disability, including about five per cent of children.

Executive director of Disabled Peoples International (DPI) Leslie Emmanuel, who’s responsible for the Caribbean and North America, said the new statistics represent a 15 per cent rise.

Emmanuel said the UN has “adjusted the percentage of persons with disabilities around the world from 10 per cent, which was a long-standing number used coming out of the decade of 1981/1982 upwards to 15 per cent … so it is recognised that disabilities is on the rise.”

Warner said he hopes to prove that Antigua & Barbuda has seen a similar increase as part of efforts to pressure the government to fully implement the UN Convention on the Rights of persons with Disabilities.

He urged persons with disabilities to become more involved in the local association, which he said would go a long way towards allowing a quick completion of the data-collection process.

“By coming out, helping us to develop the awareness … (it) will help

ABBAP President Bernard Warner

tremendously in developing the necessary database that will be used to lobby the government to say we have always used the 10 per cent count in Antigua … but it’s not just to say 10 per cent but we can safely say we have 300 in this age category… This type of data needs to be mapped out and to show that it is rising,” Warner said.

With the growing millions living with disabilities across the region and the globe, Emmanuel reiterated the need for government to consider this group in its developmental plans.

He said marginalisation of this vulnerable population would just hamper the fight against poverty. Emmanuel said full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of persons with Disabilities, which is intended as a human rights instrument with an explicit, social development dimension, must remain on the front burner.

“I know governments … are concerned … there is a cost attached to ratifying or implementing the convention… (but) the thought that it’s just a cost is a little short-sighted …” Emmanuel said.

“If that is not done the most significant (millennium development) goal of reducing poverty drastically will not be achieved because persons with disabilities are the poorest of the poor around the world.

“If we are not included in the development processes in our countries, if the convention is not taken seriously and the instruments that it recommends of how society can change and adjust to include us, society itself will not have the improvements and the developments that it should have,” Emmanuel added.

The UN Convention on the Rights of persons with Disabilities adopts a broad categorisation of persons with disabilities and reaffirms that all persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The disabilities run the entire range of impairment, from blindness and limb loss to chronic pain and mental retardation. The problems, especially among older people, are more prevalent in low-income countries than in rich ones.

Emmanuel accused government of dragging its feet to pass legislation to give life to the convention since it signed the document in March 2007.

Meanwhile Warner said the Antigua & Barbuda Association of Persons with Disabilities will be stepping up security after being hit twice by robbers at its headquarters.

He said the robberies, as well as vandalism continue to hinder the establishment of their headquarters. But he said they are no longer underestimating the thieves.

“We recently relooked our strategy and realised we underestimated the thieves. We have looked at putting in the necessary requirements like the burglar bars which we had in mind but due to the financial constraints we weren’t able to accomplish it at the same time and they hit us just one week before we were able to fit the building,” Warner said.