Deputy Chief Secretary: THA to make space for the disabled

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A Down syndrome model walks the catwalk in a design by The Cloth at the Fashion for Us hosted by the Down Syndrome Family Network at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain. Photo by Angelo Marcelle

THE Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has agreed to include within its working spaces, individuals who have disabilities, Health Secretary Dr Faith BYisrael said.

BYisrael, who is also the Deputy Chief Secretary, made this known as she spoke during the UN World Down Syndrome Day Conference 2023 at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex on Thursday.

She noted that inclusivity is one of the main goals of the administration.

“Unfortunately, the Assembly at this point is not able to make laws, we are talking about nationally, because of limitations in our law-making ability. But we can make policies and in the THA our policy is to be as inclusive as we possibly can.”

She added: “We can all agree it is easy for us to sit around and make these policies but the implementation is where we usually have problems. We are very clear and we understand it will take quite a bit of work to make the changes that are necessary to do exactly what we’re asking.”

Secretary of Education, Research and Technology Zorisha Hackett endorsed the call for inclusivity. Hackett said, “When we say inclusive, do we really mean inclusive?

“When we say inclusive, are we separating Down syndrome from those who are hearing-impaired, from those who are physically disabled, I mean, the reality hit me that as a policymaker, we are just going through the motions.

“I want us to really walk the talk and not just speak these nice-sounding words. I want us to really understand, and to do so we have to go back to the drawing board.”

“An important facet of promoting inclusion in our education system involves integrating children with special, physical needs into mainstream education.

“Therefore, we continue to include physical facilities to aid our students with mobilisation, such as ramps, and then we also are committing to the human resources required to aid these students. The commitment is one that comes from the heart and not just because I am a policymaker.”

The demand for special-education teachers, a speech and language pathologist, physiotherapist and other related disciplines, she said, continues to grow.