The president of the Antigua and Barbuda Association for Persons with Disabilities says the island’s shelters are not disabled-friendly.
Bernard Warner said the designated shelters do not cater to the needs of the disabled, adding there is no wheelchair access or services for those with impaired vision or hearing.
Warner said since it was announced that the island could be impacted by Hurricane Irma he has been visiting the homes of disabled persons some of whom have refused to go to shelters, despite their homes not being in the best of shape.
Although Warner is concerned about their safety, he is sympathetic to the fact that the shelters are not equipped to accommodate the disabled.
“I have been to at least 30 homes so far and I have found that these persons are refusing to leave their homes, so I am not happy with the fact that they refuse to move, but I have some level of empathy for the fact that none of the shelters that I am hearing of is properly accessible and has the various provisions to accommodate persons with disabilities – persons who are paralyzed from the neck down, person who have different challenges,” Warner told Antigua News Room (ANR).
He continued, “The system is very lacking in terms of disaster preparations to ensure that shelters are properly equipped or the shelters that are selected are equipped to accommodate persons who are living with disabilities.”
Warner also expressed concern that people who are hearing impaired cannot be properly informed about the hurricane via state media because there is no one doing sign language.
He told ANR these people matter too, and should be made aware of all the necessary, important information associated with the storm.
That service was being offered on Antigua Broadcasting Service (ABS) up until two years ago when Cabinet made a decision to make Amarilla Henry’s position redundant.
Henry was the language interpreter (for the hearing impaired) on ABS television for more than 10 years.
“I am not pleased with what I am seeing, first on my list is the fact that there is no sign language interpreter on the visual media ABS to better inform persons who are deaf and hearing impaired about what is taking place with Hurricane Irma.
We have made requests, we have been in dialogue with NODS, I have made this request to the minister and to ABS in the past to ensure that whenever we have these types of storms that persons with disabilities, who are [hearing] impaired, are looked after through sign language,” Warner said.
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Why is no-one in government listening? People with disabilities deserve to be treated with the same respect as an able-bodied person.
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