Tuesday, August 12, 2014

By Alphea Saunders July 31, 2014

It was a special occasion for 25 very special children on Wednesday, July 30, who have graduated from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security’s Early Stimulation Programme (ESP).

The youngsters, who suffer from various disabilities, were hailed for their achievements, at a valedictory service held at the Apostolic Church of Jamaica in Kingston, which was attended by government ministers, parents, guardians, teachers, therapists, and well-wishers.

Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Derrick Kellier, in congratulating the graduating class of 2014 stated that, “this is a great personal achievement for each of these students….some of them are triumphing over very severe disabilities and challenges. Their success is testament to the fact that children with disabilities can achieve their full potential, given the right assistance”.

He encouraged the children to aim for success when they move on to their new schools, and to become skilled and certified, in order to effectively contribute to the growth of the economy.

Citing the recent passage of the landmark National Disabilities Act in the lower House, which is soon to be ratified by the Senate, Minister Kellier said the children will benefit from the legislation.

“I see very exciting times ahead for these children,” he said, noting that the Act is expected to promote, protect and facilitate full fundamental rights, benefits, privileges, and treatment of persons with disabilities on an equal basis with other persons in all areas, including education and training, employment, political office, healthcare, housing, public transportation, and accessibility in other areas.

“What this means is that going forward, these children can expect to see a huge difference in their lives, because the act unequivocally prohibits any form of discrimination against a person with a disability,” he stated.

The Labour Minister pointed out that the Act stipulates that a person with a disability should not be prevented from being enrolled at, or attend an educational or training institution, whether that institution is public or private.

“Additionally, the education or training institution is required to provide the necessary support to ensure that a person with a disability has the most reasonable access to the education or training provided, and access to the facilities,” he said further.

The ESP, which is an extension of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, is an assessment and early intervention programme for children with disabilities from birth to six years old.

Some of the disabilities include: multi-disabled, intellectually challenged, mental retardation, learning disabilities, impaired-hearing or vision, lacking in language development, the physically challenged, and children with cerebral palsy, down syndrome, and autism.

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