Considering the needs of persons with disabilities
Writing in the Solomon Times last week, Jeremy Gwao, the journalist with a human touch to his reports, mentioned earlier this year the Pacific Disability Forum (PDF) had said governments should make sure persons with disabilities are protected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The PDF had said it was important that persons with disabilities were seen as exposed and vulnerable to the spread of the disease and were recognized with necessary measures put in place to ensure their inclusion, effective participation, protection and safety concerns addressed in the health response.
The PDF also urged all levels of government, agencies and the private sector to work with disabled peoples’ organisations to make sure that persons with disabilities in particular women, children and young persons with disabilities were not left behind in the COVID-19 response.
When I read a story recently, filed by a reporter after the most recent lockdown in the city, I was concerned that a police officer on duty during the period of lockdown had witnessed several persons apparently suffering from mental disability roaming the streets and it occurred to me then what the Pacific Disability Forum had cautioned.
Some persons with disabilities are known to have been laid off work due to the closure of businesses in Honiara as a consequence of a loss of trade. I think particularly of persons with disabilities caught up in the hospitality trade and the airline business.
Those persons have been particularly hard hit by the loss of their earnings and some have sought to earn a few dollars from selling vegetables but, reportedly, feel discriminated against.
If discrimination against persons with disabilities is a fact, it is regrettable and there is no place for such treatment.
I regard persons with disabilities as specially abled persons and we all should focus on their strengths, instead of weaknesses so that they can enjoy their life like us. They should be given equal opportunities and they don’t need to be treated as different, they want to be treated as equal.
My philosophy is we must help them out but without hurting their dignity. They do not want anything special from us, but only that they should also be treated equally and given opportunities.
In terms of opportunities, I continue to work towards assisting the deaf community and amputees.
I very much hope to be able to help the deaf community access free hearing aids with the generous and kind assistance of the Ear Science Institute in Western Australia.
In respect of amputees still needing rehabilitation with prosthetic limbs, I continue to seek a solution to their needs and am confident help will soon be on the way.
I remain concerned that access to public buildings, offices and shops in Honiara by persons with disabilities needing to use a wheel chair are off limits. I again ask that the situation be remedied by legislation if necessary.
Finally, the Solomon Islands government has brought in measures to give a financial injection to certain sections of the community and businesses to help boost a return to production amidst the Covid-19 crisis, but my plea is not overlook the most vulnerable in society with their special needs.