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Support for Persons with Disabilities

The Minister and Chief Officer with some of the committee members: standing from L: Roberta Gordon, Minister Anglin, Mrs. Rodrigues, Maxine Everson. Front row, Brent Holt, Annisa Woods.

Minister of Education, Hon. Rolston Anglin and Ministry Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues have pledged the Education Ministry's support for advancing the cause of persons with disabilities, including support for the development of new legislation.

Following briefings and meetings with the Minister and Chief Officer, earlier this month the Planning the Future for Persons with Disabilities in the Cayman Islands Steering Committee and Legal Subcommittee are busily planning the next steps of their work.

Since March 2007, The Planning the Future for Persons with Disabilities Steering Committee has been working on reviewing the present environment persons with disabilities face here in Cayman, developing strategies to improve their lives and to increase their rights. The committee comprises representatives from the Education and Health ministries, practitioners from the Department of Education Services, HSA, Children and Family Services, the Legal Department, along with parents of clients of both Lighthouse School and Sunrise Centre.

From work conducted by the committee, it was evident that for the necessary changes to occur, a comprehensive law for persons with disabilities was essential. As A result, a Legal Subcommittee was formed, to prepare a suggested framework for legislation. The resulting report, Report of the Legal Sub-Committee for Persons with Disabilities, was subsequently laid in the Legislative Assembly in May 2009, and thus made available to the public.

Some of the items on their agenda for the Committee and plans going forward include: the preparation of drafting instructions for new legislation, promotion of the Legal Subcommittee Report to the wider community; receiving public feedback on the report, and looking at policies which can be executed prior to the implementation of the law to improve the lives of our persons with disabilities as soon as possible.

Minister Anglin said he was delighted that this extremely important initiative has taken place and he reiterated his commitment to continuing the work of these committees. He said, "I thank all persons involved for their dedication and hard work in creating this comprehensive and imperative report on the rights of persons with disabilities in our islands.

"After careful review I am anxious to continue this work and take the report forward to the next stages which will involve public review and debate. Persons with disabilities in Cayman have long been pushed into the shadows but through the work of these two committees and the development of this report, there is a much more positive future that our persons with disabilities and their families can look forward to."

Mrs Rodrigues noted that this report is the first of its kind in Cayman for persons with disabilities. "We anticipate that the report will lead the way in helping us to develop much-needed legislation to protect the rights and enhance the quality of life of this important segment of our population.

"With the leadership of the Committee and the support and collaboration of key stakeholders, I am confident that we can make a real difference," she said. Mrs Rodrigues also advised that the committees will strategise on how best to address critical needs for improvements in facilities, and will plan a comprehensive PR campaign.

Ms Mitzi Callan, a parent of a person with disabilities and a member of the Steering Committee and Legal Subcommittee commented on the Minister's support: "I am thrilled that Minister Anglin champions continuing our local work for persons with disabilities. It is so important, not only to the persons themselves, but to their families too. I truly hope that we can move forward in a timely manner and I anticipate continuing my role on these two committees and working with the Ministry of Education on this initiative."

Members of the Steering Committee and Legal Subcommittee include Carla Bodden, Mitzi Callan, Maxine Everson, Cathy Frazier, Roberta Gordon, Brent Holt Kimberly Huggins, Joy Merren, Dawn Rankine, Mary Trumbach, Kimberly Voaden, and Annisa Woods.