“The Cayman Islands observance of this day is important because it serves as a reminder that we need to continuously strive to increase the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of our political, social, economic and cultural lives.”
Premier Hon. Wayne Panton
(CMR) International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) marks the United Nations observance which aims to promote an understanding of and appreciation for disability issues. The goal of this day is also to raise awareness and create changes that support all persons with disabilities living with dignity and participating fully in society.
The United Nations estimates that today, the world population is over 7 billion people and more than one billion people, or approximately 15% of the world’s population, live with some form of disability; 80% live in developing countries.
Aptly reflecting the climate of the ever-evolving pandemic, the 2021 theme for IDPD is “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.”
The National Council for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) supports this theme and understands how difficult navigating through the new “normal” of COVID-19 has been in particular for persons with disabilities.
Recently the Council decided that one of its areas of focus moving forward would be how to more effectively communicate with persons with disabilities in relation to being more aware of inclusive communications for persons with disabilities living in a pandemic environment.
Since March 2020, wearing a mask in public places (and even in private settings around vulnerable individuals including persons with certain disabilities) has become the norm. While proper mask-wearing is an effective public health measure to decrease the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, it also serves as a communication barrier for persons with hearing impairments and older persons whose hearing is diminishing due to age.
Chair of the NCPD Magda Embury said, “The Council is advocating for the use and availability of clear masks in businesses, health services and educational institutions. We ask all businesses, institutions or organizations that interact with the public to consider designating at least one front line person to wear a clear mask to assist those customers or clients who are having difficulty communicating.”
“Alternatively, having clear masks available for staff to use when the situation arises would be immensely helpful to those in the community who have hearing impairments and are struggling to stay safe, but still need people to be able to communicate effectively with them.”
Ms. Embury further explained that the Council can be contacted for recommendations on types of disposable and reusable clear masks that members have found to work well, and encouraged local businesses to sell clear masks in an effort to support persons with disabilities.
“The power of receiving clear communications to persons with disabilities, and a reassuring smile in many cases, cannot be underestimated. The Council looks forward to seeing more persons wearing clear masks in the Cayman Islands in an effort to become more inclusive and sensitive to the needs to persons with disabilities during the pandemic.”
Premier Panton explained that raising the level of awareness about disability issues is not just about one observance day, but it is about thinking long term and understanding that disability inclusion is vital to achieving the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
“There is much more work to be done as there are myriad ways in which we can improve our efforts to make the lives of persons with disabilities better. On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I ask us all to re-commit to building an inclusive and just future for everyone who has a disability so that no one is left behind.”