Brades, Montserrat — Recently Montserrat was blessed with a visit from two special visitors from St Kitts. They were Anthony Mills, president of the St Kitts-Nevis Association for Persons with Disabilities, and Rockliffe Bowen, president of the St Kitts Society for the Blind. Both of these associations have been in existence for over 30 years.
They came at the invitation of the Montserrat Association of Persons with Disabilities (MAPD) through its president Joseph ‘King’ Kirwan, with the highlight of their visit being the annual general meeting of MAPD.
In addition they took part in radio programmes, met with the minister of health Delmaude Ryan and other top officials and socialized with MAPD members.
In his feature address, Mills, who is in a wheelchair, stressed that people with disabilities are willing and able to be treated like anyone else, hold jobs and make their contribution to society. He explained that the first business venture of the St Kitts Association was a jewelry making business, which was successful. He himself has a job in an electrical company.
Bowen, who is blind, revealed that his wife is also blind but between them they lead an active and useful life, and encouraged the community to treat blind people with the respect they deserve. He was one of a family of ten, and has been blind since he was 11 years old, but his mother was determined that he should be treated the same as the other children in the family.
Kirwan emphasized the slogan ‘Nothing about us without us’, which illustrates that things should not be done ‘for’ persons with disabilities unless they themselves are involved, as they know their needs best. They should be involved in every project or plan for their benefit,
In addition the speakers stressed that national plans should always include provision for persons with disabilities, for example building plans should include accessibility, so that those in wheelchairs or otherwise disabled can enter the building. They should be part of the process, not a ‘separate or different’ issue.
Ryan, in her review, took on the expectations of the speakers and was enthusiastic about involving them in ongoing and new projects. She spoke about the need for a special bus that would make it easier for people with disabilities to get on and off.
Kirwan was re-elected as president of the Montserrat Association, with Thomas O’Garro as vice president. The visit from the two St Kitts Associations was a tremendous boost and encouragement to the local Association.