|Former minister: Disability legislation still ‘a big deal’|
Guardian Summer Intern
Published: Jul 21, 2012
Former Minister of State for Social Development and now Deputy Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Loretta Butler-Turner said she doesn’t have many regrets about her tenure in office, however, one of the things she wishes the Ingraham administration could have accomplished before it lost power was the passage of legislation to bring greater rights to the disabled in The Bahamas.
Successive administrations have promised the legislation as far back as the early 1990s.
“It’s a big deal because it’s been languishing for administration after administration,” she recently told The Nassau Guardian.
Butler-Turner, who tabled the Disabilities Equal Opportunities Bill in the House of Assembly earlier this year, said the prior government tried to sign off on the legislation but couldn’t.
She added there was no legitimate excuse she could give as to why the former government couldn’t see the bill through to law.
Rather, she said, it seems the last Ingraham administration simply ran out of time, with Parliament being dissolved before it could come up for debate.
As previously reported by The Guardian, the bill sought to provide for the promotion, protection and full and equal enjoyment of the rights of persons with disabilities; to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability; to provide for the welfare and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities; to provide for the registration of persons with disabilities, and to establish the Bahamas Disabilities Rights Commission (BDRC).
“Everybody said they were going to tackle it, many of these things were quite dynamic and the changing times tend to bring new revisions to the proposed bills,” said Butler-Turner.
“We thought it was imperative that we finally bring closure to this because it only works against our fellow Bahamians.
“To be honest I wished we would have completed it sooner. I don’t think there is any legitimate excuse, for us not doing it.
“Until we legislate their rights (the disabled) will continue to live in an unequal society.”
There is no clear indication if the bill will be reintroduced by the Christie administration during the current legislative session.
Minister of Social Services Melanie Griffin didn’t return messages left for her by The Guardian over the past few days.
Though she was said to be traveling outside the country this week.
However, Iris Adderley, a consultant for the Disability Affairs Division of the Ministry of Social Services, who is herself disabled, said there are many adjustments that need to be made to the bill, including clarifying some of the language and addressing more specific needs of the disabled.
But she said she is sure that the revised legislation will eventually be tabled.