ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Five years after the government of Antigua & Barbuda signed on to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a disability advocate is urging government to ratify the Convention.
The executive director of Disabled People’s International North America’s, Leslie Emanuel, said he does not know where government currently stands in the ratification process.
“We are not sure what route Antigua & Barbuda is going to take. We know that other countries in the Caribbean have taken some route and we know that there is a template of how it can be done,” Emanuel said.
In 2007, Antigua & Barbuda executed the first step of the ratification process by signing onto the convention.
In order for the agreement to be legally binding, government would have to submit a ratification document after parliament reached a consensus that is in accordance with relevant constitutional provision.
“Starting is one step, ratification is another step. The third and most important step is implementation, actually making it functional and active and enforceable and that would require accompanying legislation,” Emanuel stated.
“The Convention has actually … ensured that it (disabilities) is known and recognised as a rights issue. We do have the right to raise a family and get married and have kids … like everyone else,” he declared.
Upon the completion of the ratification process, regulations set by the Convention would ensure that structures constructed on island would have provisions for disabled people.
Emanuel also noted that education is also an area that will be greatly affected by new legislation.
“Education will have to be normalised although we are aware of progress being made in the quarters like the Ministry of Education to ensure that there is equal access for persons or children with disabilities in the education system.”
However, Emanuel was uncertain as to which governmental agency is primarily responsible for the ratification process, as the Convention would impact several ministries.
Disabled People’s International is celebrating a month of activities and awareness in celebration of their seventeenth anniversary. Activities will commence on May 19.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)