Pacific discusses issues facing disabled

Radio New Zealand International:

Tuesday, 21 October 2014


Health representatives from across the Pacific have met to discuss how to address issues facing disabled people in the region.

The third Pacific Forum Disability Ministers meeting was held in the Federated States of Micronesia earlier this month, to develop plans to help Pacific countries become more inclusive for all its people.

Organisation Development Officer for the Pacific Disability Forum, Angeline Chand, says although resources in the Pacific are limited, more governments are putting new designs and policies in place.

Angeline Chand: I guess if we look at the Pacific, different countries are at different stages of development. The challenges are pretty much there in terms of education, accessibility towards the transport system, the healthcare system, and the attitudes of society - how they look at persons with disabilities in the Pacific. That, obviously, is something that will need a lot of attention, a lot of awareness that needs to be brought about, through families, through persons with disabilities themselves, through disabled peoples organisations.

Sophie Leggett: So, was it these types of issues that sparked the need for the Pacific Forum Disability Ministers meeting?

AC: Yes, definitely. It brought over leaders, persons with disabilities, organisations, and ministerial delegation to look into how they could provide support, and then support countries within the Pacific, in terms of sharing resources, technical expertise, and so on. To ensure that persons with disabilities are given priority within the different mechanism. And there was a very good turn out, and in terms of outcomes, it looked at - they are actually looking at a Pacific disability rights framework, which the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat is working on, which hopes to be assisting persons with disabilities and governments, to ensure that persons with disabilities get an equal share of the pie, so to say.

SL: What improvements do you hope to see across the Pacific as a result of these meetings?

AC: Well, we hope that lives of persons with disabilities will change. Persons with disabilities coming to ministerial meetings with their government is a big step forward for us, and we hope there'll be more collaboration within disabled persons organisations and the relevant government ministries to ensure that there are programme policies, legislation taking into account the needs of persons with disabilities.

SL: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

AC: I guess, generally in the Pacific, I think what is more needed is the support of the different stakeholders - churches, educationers, and so on - so that they are able to support persons with disabilities. Recognising that persons with disabilities also have rights, and they are equal citizens as well. So, I guess any development in the Pacific should take into account persons with disabilities and their needs.

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