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International Day of Persons with Disabilities

GeneralInternational Day of Persons with Disabilities

Photo: Kenrick Theus, President of the Belize Assembly for Persons Living with Diverse Abilities (BAPDA)

by Charles Gladden

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Nov. 30, 2023

Belize will be joining the rest of the countries throughout the world on Sunday, December 3, in recognizing International Day of Persons with Disabilities, with this year’s theme being “United in action to rescue and achieve the SDGs for, with, and by persons with disabilities”.

“The reality, especially post-COVID, for persons living with disabilities is worse than it was in 2018. The development goals are such that each country should be doing something proactively to ensure that the life people (with disabilities) are living is as easy as possible, with less structural violence against them. Also, to achieve accessibility is important, and also the assistance of government is needed,” said Kenrick Theus, President of the Belize Assembly for Persons Living with Diverse Abilities (BAPDA).

16% of the earth’s population – or 1.3 billion persons – are living with some sort of disability; that’s according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO). In an exclusive interview with Theus, he explained to Amandala that Belize has no accurate figures to determine how many persons are disabled in Belize.

“The sad part about Belize is that our figures are way off base. We have no figures that we can turn to in any kind of justification. We have to use United Nations figures, which puts it about 15% of our nation. The present count we’re using is 60,000 in this country [who] have some sort of disability, whether its mental, intellectual, sensory or whatever it may be,” he said.

“… One we have seen grown a lot over the last two or three years is mental health. A lot of them are in great anguish because of not being employed, losing a job, or not being able to be gainfully employed to the point that they can take care of most of their bills; they’re living hand to mouth. This takes a big strain on the family, [and] on the breadwinner,” Theus added.

Theus expressed that they had hoped that this year Belize would have been disability-friendly; however, the fight continues to next year.

“Accessibility will come to this country whether we like it or not,” he said. “The Disability Act has provisions for ramp and access to public and commercial buildings as such, so that will become law over a certain amount of time,” Theus said.

Theus said that this year will be similar to last year’s celebration, where a Mass service will be done at St. John’s Cathedral from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Then they will go to John and Joseph Wesley Hall on Albert Street where a brief social will be done for BAPDA members, and they will discuss plans moving forward, to coincide with 16 Days of Activism.

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