The Caribbean is home to some 1.3 million persons living with disability; a quarter million of these suffering significant disability. These numbers are expected to increase in the coming decades with the ageing of the Caribbean population and the exponential growth in incidence of non-communicable diseases.
Over the years, attitudes towards persons living with disability have become more positive. Efforts have been made to ensure that they are more fully and productively integrated into Caribbean society. There are signs of progress in the form of ramps outside buildings; specialized transport services on the streets; and a noted increase in children with disabilities attending mainstream schools.
Nevertheless, much still needs to be done to make schools, workplaces, public spaces, buildings, transport systems and cultural services accessible to these citizens. There is also need for transformation of social attitudes to promote the wider participation of persons with disabilities in activities which others take for granted. Such development would significantly enhance their social well-being, including outcomes in education, employment, health and housing.
Most Caribbean states have now ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), which is the universal treaty that addresses the rights of this group, and the obligations of governments in this regard. This represents an opportunity for member States, together with organizations for the mentally and physically challenged and other stakeholders, to work towards implementing measures to fully protect and realize the human rights of persons with disabilities.