Cayman’s disabled face ‘unnecessary’ discrimination

Cayman’s human rights watchdog has taken current and past governments to task over failures to implement legislation protecting disabled residents from potential discrimination. 

While the Cabinet approved the territory’s first “national disability policy” in late 2014, the Human Rights Commission noted in a statement Friday that legislation implementing the tenets of that policy has been promised by “successive governments” without a bill coming before the Legislative Assembly for a vote. 

“Whilst this legislation remains outstanding, people with disabilities continue to face unnecessary challenges on a daily basis,” the commission indicated in the one-page statement, marking 20 years since the passage of the United Kingdom’s Disability Discrimination Act of 1995. 

“Nothing prevents a private business from inadvertently discriminating against someone simply because they have a disability, indeed, even to do so deliberately is not currently illegal in Cayman,” the commission noted. 

Difficulties faced by the disabled in Cayman were well documented in the disability policy for 2014-2033, which set out long-term goals to improve the situation for disabled residents in Cayman. 

Policy drafters at the time stated that a major difficulty in creating a plan to assist the disabled was a “general lack of knowledge” about the number of people with mental and physical disabilities. 

There are an estimated 3,000 disabled residents in the Cayman Islands community. The 2010 census attempted to tally the general areas of disabled residents in categories. It found that 2,993 people – Caymanians and non-Caymanians – had some form of disability. The most common disabilities involved sight (788 people), lower limb disabilities (516 people) and “other” maladies (442 people). The incidence of “mental illness” was identified in 195 people, and “learning disabilities” in 223 people. 

“Registration leading to more accurate data on persons with disabilities would enable service providers to better plan and implement services, projects and programs,” the disability policy states. “Armed with more comprehensive information on the extent of disabilities within communities, fundraisers should be more effective in soliciting funds for disability causes.” 

The problem involving disabled residents in Cayman was not limited to building access, but also to daily services, healthcare and job training/employment. 

“Parents are facing difficult decisions every day regarding the need to move overseas with their children who have disabilities in order to ensure that they have the best possible education. It is very unfortunate, but many homes have been divided by distance because one parent has had to leave with their child to seek better educational opportunities,” according to the disability policy. 

Some of the recommendations from the disability policy have been implemented by government. Many others involve at least some cost. 

Among the recommendations made by the policy were: Installation of sounds and lights at pedestrian crossings; enforcement of traffic laws regarding disabled parking spaces; review of building codes to improve disabled access to public buildings and spaces, including government and private sector offices; and provision for disabled evacuation assistance as part of the National Hazard Management Plan. 

The government also set aside some $8.5 million in its 2014/15 budget for a new facility to replace the Sunrise Adult Learning/Training Centre in West Bay. A new home in Bodden Town was also found for children and young adults with severe disabilities who were formerly at Maple House. 

Among the recommendations in the national disability policy is to include sound and lights at crosswalks. - PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY
Among the recommendations in the national disability policy is to include sound and lights at crosswalks. – PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY