‘Solomon Webster’ Bill aims to protect rights of disabled

Bill to cover areas not addressed in Constitution

Named for the slain former Cayman Islands Special Olympics athlete, the Disabilities (Solomon Webster) Bill proposes new legislation to protect the rights of disabled people and create a National Council for Persons with Disabilities and a voluntary disabilities register.

The premier’s office said in a statement that the bill is part of implementing the proposals in the Cayman Islands Disabilities Policy 2014-2033. If approved, the bill would provide legal protection for the civil and political rights of people with disabilities.

The bill’s sponsor, Premier Alden McLaughlin, said in the press release, “My administration is committed to fostering a culture of respect for human rights, including strengthening legislative protections for persons with disabilities.”

Solomon Webster was 24 when he was shot and killed in West Bay in September 2014. He won a gold medal in bocce at the regional Special Olympic Games in Puerto Rico in 2010. He was also known as a footballer and basketball player.

The memorandum introducing the bill commemorates Mr. Webster, “a young man with a disability who creatively and tenaciously worked to achieve and develop his best ability despite his challenges.”

The bill, published Monday, proposes to make discrimination against disabled people illegal and protect the “progressive realization of their economic, social and cultural rights.”

Equal access

The law would also ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to the justice system, political office and public life with reasonable accommodations and opportunity to access public facilities. The bill would make sure people with disabilities have access to any court, authority, commission or other public body with judicial or investigative powers and make sure they can participate in the proceedings.

The purpose of the legislation, the premier’s office said, is to protect “persons with disabilities from having their civil and political rights infringed by any person (including individuals and nongovernmental entities) in specified instances where the Constitution and other laws do not adequately address particular vulnerabilities.”

The new National Council for Persons with Disabilities proposed in the law would act as the watchdog for disabled people, making sure they can participate in public life and promote equal rights.

The 10-member commission will oversee creating and implementing the policy to bring the laws into force.

The law would also create a Disabilities Register, the premier’s statement said, to “improve the quantity and quality of data that is available on persons with disabilities in order to inform policy, legislation and services.” The registry would be voluntary.

The Cabinet Office is seeking public comment on the bill.

“Various stakeholders will be consulted to ensure avenues for claims regarding breaches of the Bill’s provisions are accessible for persons with disabilities and will effectively promote compliance,” the premier’s office said. “Cabinet will then consider proposals for enforcement and make regulations, which will provide for these matters.”

The Disability Policy, in addition to this new legislation, calls for reviews of and amendments to other laws to address discrimination against disabled people in education, employment, health and building codes.