Governor approves disabilities bill

Governor Helen Kilpatrick

Claire Shefchik

Governor Helen Kilpatrick has approved a bill protecting the rights of disabled residents and visitors in the Cayman Islands.

The Disabilities Bill, also known as the Solomon Webster Bill after a 24-year-old former Special Olympics athlete from West Bay who was murdered in 2014, was unanimously passed by the legislature last month.

The legislation will create a voluntary register of individuals with disabilities and a National Council for Persons with Disabilities, which will act as a watchdog and advocate for the disabled.

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According to the Office of the Premier, the bill is part of an effort to implement proposals in the Cayman Islands Disabilities Policy 2014-2033, which aims to safeguard the legal rights of the disabled.

Under the new law, people with mental or physical disabilities will have full access to any public or governmental proceeding or facility. However, it does not require private businesses to provide similar accommodations.

In an August press release, Premier Alden McLaughlin said, “My administration is committed to fostering a culture of respect for human rights, including strengthening legislative protections for persons with disabilities.”

The bill makes discrimination against disabled people illegal and will protect the “progressive realization of their economic, social and cultural rights,” according to the premier’s office.

The new 10-member commission will create and implement the policy to bring the new bill into force.

Solomon Webster, described in a statement by the director of the Special Olympics committee as a “star athlete,” won a gold medal for the Cayman Islands in bocce in 2010. He was also an avid basketball and football player who competed in Ireland, Jamaica, the Bahamas and Puerto Rico.

The bill’s memorandum describes Mr. Webster as “a young man with a disability who creatively and tenaciously worked to achieve and develop his best ability despite his challenges.”

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