Having signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Government of Dominica must do much more. Ester Thomas, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Services and Community Development told a meeting here last week that she has committed to the implement of the practical aspects of the Convention.

"We have to give effect to the things that we say we are doing," she said. "We have ratified the Convention and one of the fundamental things in the convention is that persons with disabilities must have access, and it has to start with us (the government)."

Thomas said she began discussion with the Chief Personnel Officer on making Government Headquarters friendlier to persons with disabilities.

"I threw out a challenge to (her) that we have to revisit the elevator at Government Headquarters," she said. "So persons, who come to the government Headquarters, do not have to be carried on a wheelchair. I have seen it on too many occasions."

According to Thomas, her ministry is interested in influencing all organisations associated to persons with disabilities "to sing from the same hymn sheet".

"We need to have a meeting together so that we can trash out our ideas, put it on a song sheet so that we all sing the same hymn," she said.

Thomas spoke at the presentation of an end-of-assignment report by two volunteers of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) held at the Garraway Hotel last week. The two volunteers, Naoko Yachi and Miho Yuzurihara, were assigned to the Dominica Association of Persons with Disabilities (DADP).

"My job was to help them improve their computer skills and assist them in advocating for their rights," Yachi said." Persons with disabilities need access to information and communication technology using computers to enable them to get important information to run various things and also to socialise."

Yuzurihara, the other volunteer, was on a short-termed assignment and produced educational films for the DAPD to promote the rights of persons with disabilities. One of the achievements of the JICA volunteers was the organising of a campaign to influence the adoption of the Convention.

According to the government's ministry of foreign affairs, the Japanese Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) is an integral part of bi-lateral relations between Dominica and Japan. In addition to the volunteers assigned to the DADP, the JOCV has provided technical assistance in the areas of automobile maintenance in the Fire and Ambulance Services, computer technology, physical therapy, fine arts, community development, town planning, music, volleyball coaching and cooking. JOCV and Dominica signed the agreement in 2001 and the first JOCV office was opened in 2003.

During her presentation, Yachi said: "Persons with disabilities are the most qualified to support, inform and advocate for themselves and other persons with disabilities. However, due to a lack of resources they are unable to advocate for themselves"

She called on Dominicans "to become supporters of persons with disabilities and the DAPD because anyone can acquire a disability at any time, including you."