KINGSTON, Jamaica: A senior government official is pleading with the business community to give the disabled a chance at employment.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Andrew Gallimore, made the appeal as he noted that of the approximately 250,000 persons in Jamaica living with disabilities, less than two per cent were meaningfully employed.
“I would love to see the Jamaica Manufacturers Association…impress upon its members that we want a small percentage of the workforce of the members to come from the quadrant of persons with disabilities,” said Gallimore as he addressed the association’s Board of Directors.
However, Gallimore said his call to businesses to expand employment opportunities for persons with disabilities should not be seen as an act of charity, but as an act of social conscience.
“I’m asking you to be a good corporate citizen. I’m asking you merely to grant persons with disabilities the same level of access that you would want for yourself, or your wife, or your husband, or your child, if they were in their position,” Gallimore said.
The minister insisted that persons with disabilities can contribute to the profitability of organizations, as many are well trained through institutions such as the Lister Mair Gilby Senior School for the Deaf, the Disabilities Foundation, the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Jamaica Society for the Blind.
Pointing to the practicality of employing disabled persons, Gallimore noted that they tend to be less distracted and are, therefore, more productive.
“If it is somebody who does not have mobility, because they are confined to a wheelchair, then they are spending a lot less time wandering around the plant or whatever office environment exists,” Gallimore said. “If it is somebody who is deaf, then they are not endlessly on the telephone or gossiping.”
Gallimore said that, even though the government has made some headway in assisting persons with disabilities, such as enabling deaf persons to obtain driver’s licenses, it is still working to make improvements in education and healthcare.
“We are on a major drive where employment is concerned, because that is so critical; giving somebody a feeling of self worth, to build their self esteem and to actually make them self actualized and be able to carry their own weight and contribute to society,” Gallimore said.