Some 500 people living with disabilities across Guyana can soon regain their independence through the Orientation and Mobility Programme aimed at providing disability rehabilitation.
The programme was launched on Monday at the Baridi Benab at State House, Georgetown.
The Guyana Council for Persons with Disabilities (GCOPD) teamed up with the Office of the First Lady, Arya Ali and ExxonMobil Guyana to roll the first of its kind programme out across Regions Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven and 10.
For Persons with Disability (PWD) in Guyana and across the world, rehabilitation is an integral part of ensuring that that group is integrated into society, functioning as any normal person, said GCOPD’s Programme Coordinator, Ganesh Singh.
“For orientation and mobility, it is the same as when you go physiotherapy or occupational therapy so a specialist will provide you with the necessary skills and knowledge to be able to use a white cane, do simple chores within your home like washing the dishes, probably even cooking and to use assistive devices such as a computer screen reader software and for the text to speech application for you to be independent and to be reintegrated into society,” he explained at the launch.
Ganesh added that without this, PWD can be seen as “burdens” to caretakers or relatives and this can take a toll on their mental health.
With this programme, Ganesh said too that it can very well see PWD gaining trade skills to provide them with employment.
Detailing his own struggles as a PWD, the GCOPD Coordinator shared that he lost his eyesight at the age of 17.
At that point, he was unable to function and had to rely on relatives to carry out daily tasks, but after disability rehabilitation, he proudly stated that he was able to travel without assistance and function in society.
“I was able to learn computers I can go to university and be employed and I was able to be independent like anyone else without a disability.
“That is what we want for persons who are blind or visually impaired, to get those skills to be independent so not just benefit them, but they can go to work and support the families that take care of them,” he continued.
First Lady Arya Ali, as she began her feature address, alluded to the ease of access she was afforded when mounting the stage – something that many PWD have not been offered in society.
But the Orientation and Mobility Programme is a step in the right direction, she pointed out.
“This training will help these individuals to claim enormous control over their lives by providing them with an opportunity to complete simple tasks on their own and reduce their dependence on others.
“This will help to build self-awareness and raise their level of consonants and is also a necessary step towards integration of these persons into the whole community and by extension, the labour force,” Mrs. Ali noted.
And this, she added, should be everyone’s ultimate goal – to ensure that PWD are equipped and empowered to live independent lives and determine the direction of their future.
Meanwhile, President of ExxonMobil Guyana, Allister Routledge remarked that the company is happy to lend its support to such a project as it understands the true value of diversity and inclusion at every level.
“Many of us take for granted everyday activities, such as travelling to work or for pleasure. This programme aims to give participants the freedom to travel safely and develop independent living skills, the impact of impairment of mobility on social interaction recreation and quality of life goes far beyond any superficial meaning of inclusion.
“This initiative can bring inclusion in a tangible way, allowing visually impaired people the opportunity to access the communities and bring more of the valuable qualities and contributions to society,” Routledge told the gathering.
The Orientation and Mobility Programme will be providing short-term employment for approximately 10 potential mobility officers with training from experts and facilitators out of Guyana, Canada, Trinidad and Barbados.
The project was also supported by the United States Ambassador, Sarah Ann Lynch, who was in attendance.