One of the main problems is that decisions are made for disabled persons instead of consulting them and placing them at the centre of programming initiatives. Therefore, initiatives do not reflect their needs and desires.
This view was recently expressed by Tammy Yates, Assistant Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) at a Seminar hosted by the Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT).
The seminar was held at Goodwill Industries on Fitzblackman Drive. It was entitled “Ensuring Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services for Young Persons with Disabilities.”
Yates said to help combat challenges of the disabled, there is a need to implement and enforce legislation, policies and programmes to promote the full inclusions of persons with disabilities in all health education programmes.
“In the short term, legal reform, programmatic reform and educational reform are critical to meeting the sexual reproductive health needs of persons with disabilities,” she said. “In the long term, cultural reform, a cultural revolution needs to take place for the attitudes, perceptions and behaviours of the society to change.”
Dr Jacqueline Sharpe, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist noted that the disabled should be provided with information and training so they can make good life decisions. A curriculum that acknowledges different abilities should be created so that the information provided is in a form that can be easily understood. At that time, parents, caretakers, teachers and social workers should respect their decisions and support them so that they can live out these decisions.
Executive Director of FPATT, Dona Da Costa Martinez, also noted that, even though The World Health Organisation’s 2011 World Disability Report stated that 15 percent of the population live with disabilities, they face barriers to information and services due to the ignorance and attitudes of people in society.
Martinez said many still refuse to acknowledge that all people have sexual feelings and desires, regardless of their physical or mental abilities. People with disabilities have the same rights as other citizens and these rights bring responsibilities for the person with the disability as well as caregivers.
“As a consequence of increased choice and opportunity, children and youth with disabilities do have a genuine need to learn what sexuality is, its meaning in adolescent and adult life, and the responsibilities that go along with exploring and experiencing ones own sexuality,” she said. “They need information about values, morals and the subtleties of friendship, dating, love and intimacy. They also need to know how to protect themselves against unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, and sexual exploitation.”