Disability organisations hope SPC will help ease workload
Disability organisations in region hope SPC can further help in their work
Some disability organisations in the Pacific region hope formalised support from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community will make a significant difference to their work.
They say there are many challenges to ensure the rights of disabled people in their communities are protected.
The SPC signed a memorandum of understanding with the Pacific Disability Forum this month to help address disability issues in the region.
Sara Vui-Talitu reports:
The National Disability Advocacy Organisation in Samoa says the secretariat's move is a huge boost. Nuanua O Le Alofa was established in 2002 and is a member of the Pacific Disability Forum - the umbrella group for disability agencies in the region. Faatino Utumapu says nearly 5,000 people in Samoa state they have some sort of disability, but the group faces a lack of funds, resources and has limited technical capacity. She says disabled people are also highly vulnerable to abuse.
FAATINO UTAMAPU: The SPC has been around for so long and it's really interesting to see that it's all about recognition of the role of disabled people's organisations and I'm really appreciative of the role and the partnership that has been set up as it will create more and more opportunities.
The president of the Fiji Disabled Peoples Federation says at the last census 11,400 people were registered as having a disability. Sam Vilisoni says his group's priorities include helping disabled people living in rural areas, who are often excluded or overlooked for assistance, and trying to find support for many families living below the poverty line.
SAM VILISONI: There are costs that the family and person living with a disability has to face, that others never face, like transportation and other medications that have to come out of their pockets.
Mr Vilsoni says disabled access to newly-built buildings is improving, but disabled people's views should be sought earlier.
SAM VILISONI: The only problem I find is that they are including disability in most of the projects, but they are not consulting person with disability with experts in this area. And sometimes they made a ramp, which is good, but its not really to the standard that we are looking at.
The SPC says the agreement between the agencies will help highlight such gaps, and will lead to better research and data for governments to use in making policies for the disabled. The director-general, Dr Jimmie Rodgers, says nations are at different stages with disability programs. Some countries like New Caledonia are doing very well, but other countries are struggling.
DR JIMMIE ROGERS: It's a good start. And I think there's quite a way to go, but I'd like to say that the Disability Forum has actually won the first big battle, and that is to shift the level of consciousness from what used to be a household issue and a problem now into a broader consciousness at national and regional level.
Dr Jimmie Rodgers says the deal means more help with applications for funds and other resources, and better co-ordination of efforts to help the disabled.
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