The gaps in the services provided for People with Disabilities (P.W.D) and the commitments verbally made to support them were raised this week.
The opportunity to do so was during a three-day Forum organized by the Office of the Ombudsman, as the National Human Rights Institution.
Held at the T.A.T.T.E Building, the Forum is part of preparations for the report on the Status of Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to be tabled in Parliament later this year.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Communication and Education Officer, Tracey Mikaele, said the Forum was to gauge the community’s feedback on issues about P.W.D.
“Every year the Office of the Ombudsman as part of its Human Rights function has to put together a report for Parliament to be submitted every June on the status of human rights,” she said.
“So basically we want to seek the public’s perception on how much they know about persons with disabilities.
“We want to find out what they know about P.W.D, what they think should be done, and what the gaps are and how the government should work together to better the rights of the persons with disabilities.”
During the Forum, Ms. Mikaele said they found that many people don’t really understand the issues P.W.D.
“One of the biggest things that was brought up by today’s event is that there are not enough services provided for persons with disabilities and there’s a lot to be done,” she said.
“Further, a lot of the people don’t really know what persons with disabilities really need and what that entails. For example, the people ask what kind of disabilities categorise a person as a P.W.D.
“Even though the government has done a lot through different ministries and organizations in bringing awareness for people with disabilities, I think there is still a gap in here and a lot of them have shown that today.”
Another interesting issue was money.
“Some say their need is money only and that’s all that they think of.
“I think one of the main issues is the interpretation of the term, Persons with Disabilities.”
Speaking about the report, Ms. Mikaele said, it would be more of an educational tool in terms of people’s understanding of persons with disabilities and also to build a recommendation to the government that there are positive things but there are also gaps that they need to address to better the protection and the rights of persons with disabilities.
“I mean don’t get us wrong, the government has done a great job in terms of pushing for the rights for persons with disabilities.
“However, there are gaps there and so the report hopes to uncover those gaps so that we can move forward and provide the government with some recommendations on how they can better those services.”
The report is due on 30 June 2016. It will be released publically after that.