BASSETERRE, St.Kitts (Friday 6th December 2019) – Among those who participated in this week’s ‘Walk A Mile In My Shoe’ march organised by the St.Kitts-Nevis Association of Persons With Disabilities were individuals who tested the experience of being a wheelchair user and also a cane user concerning the blind and visually impaired.
On Wednesday 4th November 2019, marchers walked the streets of Basseterre as part of the group’s week of activities in celebration of International Day of Persons With Disabilities which is observed on 3rd December yearly.
The group’s banner message read: ‘NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US’.
Public Relations Officer Sylvine Henry-who has loss of vision- said the objective of the march “is to create awareness in the general public and for people to be more supportive of persons with disability.”
“I think it is working to a certain extent although I do believe that some of our people try to avoid the issue of disability and try not to either don’t want to see it or think it can’t happen to them,” she stated.
“I wish more people would participate because as you participate as Hon. Konris was here and then the Deputy Prime Minister usually take part and others in those positions when they experience what we go through, it should influence the policies that they make,” Henry added.
Speaking about the banner message, she expressed that “any policy, any plan should have the input by the people who are disabled.”
An association volunteer, Diana Pemberton, who has participated in the march for the past four years as a wheelchair and cane user shared how life-changing the experience has been.
“I would rate the march a 10 because I am able to experience how it feels to live with disabilities. This is like my fourth year- and the first time I did it I actually used the wheelchair myself, and at the end of it my hands were literally hurting because I had to be pushing and going up the hill.”
She recalled past President Anthony Mills “actually took me through the process and explained that I had to put more pressure behind that you can go up because you’re going uphill. So, there a technique in how to actually use the wheelchair which I didn’t know because looking at it it’s like you just push and go…That first year, I had a fond appreciation for persons with disabilities and what they go through each day because what you can see as we roll through Basseterre is that a lot of the sidewalks that are not wheelchair accessible and so it’s difficult, and so sometimes we have to be on the road.”
Pemberton went on to say: “For me it was a life-changing experience and I view life differently and I am thankful to God for all my faculties. Being differently abled does not make anyone less of a human being, and I must commend persons with disabilities because they do extraordinary things. They do things that we ourselves as abled bodies cannot do and they go above and beyond and I really fondly appreciate them.”
This media house also spoke with Parliamentary Representative for Constituency Three Konris Maynard of the opposition St.Kitts-Nevis Labour Party during the march.
He expressed that it is always a pleasure to support the association noting that he has participated in a couple of marches.
“I started off today in a wheelchair. It gives the appreciation, of course, that people have to use their hands and so in a short space of time I could feel my muscles strained because it is something that I don’t do every day. It limits your ability because as you walk around town, for instance, you’ll be limited in terms of businesses etc. so that is something that as a representative in parliament definitely I would be supporting initiatives to ensure that our business places are accessible to persons with disabilities. I think that at this point in time of our development that has to be a no brainer and has to be something that is standard.”
He continued: “Half way through the walk, I changed over to being disabled by loss of sight. This of course is a lot more challenging because I have no sense as to what is in front of me; you don’t know if someone is coming toward you to do you harm; you just don’t know and so you have to use your cane to sense, you have to use all of your other senses to make a determination of where you are. So based on people talking, the height at which they are talking from, I could tell whether they are seated or whether they are standing up, I can hear the vehicles on either side , I can feel the terrain in the road. I feel as though I am more on the left side of the road because I am leaning towards the left so it means I’m not quite in the middle or just off center to the left and so it gives you a real appreciation of the challenges that come with living a disability but it also reinforces that not because you have a disability means that you cannot succeed in whatever you want to do.”
Maynard went on to highlight the academic achievement of his sister who has a disability.
“I learnt this right at home because I have a sister who is partially deaf with that particular disability. However, she pushed through and today she’s in university getting her university degree after all the challenges; after all she would have gone through, it’s amazing to see that even with her disability it has not stopped her from excelling.”