President of the St. Kitts and Nevis Association of Persons with Disabilities, Joseph Bergan. SKNIS Photo.

President of the St. Kitts and Nevis Association of Persons with Disabilities, Joseph Bergan, has welcomed news that the government intends to become a signatory to the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities announce by Minister of Social Development, the Honourable Eugene Hamilton, during the opening of the 10th Regional Assembly of Disabled People International North America and the Caribbean (DPI-NAC) held at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort from Aug. 23-25.

“Cabinet has already declared its intention to be a signatory, and I can assure you that we will do so expeditiously,” Minister Hamilton stated to applause from the delegates and other persons attending the ceremony.

President Bergan said that he was “very happy,” noting it was something he and the association have been strongly advocating for and they are pleased that the government is taking leadership on the matter.

During his address, Minister Hamilton also added the four-year-old government of national unity “believes that persons with disabilities are humans like anyone else, who deserve the right to enjoy all the fundamental freedoms.”

Several measures have been taken by the government to enhance the lives of persons with disabilities, including access ramps to public areas, sidewalks and buildings, installing a lift at Government Headquarters, appointing social officers to interface directly with special associations, and enhancing social protections for the differently-abled.

Bergan called the measures  “steps in the right direction,” adding his association looks forward to collaborating further with the government to continue advancing the steps outlined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

According to un.org, The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol was adopted in 2006 at United Nations Headquarters in New York, following decades of work by the United Nations to change attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities.

The goal is to move from viewing persons with disabilities as “objects” of charity, medical treatment and social protection, towards viewing persons with disabilities as “subjects” with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and make decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent, as well as being active members of society.