Disability and Unemployment in Trinidad and Tobago Nicole Henry University of the West Indies, Faculty of Social Sciences Analyzing Oppression with regards to the Employment of Persons with Disabilities in Trinidad and Tobago
Defining oppression • While it is difficult at times, to give one essential definition of oppression, Iris Young(1990) has developed five categories of oppression. While not all oppressed group experience all, they do experience at the very least one of them. 1.Exploitation- the social processes whereby the dominant group is able to accumulate status and power from the energy and labor of subordinate groups 2. Marginalization – the exclusion of whole groups from useful and meaningful participation in society. • In Mullaly (2002), he introduces a framework for the analysis of oppression by Thompson (1997)
Defining oppression (cont’d) • 3. Powerlessness – a lack of decision making power in one’s working life, and exposure to disrespectful treatment because of the status one occupies. 4. Cultural imperialism- the social institutions are based on the cultural experiences of the dominant group, which measures the subordinate group by dominant norms. 5. Violence – includes not just physical violence, but harassment, ridicule, intimidation and alienation which serves the purpose of stigmatizing group members
The Social Structure of Persons with Disabilities in Trinidad and Tobago • According to the 2000 Population Census, 4.5% of the Trinidad population is categorized as disabled. There is an almost equal number of males and females with disabilities. • There are, however, significantly more visually impaired females than males and significantly more males with behavioral disabilities than females. • The majority of persons with disabilities (45.5%)fall within the 45-59 and 59-74 age brackets. This points to disabling with age. However, a significant amount of the working population is still at working age( 29%).
The Social structure of persons with disabilities in Trinidad and Tobago (cont’d) • 17% of disabled persons are between the ages of 15-34 • The majority of persons with disabilities were either of African descent (39%) or East Indian descent (41%). • 45% of those who answered were either in marriage or common-law relationships.
Analyzing oppression • Thompson’s “PCS” model of analysis states that oppression occurs on three levels. 1. Personal 2. Cultural 3. Structural or Institutional. • “These three levels or locations of oppression are in dynamic interaction with one another……..(Mulally, 2002) • This presentation seeks to analyze the nature of oppression inherent in the employment of persons with disabilities in Trinidad and Tobago using the “PCS” framework.
Oppression at the personal level • Oppression at the personal level consists of thoughts attitudes and behaviors that depict negative judgments of subordinate groups. • In the case of persons with disabilities, they are often thought of as intellectually underdeveloped, mentally childlike and incapable of being employed. • Thus on a personal level, persons with disabilities often encounter serious attitudinal barriers to being gainfully employed in Trinidad and Tobago
To quote an interview done with 31 year old Robert, an unemployed young man with cerebral palsy. “ One of my friends in a wheelchair went to an interview. The boss man, when he saw my friend told him that if he [the employer] had known that the friend was in a wheelchair, he would not have told him to come for an interview.” • The attitudinal barriers described above may well be explanation for the statistic that 67% of persons with disabilities in Trinidad did not even look for a job.
Oppression at the cultural level • Oppression at the cultural level comprises of those values and worldviews that endorses the belief in a superior dominant culture. • In establishing what is right and moral, oppression at this level also defines groups that do not conform to this norm as the Other and assigns negative ways of thinking and seeing the Other as well as negative actions to ward the Other. • “It refers to the ways and discursive practices used by the dominant group to portray the subordinate groups in history, literature, the media, stories, movies, stereotypes and popular culture.” ( Mullaly ,2002)
Oppression at the cultural level (cont’d) • Oppression at the cultural level then impacts the individual negatively, often resulting in negative self identification, alienation and withdrawal. • Disability is still by and large defined by the medical model, which implies that any handicaps experienced people with disabilities are primarily because of the disability itself and not because of societal, physical or attitudinal barriers.
Oppression at the structural level • Oppression at the structural level is the means by which oppression is institutionalized in society. • “It consists of the ways that social divisions, practices and processes, along with social institutions, laws and policies and the economic and political systems all work together to benefit the dominant group at the expense of the subordinate groups.” (Mullaly,2002) • The social, economic and political system all contribute to structural oppression. However, these three spheres are intertwined and symbiotic.
Social relations and oppression – In the case of persons of disabilities, the oppression at the cultural and structural level are intertwined because they are based on the medical model. • A profound implication of this model is that people with disabilities are not in active control of their lives but are subject to decisions made by other “qualified” professionals on their behalf e.g. nurses, social workers, doctors,etc. • This is the main contributor to “ableism”…….the practices and attitudes that hold able-bodiedness as the dominant norm and disability as inferior
Economic relations and oppression – Trinidad and and Tobago, as most of the rest of the world, ascribes to a capitalistic economic system with the values of individualism and maximizing profit and productivity while minimizing loss. This however, does not always bode well for disadvantaged groups on society, particularly persons with disabilities. • Since persons with disabilities are seen as a liability because of their perceived lack of ability, they suffer overt and covert discrimination in the labour market in terms of access to work. Hence only 17.9% of persons with disabilities actually had a job and worked.
In addition, 57% of those who were working were employed in jobs that require a low level of education. • Only 19.9% of those employed had jobs that required technical or tertiary education. • This reflects another factor that is highly linked to economic opportunity – level of education. • 68.7% of persons with disabilities have a primary or lower level of education, with 11% having no education at all. • 20% have attained secondary level education while 0.02% have university level education.
This differential access to education leads to high level of low income for persons with disabilities. 63% of persons with disabilities earn less than $1000 per month, with about half of that 63% earning less than $500 per month.
Political relations and oppression “ The ideal of representative democracy is very different from its actual practice.”(Mullaly,2002).In the case of Trinidad and Tobago as with other representative democracies, one of this form of government's weakness is the fact that there right to vote every few years means that it can limit the population's participatory input into the decision making process somewhat. • While there is the presence of interest groups, it usually the group with the most access, resources and power that get their agendas here by the government • Thus lack of resources and power held by persons with disabilities as a group in Trinidad and Tobago hampers their ability to participate in the decision making processes as a minority group.
In addition to the social, economic and political elements of structural oppression, it can also be noted that , for persons with disabilities, there is also an infrastructural element of structural oppression as well. • Accessibility is a key issue for the disabled in term of being able to access employment. Many buildings in Trinidad and Tobago lack the infrastructure for physical accessibility as well as other facilities in roads, sidewalks, etc. • Lack of reliable transportation, especially in rural areas in Trinidad is often a barrier to employment. • Due to smaller income, there is often a lack of access to ICT technologies also puts the disabled at a disadvantage as well in the highly information oriented work environment. There is a clear “digital divide” for the disabled in Trinidad.
The positive response to oppression: Social justice and social work values • Appleby et al (2001) provide a value base for social work practice for diverse and oppressed populations. • A theory of caring based on the values of justice, independence, freedom, the importance of community life, client self-determination and social change. • Justice must be accessible to all on an equal basis. It must be impartially applied. • Social conditions must be just • People want feel a sense of self importance and have areal ability to make decisions that affect their lives.
Human rights • The social work and social justice values expressed are also enshrined in a human right framework for persons with disabilities. • At the structural level, there are a number of international and regional conventions and declarations that outline the full human rights of persons with disabilities. • The seminal United Nation Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) –signed by Trinidad and Tobago on 27th Septemebr 2007
The United Nations Standard Rules for the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. • The Convention concerning the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Disabled Persons, International Labour Organization (ILO) – ratified by Trinidad and Tobago on 3rd June, 1999. • The Kingston Accord: Resolutions from the first Caribbean Ministerial Conference on Disability(CARICOM) 2004 • Inter- American Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Organization of American States, 1999)- not signed by Trinidad.
Human rights and employment • These international and regional document have the following principles enshrined in them to ensure access to employment for persons with disabilities. • Equal opportunities between all disabled people as compared to other workers. • Establishment of vocational, training, placement and employment services to help the disabled gain access to employment, especially in remote areas and rural communities. • Greater access to the physical environment, especially access to transportation for land, sea and air. • Access to information and communication
What is being done in Trinidad and Tobago to ensure access to employment for disabled persons? • The National Policy on Persons with Disabilities was approved in December 2005 based on consultations with disability organizations, the general public and government as well as key international documents as indicated before. • There is an explicit policy for the employment of persons with disabilities in Trinidad and Tobago as well as some key areas to support employment – legislation, access to the built physical environment, public transportation, access to information and communication.
THE GOVERNMENT INPUT • The Ministry of Social Development’s Disability Affairs Unit has oversight over policy implementation while other ministries are charged with actual implementation of the particular areas that fall under their respective portfolios The Ministry of Labour & Small and Micro Enterprise Development is the ministry that plays a major role in implementing the policy regards to employment of persons with disabilities. • In 2006, Persons Associated With Visual Impairment (PAVI) made representation to the National Employment Service, Ministry of Labour & Small and Micro Enterprise Development for employment of persons who are visually impaired. As result, between 2006 and now, a pilot project was run with 30 visually impaired persons.
Work trials were begun in eight (8) government ministries and 2 private sector organizations. They were successful with 29 out the 30 persons gaining further employment. • After the success of the pilot project, on June 29, 2009 the National Employment Service hosted a seminar intended to raise the level of awareness of Human Resource Officers to the issues pertinent to the employment of persons with disabilities and to highlight the benefits associated with assisting these job seekers to earn a living and contribute to the national economy. • At the Seminar, Disability Organizations were presented with CD’S on NES World of Work Booklet that contains information regarding recruitment and employment to help prospective job seekers.
The Public Transport Service Corporation acquired five (5) buses to accommodate persons with disabilities which were commissioned to active service from November 2004.These buses are used exclusively to transport both adults and children who suffer from physical disabilities. • The services which depart the various locations at 6:30am and return at 3:00pm, Monday to Friday are organized to transport who reside in areas such as San Fernando, Arima, Chaguanas and Diego Martin for school and employment purposes. • These buses are fully utilized from Monday to Friday and requests have been received for weekend arrangements but then cannot be facilitated at the present time.
The National Library Systems Authority (NALIS) provides services for the disabled in the National Library of Trinidad and Tobago, situated in Port of Spain. There are assistive technologies available to the visually impaired in the Children’s , Adult and Heritage Libraries. • NALIS’ staff has been trained in sign language to effectively communicate with the hearing impaired; staff can also communicate with the hearing impaired using the computer. • The Library has been made physically accessible through ramps and elevators and a scooter donated by Friends of the Library as well as with accessible bathroom facilities.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) has established the Student Support Services Division to address students in vulnerable students, providing diagnostic and prescriptive, guidance and counseling, social work and special education services as well as provision of special education training for teachers. • The first draft of the Policy on Inclusive Education was first completed in 2008 and is currently being revised. • The National Open School of Trinidad and Tobago (NOSTT) was opened in 2006 to facilitate entry-level learners as well as 45 Adult Education Centres were established. • Further teacher training and curriculum reform to meet the needs of all learners.
THE NGO INPUT • A number of non–governmental organizations have taken the initiative to provide training ,vocational rehabilitation and employment services. • The Blind Welfare Association provides vocational counselling and rehabilitation. There are three Workshops which are attached to the Association's Branches. Various crafts in basketry, chair caning, and seagrassing are manufactured. • The Goodwill Industries of the West Indies(Trinidad) provides work adjustment, job placement and work services, independent living skills and work behaviors. They also provide occupational training in the following areas : printing, bookbinding, hairstyling, food preparation and textile sewing.
The National Centre for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) provides persons with disabilities with effective and efficient training and rehabilitation services. The organization offers a comprehensive training and rehabilitation program. • They also provide community outreach services as well as consultative services. A notable example of this is the technical advice given by NCPD to the Tobago House of Assembly, Social Services Division in the establishment of Tobago’s first Technical Vocational Centre for Persons with Disabilities. • In 2008, one hundred and eighty persons received training in the following areas: Agriculture/ Horticulture, Beauty Culture, Bookbinding, Offset Printing, Food Preparation,
Garment Construction, Upholstery, Information Technology, Office Administration, Orthopaedic/Welding and Woodwork.
Recommendations • Expansion of the pilot project of the National Employment Service to target more persons with a wider range of disabilities. • Expansion of the education of human resource officers on the issues pertinent to employing persons with disabilities, especially in the private sector and small and medium enterprises(SME’s) • Expansion of the provision of bus services to the disabled to 6:00 pm and on weekends. The service should also increase the number of areas serviced ,especially to rural areas. • Expansion of library information technology services to more areas, especially in rural communities.
Recommendations (cont’d) • Establishment of a special scholarship fund to fund the training of personnel in the areas of Special Education, Disability Studies, and Vocational Rehabilitation. • A specialized education program should be created to cater to the needs of post-primary students with disabilities who have not been mainstreamed to ensure employability .It must include ICT training and vocational rehabilitation. • The required legislative framework must be completed in order to implement policy. • Further partnership with and funding of disability NGO’s by government and private sector. NGO’s that deal specifically with disability and employment should act as chief consultants to the solution of the problem.
Expansion of library information technology services to more areas, especially in rural communities. Expansion of library information technology services to more areas, especially in rural communities.
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