Jamaica was one of the first two countries to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007. The Convention provides that persons in this social grouping have the right to economic and social security and to a decent standard of living; to develop their capabilities and skills to the maximum level; and to be integrated into the society, as far as possible.
“In keeping with the Government’s stated commitment affirmed through the United Nations Convention and the Vision 2030 Sector Plan, the CHASE Fund has, since its inception, supported a range of projects –mainly educational – to help persons with special needs, given the limited provision for their development in the public education system and the high cost of private institutions.”
– W. Billy Heaven, Chief Executive Officer, CHASE Fund
Books on Audio Tape – Greater Independence for the Blind
Traditionally, blind or visually-impaired children at the Salvation Army School for the Blind depended on the assistance of reading volunteers when using text books that were not available in Braille; and their studies were severely hampered if the volunteers were unavailable. The prospects for independent study and integration of blind students with their sighted counterparts in the education system have improved considerably since 2004, when the School, which is the only institution of its kind in Jamaica, acquired special audio technology.
Financed by the CHASE Fund at a cost of J$1 million, the technology facilitated conversion of the Braille and standard texts in the School’s library to audio format. Three computers, storage units with speakers, scan to voice scanners, reading software, cassette recorders and earphones were acquired; persons were hired to read texts onto tape; and students and staff were trained to use the equipment. Each of the students on roll has a tape recorder and can work independently to access information from the audio library.
Assisting Autistic Children at Promise Learning Centre
Current statistics indicate that autism affects one in every 88 children born; and the incidence of this condition is increasing. A development disorder that disrupts a person’s ability to communicate with, and relate to others, the condition also affects motor and language skills. The cause of autism is still to be identified and there is no known cure.
The CHASE Fund’s contribution of J$3.6 million to Promise Learning Centre, which caters almost exclusively to children with autism, helped the Kingston-based institution to acquire vital equipment and also employ two specialists to work with its young charges over a two-year period between 2008 and 2010. The funds covered the cost of playground equipment, which is critical in the development of autistic children. Touch screen equipment was also secured and a speech therapist and specialist teacher in computer studies were engaged.
“The contribution by CHASE helped us to strengthen our development programme to positively impact both the lives of our students and their parents.” – Marjorie Hylton, Programme Director, Promise Learning Centre
JACLD Expands Learning Opportunities for the Learning Disabled
Meeting the high cost of specialized services, such as diagnostic and educational assessments conducted by external professionals in order to identify learning difficulties and prescribe remedial action is a major challenge for The Jamaica Association for Children with Learning Disabilities (JACLD), which, for more than 30 years, has been giving children with learning challenges such as dyslexia and speech defects, the opportunity to achieve their educational goals.
A J$1 million contribution from the CHASE Fund in the 2010-2011 school year, therefore, provided a well-needed boost. The grant financed diagnostic assessments for 60 needy students, as well as the acquisition of five additional computers which have helped to enrich the learning experience.
A non-profit, private institution with facilities in Cross Roads and Mandeville, the JACLD caters to students between the ages of 4 and 12; and it also conducts evening classes for learning-disabled students in mainstream schools. Staffed by teachers experienced in special education and who use computer-aided learning methods, the institution has successfully prepared students for the Grade Six Achievement Test and integration into the wider educational system, and many of its graduates have moved on to tertiary-level institutions and are gainfully employed.
Other Special Needs Educational Institutions which have benefitted from CHASE Fund interventions include:
§ Genesis Academy in Kingston , which received J$4 million in 2008/2009 to help refurbish its skills training block. The Academy which offers a wide curriculum for students with physical and intellectual disabilities and who are between the ages of 12 and 21, places emphasis on vocational skills and occupational therapy which provide opportunities for self-employment and economic independence. Skills training is provided in the areas of Food and Hospitality, Cosmetology, Data Operations and Sewing and Textiles. The data and textile programmes are certified by the HEART Trust/NTA.
§ The Jamaica Association for the Deaf – May Pen Unit: This institution educates students at the pre-school, primary and secondary levels; and it is the only facility catering to deaf and hearing–impaired students in the parishes of Clarendon, St. Catherine and Manchester. The CHASE Fund’s grant of J$1.8 million in 2010/2011 helped to renovate the school plant which was damaged by natural disasters over a three-year period, forcing the curtailment of critical educational programmes.
Disabled Athletes Take the Spotlight
Some 500 disabled athletes from 15 Caribbean nations had a unique opportunity to gain exposure to competition and showcase their skills at the Special Olympics Caribbean Inaugural Games hosted by Jamaica in 2004. The athletes, aged 10 to the early 30s, competed in track and field events, swimming, bocce and football.
The CHASE Fund covered the cost of accommodation, meals and life insurance for the competitors with a J$6 million grant, which facilitated the successful staging of the Meet. In welcoming the Agency’s support, Mrs. Maureen Webber, Co-Chairperson of the Local Organizing Committee, said CHASE had enabled the organizers to achieve their objective of promoting regional exchange which would enhance development of the athletes. She said the Meet had also heightened public interest and awareness of the achievements and contribution of disabled athletes.
“CHASE is committed to providing meaningful opportunities through which persons with disabilities can achieve their full potential. The Special Olympics Caribbean Inaugural Games, allowed participants to further hone their skills; and was an important step in grooming them for competition on the world stage, which is the dream of every athlete.”
– Glen Christian, Director, CHASE Fund
Preventive Action by Combined Disabilities Association
In the face of the reported high number of children who acquire disabilities – many under avoidable circumstances, and due to lack of, or late intervention – the Combined Disabilities Association mounted an extensive education programme in 2011 to highlight the importance of early detection and treatment of potentially disabling conditions.
The second phase of the programme, which targetted primary schools students, as well as their teachers, guidance counsellors, parents and guardians, was supported by a J$3.4 million grant from the CHASE Fund, and covered the 15-month period from September 2011to February 2013. More than 4,000 students were assessed and more than 200 teachers were trained during the intervention which involved workshops, school visits and the distribution of play-safe posters aimed at educating stakeholders in school communities about the harmful activities in which children engage. The initiative was mounted in collaboration with the Jamaica Society for the Blind, the Jamaica Association for the Deaf and the Jamaica Association for Intellectual Disability.