North & East

'Handicap, go home!'

Disabled man can't get job despite degree; laments mistreatment

Observer staff reporter

Monday, October 01, 2018

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WHEN Dwight Campbell decided to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, he thought it would have made life much easier for him as a disabled person.

He realised early that it was going to be a challenge landing a job despite having eight O Level subjects.

This pushed him to pursue the accounting degree —a field in which the demand is great.But even then doors are still closing in his face.

A year after he completed his studies, he is still without a job — a dilemma he has faced for more than 10 years.

“In terms of getting jobs, people discriminate against us,” Campbell told the Jamaica Observer North & East during an interview at his home in St Ann recently.

He said that he is highlighting is his circumstances to bring more attention to the disabled community.

He said he is now left to wonder if it was worth pursuing a degree although he harbours thoughts of pursuing a master's degree.

“Having completed it, I wonder if it was really good because I'm still having the same problem now with a degree that I had when I just had eight O levels,” he said.

And while he is aware that getting a job can be challenging for anyone, he believes it is more difficult for someone with a disability.

“That challenge is multiplied about 10 times for people with disabilities. People see them as a liability instead of an asset and so they do not whose education was financed by Scotiabank Foundation, said.

As a result of his unemployment, Campbell lives in less than ideal conditions.

His one-bedroom dwelling is slowly falling apart and there is nothing he can do about it.

The 48-year-old man also lives without electricity and potable water. He is dependent on friends to take water to him. Campbell said that he would also have to go into public spaces at nights for electricity to get his schoolwork done.

His struggles have been great.

“I use to work at the library. I worked in a temporary position for seven and a half years. People came after me with less experience than me and were employed permanently,” he explained.

He said he was let go in 2002 because there was a cut in public sector jobs and since then his only other job was in 2005, when he worked for six months on a sensitisation project for the National Health Fund.

He receives $3,000 fortnightly from National Insurance Scheme.

“In the early stages I had the support of family, but since I've been on my own I find that life has been really tough,” he said.

He said while the Government continues to say it is putting things in place for the disabled communities, he believes it is not enough.

“A lot of people out there are suffering in a similar way,” he stressed.

He pointed out that employment, education, housing and access to both government and private sector buildings continue to be a challenge for people with disability.

Using his own challenges as example, he said the disabled community has a very challenging life, not only because of their disabilities, but because the things that would make life much easier for them are not easily accessible.

He said that even with the place he calls home falling apart, he is unable to get housing assistance because he does not have land available.

He told Observer North & East that he has applied for a grant to start his own business but has not been successful. He also said he has tried various means for assistance, including the Poor Relief Department; however, apart from food items, which are usually canned foods, he has received no substantial help.

The man, who walks with crutches, said even walking on the streets is a challenge for him as people across the country are not compassionate when it comes to the disabled community.

He lives on a busy street in St Ann's Bay and it is not easy for him to get around with impatient vendors and motorists often insisting he stays home instead of getting in their way.

“People actually take me on in the streets. You ask them excuse and they tell you, 'You are a handicap and you must go home',” Campbell said.

He stated that the attitude of people at all levels of society towards the disabled community is often negative.

The St Ann man became disabled following an accident while he was in the eighth grade at Dinthill Technical High School in St Catherine.

He said he has no recollection of the accident, but was told that he was hit by a truck which pinned him against a tree. Campbell was in a coma for two months and hospitalised for over two years.

“When I came out of the hospital, I was not in a condition to attend school as I was in a whee chair,” he said.

High schools across the island were not equipped and some are still not able to accommodate students in wheelchair, he said.

He said government buildings such as the library also pose a challenge to disabled people. Accessing certain facilities such as the reference room, computer lab and other areas at the St Ann Parish Library is a challenge because these are on the upper floor of the facility, and he is not allowed there, he explained.

When Observer North & East checked with the senior librarian at the facility she admitted these rooms are on the upper floor, but she said efforts are made to accommodate the elderly and disabled.

Opal Scott, senior librarian, said computers are based on the lower floor of the building for the elderly and disabled. She said if they need books on the upper floor they can ask and someone will get them.

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