Preventing for disability rights within the Bahamas – PAHO/WHO

More than ten years ago, Erin lost her leg to osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that mainly affects young people and children. She had been receiving cancer treatment in the United States when doctors discovered that the damage to the bone in her leg was so severe that she had to be amputated.

“I left the Bahamas as a non-disabled person and came back as a disabled person,” she said during an interview from her Nassau office. “I was shocked that there wasn’t a lot of infrastructure here. Politics, programs, initiatives, support systems, networks, there was little to nothing – not even from the point of view of awareness. I asked questions about what I needed and that way I realized what wasn’t being addressed. “

She started small and just passed her extra supplies and equipment on to other people. She recognized the magnitude of the need and laid a foundation to expand her work. One day when she was running a marathon, she found another niche. As she crossed the finish line, she saw two young girls cheering for her. “The look on their faces – so shocked. It related disability differently for them. You now have a different perspective on what people with disabilities can do – what they look like. “

In 2010 she founded her company to encourage people with disabilities to take part in sports. Since then, it has grown into a company that helps people with disabilities find work, trains people in on-the-job shelters, and works to make health services more accessible to people with disabilities. “I’m a disability attorney, but I’m also a cancer survivor,” she says. “If you see me coming, I might be talking about cancer; I may be talking about a disability, or I am talking about a low income family that has no insurance. “

In 2018 she was involved in a universal health campaign by WHO and PAHO for World Health Day. Now she is working with the Ministry of Health and trying to raise awareness not only about accessibility but also about employment in the health sector so that people with disabilities “have a seat at the table”.

Such employment is essential to make services for people with disabilities work better. For example, she says, “If you hire someone who is deaf, hard of hearing, or has a hearing aid, they are from a lived experience. You can relate to the patient or customer [with a hearing disability]. You can get involved more effectively. “

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