Program highlights disability challenge

The International Day for people with Disabilities was celebrated last week with a ceremony at the Public School System headquarters. It featured Deaf students signing the Marshall Islands national anthem during the opening ceremony. Photo: Eve Burns.

The challenges in the Marshall Islands of diabetes and deafness were highlighted during the opening of International Day for People with Disabilities in Majuro last week.

“Transformative solutions for inclusive development: The role of innovation in fueling an accessible and equitable world” is the theme for this year’s International Day for people with disabilities. The disabilities awareness ceremony was held at Public School System conference room as part of the 16 days of activism.

Miss Wotje Ramona Obeketang emceed the ceremony, while Reverend Tim Mea delivered the opening prayers. The Deaf students used sign language for the national anthem.

Councilman Jina David delivered the opening remarks on behalf of Mayor Ladie Jack, thanking and welcoming all the embassies who were presented to witness the ceremony. He also recognized the students and their parents who were present. He expressed gratitude to the Ministries of Health and Human Services and Culture and Internal Affairs, WUTMI, and Public School System who partnered to support the ceremony.

Acting Health Secretary Francyne Wase-Jacklick conveyed the keynote address on behalf of Minister Joe Bejang. “Today and all the activities for this week will be to showcase talents and knowledge as well as the needs people with disabilities have,” said Francyne.

“The theme is ‘Transformative solutions for inclusive development: The role of innovation in fueling an accessible and equitable world.’ Here in the Marshall Islands there are different kinds of disabilities that we see and live with. There are disabilities in the body, in other words physical disabilities, intellectual and behavioral disabilities, deaf, blind, autistic, cleft palate, down syndromes and other disabilities.”

She highlighted two disabilities that are highly affecting the community, which are she said are deafness and amputation due to complication of diabetes.

“I believe all of us have relatives or friends that have had one or both legs amputated,” she said. “This really affects life. To move around or travel is a challenge, there are buildings here in the community that don’t have ramps, public restrooms that doesn’t have railing.

“There are steps that our government has started taking like building buildings that will make it easier for people with disabilities. The hospital also has services or rehab and other actions to manage diabetes and to help prevent amputation.”

Francyne pointed out that the RMI is a country where “many are born deaf, many babies are born to families with no hearing problems, and they will grow up in an environment that can hear. If you really think about it, this a challenge for them and their families because they have to learn new language that is sign language so they can talk story or communicates. Mental growth for every child comes from our talk-stories, singing and playing with them. These are important for the first years for children, but if they are deaf, it delays their mental growth and it delays communication.”

V7AB’s William Ring delivered closing remarks. He thanked everyone who was involved in making the ceremony happen. Reverend Tim closed the ceremony.

Then students and family lined up to get food before heading home or back to school.


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