7.7 million JMD in equipment donated by UNDP to support learning of Persons with Disabilities in Jamaica

March 23, 2022

UNDP Resident Representative, Denise E Antonio (right) officially hands over a gift of 20 braille machines to Salvation Army School for the Blind Principal, Iyeke Erharuyi. The gift is part of a 7.7 Million JMD donation of equipment to the School for the Blind, Jamaica Association for the Deaf and the Combined Disabilities Association.

Braille machines, computers and furniture valuing 7.7 million JMD (50 000 USD) have been donated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support critical learning needs of student who are blind and deaf in Jamaica, and the administrative capacity of the Combined Disabilities Association (CDA).

UNDP Resident Representative Denise E Antonio who heads UNDP’s Multi Country Office in Jamaica, officially handed over the equipment and furniture at a ceremony hosted at the Salvation Army School for the Blind on Tuesday (22 March).

The gift includes: 20 braille machines to the School for the Blind; 10 laptops for the Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD); three desktop computers and office chairs to the CDA.

Noting the critical shortage of braille machines and other learning tools for students with disabilities, Ms Antonio called for public private partnerships to ensure that institutions which prepare Persons with Disabilities for life and work, are suitably equipped to carry out their mandate.

She said UNDP is honoured to uphold and support the right to education and training of all Persons with Disabilities—one of several rights now guaranteed in law under Jamaica’s Disabilities Act. She commended the Government of Jamaica for bringing the Act into effect in February, noting that the legislation is an important asset to expand opportunities for PWDs.

“Education is the currency with which persons living with disabilities can acquire professional and personal growth, with no limits on their potential,” the Resident Representative said.  She committed to expanding UNDP’s partnership with the CDA, School for the Blind and JAD throughout 2022 and beyond to ensure they are not left behind as contributors and beneficiaries of Jamaica’s development goals.

“Braille machines are to blind students what pen and pencils are to other students ... They are used daily for reading, writing all class-related teaching and learning, including homework”, Salvation Army School for the Blind Principal, Iyeke Erharuyi explained in his acceptance remarks. He said without enough machines to assign to each student, learning outcomes have been severely impacted. He disclosed that many of the school’s old braille machines malfunction every two weeks on average and are often out of circulation awaiting parts and maintenance. The donation of 20 new machines will improve access by students, while strengthening class participation, literacy and numeracy, he explained.   

JAD Interpreting Officer, Mary-Angela Fatta also indicated that inadequate equipment is a challenge for the Association’s several schools spanning four parishes. She disclosed that less than half of JAD’s teachers and Deaf Culture Facilitators have access to a reliable school issued device to support teaching and learning of 230 students. “The laptops received will be utilised by the instructors to ensure this process is effective as well as to ensure the visual nature of Deaf and Hard of Hearing learners is addressed,” she said.

Gloria Goffe, CDA Executive Director said for seven years, staff of the Association struggled with office equipment, including computers designated obsolete in their audit report. This led to a slow work rate, late responses, delayed completion of work and increased expenditure on updates and repairs, she explained. “The donations have increased the productivity of the staff; and reduced the Association’s dependence on borrowed computers. The computers have also improved the Association’s capacity to properly establish a membership database in one location,” Ms Goffe pointed out.

UNDP routinely supports vulnerable communities including Persons with Disabilities to reduce inequalities and exclusion in the spirit of leaving no one behind. The Multi Country Office’s new Country Programme 2022 – 2026 places some emphasis on empowering vulnerable communities to realise their development aspirations in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals and Jamaica’s Vision 2030 plan for national development.

NOTE: UNDP uses the latest United Nations Operational Rate of Exchange (UNORE) dated 1 March 2022, of J$154.219 Jamaican dollars to US$1.00