Newly elected Grand Bahama Disabled Council President Bessiemae Nottage is calling on corporate citizens and individuals with financial means to help her organization establish a new home.
Despite being physically challenged, Nottage says high on her agenda is for the disabled people of Grand Bahama to have a place they can call their own. She said they are somewhat scattered right now and even though they have an office space in the Kipling Building, there is need for a much larger and better place that can be accessible by all their members.
"This is one of the main things that I will do my best to try and work for," Nottage said. "I know that this is not going to be a one man thing and I will like the involvement of every individual so that they can be a part of it.
"It is not about me, it is about all of us and whatever decision is going to be made will be based on what we would want to see done within the community."
Having been in the teaching profession for over 30 years, Nottage said it came as a surprise to be elected as president, but as a service oriented person, she welcomed the opportunity to continue giving service to a good cause.
"Now that I have been elected, I promised the members that I will do all that I can to ensure that I give my best," she said. "I am really honoured to have been given the opportunity to serve because I did not have to be here. All I can say is, it could only be God."
Speaking on how the rights of the disabled seem to go unnoticed or disrespected by some, Nottage said she shares the same opinions of former president Derrick Nottage, and that is her organization will fight to ensure that the disabled are respected in the country and that consideration will be given by law to give them a voice in the community.
"Because there are many times, for instance, where disabled persons are not allowed access to certain buildings where we cannot get upstairs and I think that before buildings are constructed that developers should at least think about the handicap and provide ways for them to be able to get into the building," she said.
"The disabled have a long way to go in The Bahamas. To make matters worse sometimes when you go to park near certain places, you cannot find a parking space. I am certain that there are persons who are not disabled and park in parking spots designated for the disabled. This is not right."
Nottage said one such building she is disappointed with is the City Markets food store downtown, which has iron bars blocking wheelchair access to the front of the building.
"Many times I shop at the food store, but you can't get in because of the railings they have at the front, and ever since I have been sick, I now have to shop at the one in Lucaya," she said. "At the downtown store, they tell you you can get in, but you have to wait for someone with the key to come and open it. Knowing the long wait it is going to take before they come to open it, it does not make sense and so I don't bother.
"I think that all of this needs to be changed. If we are going to be given the same treatment as everybody else then there are a lot of things that needs to be done for disabled people."
Nottage said a lot of handicapped individuals are very talented and can do things for themselves as well as produce creative items. Therefore, she believes it would be a good idea for them to be exposed to the business world by having seminars and conference aimed at empowering them to utilize their hands.
"These people can create essential goods that the public can use and the goods can be sold," she said. "If you have disabled persons working in these areas, you will be surprised at what they can do.
Nottage said there are a lot of people out there with disabilities, and believe that for some people, because of their pride, they are somewhat embarrassed for others to know they are in that kind of physical condition.
"You would be surprised to know how many persons are disabled here in Freeport, but they are sort of embarrassed to come out maybe because of the way they believe people are going to see them," she said. "They should not think that way because we are all one. The majority of them did not ask to be that way, it just happened."
For those disabled people who are locked up in their houses, who may be too embarrassed to come out, Nottage encourages them to come and see what the Disabled Council is all about and what they hope to accomplish so that all disabled people in the nation can be recognized for what they are worth and be respected.
"It is going to get better for them," she said. "I know it will because I am one that puts God first in everything I do. Once God is with you, anything can happen."
The Freeport News article
Editor's Note: The Disabled Council on Grand Bahama would like you to know that they can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 242-352-7720 from Monday to Friday, 10am until 2pm. They welcome any assistance from the community, and encourage new persons to join with them.