Struggling without rights

| 24/02/2009

(CNS): None of the churches have ever helped her and nor have her local West Bay MLAs, said Keisha Martin, blind since she was a child and now very upset that Section 16 of the Bill of Rights in the new Constitution has been changed from its original form which would have prevented government from discriminating against anyone at any time. “Government doesn’t hear me,” she said, and thought the section had been changed “sneakily to please the Christian pastors”. (Photo: Keisha Martin with HRC chair Sara Collins)

Martin, who gave an impassioned plea at the at the public meeting on the Constitution at the Family Life Centre on Thursday, 19 February, said she met Sara Collins for the first time right before the meeting. “I truly believe that Sara wants to help me,” she said.

“In every hole in the Cayman Islands there is a church,” she told CNS, but said she has never received any help from any of them. People come to her house to invite her to church (she’s Catholic), but no one ever, for example, said they’d take care of her water bill that month.

She lives in West Bay in one of the homes built by the Affordable Housing Initiative, which is “practically falling down”, with her daughter Asiah, who is almost five, and her husband, Jerrian Martin, a school teacher she recently married who last week started work part time at St Ignatius Catholic School.

Her MLAs have never visited her, she said. “I found the emails of Rolston Anglin and Cline Glidden and sent them emails two months ago but they haven’t replied. I left three messages at the MLA office for McKeeva Bush to make an appointment to see him but I’ve not heard a thing.” She said she phoned Anthony Eden when he was Health Minister in a previous administration but he never returned calls.

The only response from a politician she has ever had was from Education Minister Alden McLaughlin. “He was the only one who made anything happen, the only one who didn’t push me off,” she said. In 2006, they met and talked and within a few weeks she had a student visa and a stipend from the government to go to the US to take a 16-month computer studies course at Daytona Beach Community College, which has certainly helped in her job as a Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) communications officer.

What’s more, the RCIPS also paid her a full salary while she was away. And when she got to the US and found that there was more that she could do at the college, Minister McLaughlin told her to go ahead and he found the funds to pay for it.

In 2001, the Lions Club raised funds to buy her a guide dog, which could have made a huge difference in her life. Unfortunately, there was no one to help her once she had Baby. “I was not working and it was a struggle to get the dog food … I had very few friends interested in helping me,” she said. (Left: Keisha and Baby with one of the trainers)

Because there are no anti-discrimination laws for the disabled, most bus drivers would not allow her onto their buses. She was standing by the road at 6:30 every morning, but many times she was late for work because she had to wait for the only two drivers who would let her board – one was a relative and the other just understood her situation.

She lived for four months in a hotel because people wouldn’t rent a place to her with the dog, and she was refused entry into restaurants with Baby. Only one supermarket and two banks would let her bring dog in, and she was allowed into the hospital. One restaurant owner, who even donated money to get Martin the dog, wouldn’t allow Baby in her restaurant but made Keisha stand outside and sold her a soda through the door.

He was a young dog and she could have had him for many years, Martin said. “He could have taken me anywhere I wanted to go.” But life was so impossible with Baby that she called the trainers in the US to come and get him. “He was the perfect dog. I have two real regrets in life and one was the dog. Hell is a small part of what I went through,” she said.

According to Sara Collins, chair of the Human Rights Committee, there is no specific statute in the Cayman Islands to protect disabled people from discrimination. The Labour Law (2001 Revision) contains a very narrow provision that employers can be fined for discriminating on certain grounds. The draft Constitution proposes only to protect disabled people from discrimination by the government in relation to the rights set out in the Bill of Rights, like the right not to be tortured, enslaved and others.

“If I get a dog today, there is still nothing in law that forces people to let me in,” Martin said, noting that Baby was the first guide dog for the blind in the Caribbean. “That should have been very positive for the Cayman Islands but it was negative because of the backward thinking here.”

Martin feels discriminated against in so many ways every day. For example, she needs signs on bathrooms in Braille so she knows which is the men’s and which is the women’s. Elevators and ramps, which assist people in wheelchairs, are also much easier for her than staircases. “The meeting was very upsetting but a small part of me thinks that government is now listening,” she said.

Collins told CNS, “The debate between the HRC and the government is about how far the protection from discrimination should go. The HRC has said that it should extend to all areas of daily life. An actual law is still needed to protect disabled people from discrimination by the private sector or private individuals, as the draft Constitution will not do this. However, if we demand a strong Constitution, it will be possible to make the government pass effective laws.

“The Cayman Islands government has been aware for some time of the kinds of issues and concerns being raised on behalf of disabled people and other vulnerable groups. We are concerned that such a law has not yet been passed in spite of this knowledge. We are also concerned about the inordinate delay (in some cases more than a decade) in implementing the Children’s Law or passing legislation to ensure non-discrimination against women. For these reasons, we do not believe it is satisfactory to wait for the government to decide to enact legislation. Rather, we should build strong protection into the Constitution which will require it to do so.”

Collins added, “We have also pointed out that laws can be changed by successive governments, who could decide that it is too expensive, or not politically expedient, to give protection to certain groups.”

 

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Cayman always had mad people, but the maddest is just coming out. I have known keisha for years now and she was always speaking out asking for help in various areas of her life, she had to make appointments to see certain persons in the various Government Department, even to Social Services she has to be fighting with for assistant sometime.

    Keisha has taught someone of us "IF WE DON’T STAND UP FOR OURSELVES AND SPEAK OUT, THERE IS NO ONE TO STAND FOR US AND HELP US TO SPEAK OUT".

    So Keisha continue voicing your opinons until  The GOVERNMENT staps what they are doing and start listen to our disable person in the Cayman Islands. They too have the rights to voice their opinons.

    Continue speaking out Keisha, sooner or later someone must heard your cry for yourself anothers who are disable too. 

     

  2. Anonymous says:

    I never thought Cayman had so much mad people.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I am not in a postion to disclose all of the details here, but it is hard to decide whether Rotania (or Keisha as she has renamed herself) is being completely genuine. While it can’t be denied that her life is one of constant challenge and she, and others like her, need greater protection under the law, unfortunately, she never gives credit where credit is due. Many people HAVE helped Rotania along the way, making great sacrifices of all sorts to assist her. Ask her how many of those people she has said thank you to oreven still speaks to.

  4. Anonymous says:

    To the person who asked if Keisha attends church – if you bother to read the article properly, Keisha is asking for pracical help and legal rights to non-discrimination. It is outrageous – and typical – that because she criticises churchgoers (i.e. you), she is criticising God, or as you put it "an unrighteous god who saw it necessary to inflict her with such a disability"  – how you pulled that out of this story, God alone knows because nowhere did Keisha say any such thing. Obviously you don’t learn a whole of of humility in your church since you think you are the embodiment of God.

  5. Anonymous says:

    perhaps ms. martin does not attend any church. i am sure that if she did, she would not be leveraging her disadvantage as revenge against an unrighteous god who saw it necessary to inflict her with such a disability.

    people, where is our faith. have you not read the account of the blind healing at Bethesda, or is it a fairy tale?

    one thing is for sure. every single one of us will stand before the One who gave us life to account for it.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I should mention that praise should not be forgotten to the individuals who gave her a job in the RCIPS, which was Mr. David Thursfield and then Deputy Commissioner Buel Braggs.

    What ever happened to Commissioners like David Thursfield, Buel Braggs and Anthony Grey ????

    All persons of their calibre, all seem to have disapperared these days !!!!!!!

    I wonder why ?????????????? 

  7. Anonymous says:

    could someone please tell me what church helped Keisha, in what way and when?

  8. Anonymous says:

    The funding which Ms Nicholson recieved from the Government was not a helping hand – it was funding that the Government is or should be oblidged to give all Caymanian students via Education Council Scholarships (who attain acceptance to a reputable university and who have the required academic preformance to show they are capable of undertaking the proposed course of study).

    Ms Nicholson should not have had to have a personal meeting with the MInister to plea for this assistance – after being ignored for years! Mr McLaughlin’s helping hand was the least he could do for a person so overlooked and discarded by the Government of the Cayman Islands! This favor, now undone by the rights he will now systematically deny to all disabled people – via the currently proposed Bill of RIghts, vs the Bill of RIghts in its original form.

    Ms Nicholson should be lauded for standing up, not only to ensure the extension of her own rights, but the rights of all disabled persons. Of people with disabilities in the Cayman Islands, she is amongst the most vocable and able to advocate for herself – she could gain whatever concessions she needs for herself – this position is to ensure all diabled persons, those unable to speak up for themselves,  are treated equally by the Government of the Cayman Islands.

    How dare the previous poster acuse her of being ungrateful. I assume you are not well acquainted with any individual who has a severe disability or family member of an individual with a disability in Cayman.

    The assistance they recieve from the Government, if any is disgraceful, in a country with as much wealth as Cayman.  We would all be shocked to learn of the conditions under which some of these families live. Imagine a mother of two disabled adult children, living in a home without indoor plumbing, unable to work as her two children require around the clock care. She depends on the charity of neighbors and individuals who know of her situation to donate food, adult diapers, and other supplies she needs to care for her children – that the miniscule funds she recieves from social services does not even begin to cover. This woman lives in West Bay – and is just one of many families and individuals which are DISCRIMINATED against by our current system – and will continue to be under the currently proposed Bill of RIghts.

     

  9. Anonymous says:

    How easily and soon we forget! One would think that Keisha/Rotania Nicholeson was never offered  a helping hand! 

    I do not know what it is to be blind and I hope never to experience it, but I think the sorriest part of this is how Rotania seems to have forgotten those who extended a helping hand to her in the past – and yes it does include the members of at least one Church – but it is much easier to complain.

    I too think she and other handicapped persons are being used by the HRC, and the rest of us had better understand what is going on here!

    • Anonymous says:

      "I too think she and other handicapped persons are being used by the HRC, and the restof us had better understand what is going on here!"  I have never read anything more ridiculous.

      So what you’re telling us is that the HRC’s sinister plan is to "use" handicapped people by getting them to speak up and demand the right to not be discriminated against. You know, the same rights that the HRC is trying to secure for those same disabled people and every other resident of these Islands. Yes, I see it now! Oooh, you’re right, the HRC is very sneeky!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Shameful!

    I for one feel horrible about this story. Mrs Martin should list by names those places that refused her entrance with a guide dog. I would encourage everyone to boycott those establishments.

    More importantly — this is someone’s life that already has enough difficulties. It wasn’t a mutt that no one cared about following her in — it was a tool to help with her disability. I cannot believe the self-righteous christians couldn’t forgive this person for a handicap and allow her to live her life to the fullest. Simply disgusting and anyone involved should feel extremely ashamed.

    As for the bill of rights — the current draft is a farce. Clearly the type of experiences that Mrs Martin has had to endure will continue and extend to others. Be fearful — for one day YOU may be grouped as an "untouchable" and have your rights stamped out as well.

     

  11. Anonymous says:

     

    I have known Keisha for my whole life; I am disgusted by the members of the CAYMAN ISLANDS GOVERNMENT! YES ALL OF THEM!  My questions for them are;
     
    Can you imagine life without eyes? Can you imagine walking around all day in total darkness? How would you find your way around your home, how would you cook or clean or care for your children, without eyesight?
     
    Can you imagine having to depend on people for the rest of your life for everything! From the tender age of five she has lost her sight; imagine seeing the world in colour then a second later total darkness. It’s a difficult situation to deal with; I know this because i was there hand and foot for her.
    Keisha was so excited to have "Baby" (her Seeing Eye Dog) because donors had offered her a friend and as an opportunity to see once more! In a sense, she no longer had to depend on people directly for transportation; she became an average person walking around George Town, with the dog she felt as she was "normal" again. However, due to the Government lack support she had to send a very expensively trained service dog back.
    Can you imagine losing your sight at such a young age and gaining back your independence with all of the excitment of “seeing” again, only to lose it AGAIN!?
    I strongly feel that the MLA’s that helped her get the dog only did so for their own political gain. They should be ashamed stating their claim to Christianity because in my opinion this was done out of greed for money and power NOT for the good will of theirfellow men and women.
     
  12. Anonymous says:

    Shame on Mr. Bush and his three stooges.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I know what Keisha Martin went through with the dog (Baby). I used to work with Keisha at RCIPS at the front Desk and there were certain persons that used to complain about dog belongs outside not inside and if something can’t be done in removing this dog from the front desk. well then you will have to remove me and put me somewhere esle. This came from a senior officer that had retired and came back to work as front desk supervisor.

    Knowing keisha and her dog, he was a nice dog, he knew certain people he could go and sit by when keisha either go to the rest room or to get a glass of water or coffee.

    Keisha good article. i hope Government take action in assisting you, but i will be there to assist when ready.

    Let’s put ourselves in Keisha Martin Shoes, incase we was blind what will we wan to expext from the government? how do you expect other  persons that can see treat you?

    Come on, stop hating and start loving again.

    Keisha you have my thumps up, continuing to speak out until someone listen.

     

  14. anonymous says:

     Great reporting. Thank you CNS!

     Ask for a better constitution. Please sign the Equality Cayman petition at http://www.petitiononline.

    com/bor16/petition.html

  15. Anonymous says:




    Vote NO on the new bill of rights.

    The current bill of rights is based on a flawed ideology which will cripple this country down the lines and will in FACT deliver a fatal blow to the tradition of this nation by providing anyone from our outside of this country an erosive component to the foundation of this country.

    Section 6 is thegood intentions that will pave our path to hell.

    Here’s a question:

    The proposal seems to _attempt_ to prevent discrimination, however its does so by identifying and labeling "groups" or people rather than to protect "individual" rights irrespective of the person’s "group qualification".  The bill discriminates itself in order to prevent discrimination in essence.

    For example, if you take the US bill of rights, it doesn’t qualify a particular individual into a particular groups.  And it does so by design.

    The current constitution _discriminates_, yes that’s right, _discriminates_ in the name of good intentions, and puts people into groups of victims, suggesting that they are in fact discriminated against, therefore need to be identified/labeled and protected by this bill in the name of inequality, independently and separated from the "normal person" group. 

    This creates and forces us to identify ourselves a _different_ and classifies us into, race, sexual orientation, nationality, religion and God knows what else, and promotes grouping and divide within society.  Another question is, if these group rights need to be protected independently, have all groups been identified and assigned special constitutional protection from (most us) the regular people group?

    The bill also seems to provide/allow discrimination toward ex-pats in terms of employment by way of 1) Its ok to discriminate for a work position based in your nationality and 2) the bill of rights “perhaps” being applicable only if you are Caymanian was some of the suggestions. Actually there was some dancing around by HRC on this issue so this remains unclear.

    In either case, how then does one _differentiate_ whether a gay _ex-pat_ for example, hasn’t been denied work for reasons because of their particular sexual orientation or whether it was due to their status position (not being Caymanian)?  Could that possibly allow for the ex-pat to sue for sexual orientation discrimination thereby blurring the lines of the _type_ of discrimination?  Not being Caymanian vs. Their sexual orientation?  Sounds like you’re opening a huge can of worms to me.

    If you say that the bill only applies to Caymanians and would therefore not protect expats under these provisions, then are you not saying that discrimination against sexual orientation is OK, unless you are Caymanian?  Defying the whole purpose of the Bill of Rights which is ultimately designed to protect against its labeled pre-packed, discriminated, upon groups.  This bill reeks of conflicts.

    The fact of the matter is this bill of rights will be used and abused and the courts will use it to legislate from the bench and to force minority agendas onto the majority, despite any votes casted at the ballot box as it does everywhere else you see in the world.  To suggest that this bill will be any different is complete insanity and a huge deception.

    Example Prop 8 banning gay marriages passed by ballot in the states of California and Florida amongst other states.  The gay community is now fighting this through the courts using the billof right to overturn the will of the voters at the ballot box and they will eventually win.

    The path to hell is paved with good intentions.