Category: General
Posted by: TorresMessenger
The Caribbean Youth Science Forum conducted a space science session on Monday, August 8, 2011 at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad. The Trinidad Express article claims that they were the first Caribbean group to speak to an astronaut.

We at Camp Can Do know better. On Tuesday, July 19, 2011 the Torres Foundation’s Camp Can Do science and technology summer camp, made up of blind campers from around the Caribbean, received a presentation from Hoot Gibson, space Shuttle commander with 5 missions in to space to his credit.

The visually impaired campers also built and launch rockets; dined on space food; and learned about space shuttle operations.

Click here to read the Trinidad express article.




Category: General
Posted by: TorresMessenger
This year Torres Foundation collaborated with Panos Caribbean at Camp Can Do (CCD) 2011. Indi Lafayette, Panos Director, Adelle Roopchand, Journalist, and Patrick Lafayette, communications consultant orchestrated an impressive media blitz to promote CCD 2011 and conducted a very successful Journalism workshop for our campers.

The Torres Foundation believes that the disabled must be the crafters and delivers of their own message if they are going to be successful in getting their story effectively told. This is one of the major reasons why the journalism workshop was chosen for this year.

The campers were coached on how to produce a mini radio news magazine. They prepared their scripts; conducted interviews to support their story; and narrated the entire production. The final product was quite impressive considering that none of the campers had ever done this kind of project before. The news magazine will be aired on WRTFB BridgeCom Radio next week Monday August 15, at 8:00 PM as part of our We Can Do program. It will be rebroadcast throughout the week.

The Torres Foundation would like to thank the Panos Caribbean team for all their very impressive work at CCD 2011.

Following are some of the links to the newspapers that carried the story:

Antigua Observer
Trinidad Guardian
Panos Caribbean
SKN Vibes


Category: General
Posted by: TorresMessenger
This year the fundraising prospects for Camp Can Do (CCD) 2011 were looking very dismal. The Trinidad and Tobago ministry of Education was happy for their visually impaired students to attend the camp, but they were not willing to provide any funding. The Foundation’s patron, Sir Ellis Clarke, first President of T&T, died in December of last year.

However, when all seemed lost, RBC Royal Bank came to our rescue and made a substantial donation of TTD $75,000.00 and saved the day.

On Behalf of the campers, volunteers, and staff at CCD2011 the Torres Foundation would like to thank Mr. Suresh Sookoo, CEO RBC Caribbean Banking and the RBC family for their investment in our innovative science and technology camp for the visually impaired of the Caribbean. It is our hope that this new partnership with RBC will help the Torres Foundation to realize its goal of opening up new avenues for growth, development, and employment for the blind in the Caribbean and begin the process to fulfill the RBC corporate mission of full inclusion.

Click here to read a Trinidad News Day Article about the donation.

Category: General
Posted by: TorresMessenger

As we embark upon a new year, the long promised Disability Act still eludes us. Several stakeholder workshops have been hosted where promises were made, but all we have is a disabled policy document that is a good start but lacks the teeth of sound legislation.

As though that was not bad enough, we have an Equal Opportunity Act (EOA) that says discrimination is unacceptable unless it is discrimination against a disabled person.

The EOA says in sections 8 to 10 that “employers shall not discriminate against a person in the arrangements he makes for the purpose of determining who should be offered employment;” access to promotions; and employment training.

But in Section 14 the ECA says, “Sections 8 to 10 shall not apply to the employment of a person with a disability.” The EOA then stipulates that if in order to carry out the requirements of a job disabled individuals “…require services or facilities that are not required by persons without a disability and the provision of which would impose an unjustifiable hardship;” the employer is not required to accommodate that disabled employee.

Now let me hasten to add that there is no fair-minded disabled person who would want any employer to have any hardship justifiable or unjustifiable imposed upon his company. On the other hand, the language does not even entertain the notion of reasonable accommodation of a person with a disability. The Equal Opportunity Act leaves the disabled naked and unprotected from unrestrained discrimination.

- Section 18 of The EOA also permits discrimination against persons with disabilities in education. The same hardship language from Section 14 is used to justify disability discrimination in the education section as well.

This language in the EOA legislation is mocking, offensive and embarrassing. Isn’t it rather ironic and sad that Disability only shows up in T&T legislation in two instances: to distribute welfare and to legalize discrimination against the disabled thanks to, of all things, the Equal Opportunity Act?

I wish that someone can tell me that I am wrong on this point. Maybe I will get a letter from the Attorney General’s office or the Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC)that says that there was some revision of the EOA legislation that I overlooked.

Maybe I should not be surprised after reading the Mandate of the EOC. Its mandate as quoted from the EOC website (www.equalopportunity.gov.tt/eoc) says, “To prevent certain kinds of discrimination…” Looks like disability was not one of the types of discrimination that the EOA was intended to prevent.

Are there any disabled persons on the Commission? I am sure that we in the disabled community know the answer. A non-disabled person who has worked in the disabled community cannot be a disabled representative by definition. Sorry!

If we don’t get disability legislation disabled people will have to continue to depend on the mercy, sympathy, whim and fancy of decision makers to provide us with special accommodations and support services that we need to have a fighting chance to be fully integrated in the society and national economy.

Following are some examples of the frustrations that disabled people encounter when they are left unprotected by disability law.

• Prevented from taking public transportation because of a service animal
• Insufficient accommodations in the classroom and workplace
• Inaccessible public buildings and sidewalks
• Disrespect and humiliation at public and private service counters

Trinidad and Tobago signed the UN Convention on Persons with disabilities in 2007. However, it is now 3 years later and it has yet to be ratified by Parliament. But then again how can you ratify a convention that gives the disabled rights that protect us from discrimination, if the Equal Opportunity legislation says that it is legal to discriminate against the disabled? This gives the distinct impression that there really is no serious intention to pass disability legislation.

Maybe our leaders in Parliament will prove me wrong and fix the contradictory language in our laws and pass the Disability Act without delay. We in the disabled community will be watching.

Category: General
Posted by: torresfo
The W. R. Torres Foundation for the Blind has lost our loyal and generous patron and one of the most accomplished and distinguished founding fathers of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. President Sir Ellis Clarke never said no to any of our requests for legal advice; funding support; and personal insights on issues confronting the Foundation. In December 2000, it was Sir Ellis who cut the ribbon to launch the Foundation’s Blind Independence through Technology program that was responsible for significantly opening up the world of computer technology for the blind in T&T. As a direct result the blind in this country are among the most computer literate and technology savvy in the Caribbean.

In 2000, when Torres Foundation was just a fledgling no-name organization with 0 funding, BUT LOTS OF NEW IDEAS, ENERGY and daring; Sir Ellis did not hesitate to sign on as our patron and lend his voice to our humble cause. As many in the blind community can testify, Sir Ellis was a frequent keynote speaker at our graduation, conference, and gala events, imparting his nuggets of wisdom and insights with eloquence and humor that was his trademark. At those occasions He always mixed freely with our guests, speaking one-on-one and was always agreeable to handing out awards and certificates.

In 2009 the Foundation approached Sir Ellis to assist us with fundraising for the Camp Can Do science and technology summer youth Program for blind youth of the Caribbean. The program was new and untested. However, he immediately signed on to help and eventually made a personal donation of $16,000.00. His individual financial contribution surpassed all our government and corporate donors for the Camp that year. I can go on and on.

President Sir Ellis Clarke was greatness, wisdom, and humility personified. He was our George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin for Trinidad and Tobago.

I salute you my fallen leader. You will always be in the hearts and minds of the blind community in this country.

We pledge to continue to exemplify your generosity, kindness, and goodness as your legacy here at Torres Foundation.