‘Duties are not fulfilled’ to protect people with functional diversity, CADFI chairman says

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

Dr. David Figueroa, who chairs the Functional Diversity for Equality Coalition (CADFI by its Spanish acronym), stated Tuesday before the Senate Social Welfare and Elderly Affairs Committee that both government agencies and private enterprises are failing to fulfill their duties to attend to people with functional diversities.

During a public hearing conducted by the committee chaired by Popular Democratic Party Sen. Rosamar Trujillo Plumey for Senate Resolutions (SR) 68 and 70, which both seek to investigate compliance with laws to promote access for the aforementioned population, Figueroa asserted that neither institution has enforced some 200 acts available to provide support to the community.

“We are being overlegislated here, the laws are there, the problem is that there is no will to fulfill them,” Figueroa said.

Among the concerns, the CADFI chairman pointed out that government entities under Act 136-1996 do not tend to have sign language interpreters assigned to provide access to essential services, television news outlets do not provide sign language interpretation as Act 80-2002 states, and the Institute of Statistics does not have information available on how many people who know sign language live on the island.

The social worker called for justice for the population that, according to the U.S. Census, numbers more than 700,000 people, and for Janet Viera Grau, a deaf mother from Vega Baja who took her own life in January after the Department of the island Family Department removed her seven- and five-year-old children from her home and no sign language interpreter was assigned to intervene in the case.

“According to the outcome of this terrible situation, we, CADFI, according to our analysis, have to say that no, laws were not adequately fulfilled, so much so that we lost a life,” he said as he pleaded for the system to reject stigmatization and address the hearing-impaired population’s needs responsibly.

Figueroa said he is in favor of both pieces of legislation and urged senators to keep on working as “our population has the right to social inclusion.”

SR 68, penned by Popular Democratic Party Sen. Elizabeth Rosa Vélez, seeks to direct both the Social Welfare and Elderly Affairs and Education, Tourism, and Culture Committees to also conduct an exhaustive investigation into compliance with Acts 181-2014, 78-2018, 173-2018, 174-2018, and 266-2018 and investigate whether the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics, pursuant to Act 209-2003, collects and analyzes data related to the number of people in Puerto Rico who are trained in sign language.

Meanwhile, SR 70, penned by Citizens Victory Movement Sens. Ana Irma Rivera Lassén and Rafael Bernabe Riefkohl, seeks also to direct both committees to conduct an exhaustive investigation of the processes, protocols and duties of agencies with responsibilities under Act 246-2011, also known as the Safety, Welfare, and Protection of Minors Act, when intervening with people with functional diversities, particularly deaf people, in order for the committee to evaluate the case of Viera Grau in depth.

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