The inaugural National Disability Friendly Awards Gala, which will celebrate disabled persons and recognise the contribution of individuals and organisations to the community, will be held on November 19 at the Wyndham Kingston hotel. The event, under the theme: ‘Jamaica: Removing Barriers… Creating Access’, is being organised by the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD) in collaboration with the Jamaican Consulate in Toronto. It will be held under the distinguished patronage of Governor-General, His Excellency, the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen and is slated to get underway at 7:00 p.m. Executive Director of the JCPD, Christine Hendricks, said the event is part of efforts to highlight the importance of having a more disability-friendly environment, and also to lift the conversation of disability from just charity to that of inclusive development. “For far too long, as a nation, we have been seeing persons with disabilities being treated as charity cases and we want to help our nation, businesses, and people understand that persons with disabilities are people. They are consumers of goods, products and services, and so whatever it is that they produce, and the level of service that they give, is considered significant,” she said. Some of the highlights of the gala include presentations of awards, silent auctions, raffles, and live entertainment. The categories of awards are: Disability Friendly Lifetime Achievement Award, Disability Business Friendly Award, Disability Friendly Hotel Award, Disability Friendly Accessibility Award, Disability Friendly Excellence in Parenting Award, Disability Friendly Excellence in Special Education Award, Disability Friendly Media Access Award, and the Distinguished Parenting Award. Sponsors include the Wyndham Kingston, Royal Bank of the Canada (RBC), National Health Fund (NHF), and the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH). The JCPD Director is urging the public to support the event, which is also geared at helping persons with special needs understand that their disability does not have to keep them at a particular level, and that they can reach their highest potential despite their challenges. For further details on the gala, persons can contact the Disability Friendly Event Secretariat at 922- 8469.