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There is a universal trend to make provisions for the disabled to access public places. These include public transport facilities such as airports, railway stations, and bus stations as well as public buildings like schools, libraries, etc. There are also separate toilets with the appropriate modifications in all these facilities to suit the needs of the disabled. There is now a call made by a Senator from the opposition, Dr. Floyd Morris, who is himself visually impaired, to improve that culture in Jamaican.
Change in Mindset of the Construction Industry Needed
Senator Morris was speaking in the Parliament on a motion he himself had moved on this very same issue. His motion had called for changes to be incorporated in the Parliament building to include facilities for disabled people to access the building. He invited the attention of the Senate to the incident in April when Ann-Marie Vaz was being sworn in. Her mother had to be physically lifted by a few people to enable her to reach the inside of the building to watch the swearing-in of her daughter. Ms. Vaz’s mother is 98-years old. With the provision of facilities like ramps, it makes it much easier for the wheelchair bound and otherwise disabled to gain entry.
Dr. Morris said there was a need for a paradigm shift and those controlling the construction industry in Jamaica and those involved in drawing up the designs of new buildings in the future will have to factor in the needs of those with disabilities as well. He appreciated the decision made by the government to include these aspects in the new Parliament building which will be built in Heroes Circle, Kingston.
Roads Should Also Be Re-designed
Senator Morris referred to how the sidewalks should also be made convenient for people with disabilities, including those with vision impairment. The way such places are designed currently, light poles are erected right in the middle of these sidewalks, making it virtually impossible for such people to ride on their wheelchairs or for the blind to walk without hindrances. He said companies like the National Works Agency (NWA), the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) and the National Water Commission can lead the way and change the designs and construction so that the others will follow suit.
Responding to Senator Morris, Government Senator, Robert Morgan made mention of the government being committed to helping the disabled community as reflected in the large budgetary allocations to organisations such as the Abilities Foundation, the Jamaica Society for the Blind and the Early Stimulation Programme.