Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Rough road for disabled

Published:Sunday | February 8, 2015 | 2:00 AMChad Bryan
File Gloria Goffe (centre), executive director of the Combined Disabilities Association, being assisted off a bus ramp by JUTC driver Courtney Morrison (left) and Dr Omar Davies, Minister of Transport, in 2014.
Stephen Shaw, Communications and Customer Service manager at the National Works Agency (NWA).
File Part of the newly laid sidewalk along Gordo Town Road in Papine, St Andrew, two years ago.
File A section of Gordon Town Road in Papine, St Andrew, where a sidewalk was being established in 2013.
Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer This visually impaired women almost bumps into a utility pole on the sidewalk along Old Hope Road in St Andrew in January.
File Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) bus driver Courtney Morrison pushes a wheelchair with Sophia Sutherland onto a JUTC bus designed for persons with disabilities, during a handing over ceremony for 73 new JUTC buses at the Digicel parking lot, Lady Musgrave Road in 2014.
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Two weeks after 39-year-old wheelchair user Marlon King was killed in a crash with a Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) bus on Golding Avenue, near the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) there is no letting up in the call for changes to better accommodate persons with disabilities on the nation's roads.

There is a heavy focus on the urbanised areas.

There have been recommendations to replace uncovered manholes as well as discontinue the parking of motor vehicles and dumping of debris on sidewalks.

"There should be a policy that, if the sidewalk is not wide enough to accommodate a garbage skip, for example, it should not be there. People keep removing the manhole covers. We're appealing to the public to stop. It's not just dangerous to persons with disabilities, but it is to everybody. We have people who clean the drains and leave debris on the sidewalks," said Gloria Goffe, executive director of the Combined Disabilities Association.

PARKING ON THE SIDEWALK

Parking on the sidewalk is especially irritating. "People also park on the sidewalk. You have to come down off the sidewalk and go around the vehicle," Goffe continued.

Her sentiments were echoed by executive director of the Jamaica Society for the Blind, Lola Marson, who begged persons to desist from leaving impediments on the sidewalk.

"The fact that people park motor vehicles on the sidewalks, that is a main problem for us as it forces persons to walk out into the road. The open drains and the open manholes, these are concerns for us because it can be dangerous," Marson said.

Hearing impaired students at the Lister Mair Gilby High School for the Deaf and the Danny Williams School for the Deaf, both off Gordon Town Road in St Andrew, are not as badly affected by impediments on the sidewalk as persons with other disabilities such as being visually impaired or wheelchair-bound.

Michelle Wisdom, acting vice-principal of Lister Mair Gilby, confirmed that the students are less prone to risk by sidewalk impediments. In addition, the sidewalk from the main road close to the turn-off for the institutions to Papine was recently widened and refurbished.

However, Marson and Goffe said there are problems with the sidewalks leading to their respective organisations.

The Combined Disabilities Association executive director said she is also aware of a number of situations in which blind persons have hit their faces on sign posts because of how they are located on the sidewalk. Goffe also said there was a concern regarding hanging signs on sidewalks.

Goffe pointed to a recent incident involving a blind resident of Campbell Town, Kingston, who had a serious accident.

BRIDGE ACCIDENT

"Recently, we had a gentleman who fell. The man is familiar with a bridge in the area with a rail. It was broken and he fell over. He had some injuries and went to the hospital. Out of the accident, he lost 14 teeth," said Goffe.

Communications and customer service manager at the National Works Agency (NWA), Stephen Shaw, said more than $30 million had been spent to improve the sidewalks in Papine. He said that sidewalks have also been improved along Washington Boulevard and Harbour View Road.

Speaking specifically to Golding Avenue in St Andrew, Shaw said the NWA has had intentions to extend the work done in Papine to that road.

However, he could not say when this would be done.