Gordon House seeks help to install elevator
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
FLOYD Morris, the president of the Senate, said overtures have been made to a foreign university to get assistance in installing an elevator at Gordon House, the seat of the nation's Parliament, to enable the physically disabled to have easier access to the building.
"We have got a portion of funds in the Budget for the Parliament this year to secure a lift that would take a wheelchair user into the Parliament," Morris, Jamaica's first blind Senate president, told The Gleaner.
Morris said that along with Justice Minister Mark Golding, he has contacted a university in Canada that has speciality in creating greater access in old buildings for persons with disabilities.
"They are going to be looking at what support they can give," Morris told The Gleaner.
The Senate president said technicians from the National Works Agency have examined the building to determine how to install the hydraulic lift and concluded it would be a difficult task.
Gordon House has also made contact with engineers from the Jamaica Defence Force and the Urban Development Corporation for guidance on how best to get the lift installed.
"The real gravamen of the situation is the old building that we have there is proving technically difficult for the lift to be installed," Morris said of Gordon House, which was built in 1960.
During a debate on the disabilities bill in the Senate last Friday, Leader of Opposition Business Tom Tavares-Finson said it was hypocritical for owners of public places to be required to make adjustments to their premises to allow access to the disabled while wheelchair users could not access Gordon House.
"Every member of this Senate and every member of the Lower House must hang their heads in shame at the level of hypocrisy which we are now … faced with. We are now going to be passing a piece of legislation requiring people to modify their premises … and yet, still, a person with a wheelchair cannot come into the Parliament of Jamaica," Tavares-Finson said.
Similar sentiments were expressed in the House of Representatives when the bill was debated there.
A.J. Nicholson, the leader of government business in the Senate, in response to Tavares-Finson, said what was needed was a new Parliament building.
"It does not make any sense coming here and bellyaching about what this building does not provide for … . Where we are is far too small, and the only place we can go on this building here is up, and that is going to make it more challenging for persons with disabilities," Nicholson said.
Morris told The Gleaner yesterday that he and House Speaker Michael Peart were pushing to have the lift installed before the disabilities bill was brought to Parliament because "we anticipated some of the comments".