Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Disabled communities to see expansion of services

Published:Wednesday | November 23, 2016 | 11:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin

An expansion of services, including legal representation, in-depth research, and an increase in advocacy, will be the focus of a new board of management established by the Jamaica Council for Persons Living with Disabilities (JCPD), in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.

Christine Hendricks, executive director of the JCPD, in an interview with The Gleaner, said the gaps which currently exist, requires urgent intervention which is long overdue.

"There is a new board that was appointed by the new government that started their first meeting in July, and started their first working meeting in September after the summer. They are working in earnest on the new structure of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities because currently, we are just a department under the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, but the act (disabilities) states that we need to be a statutory body," she declared.

"Disability is not the first thing on anybody's mind, and sometimes what is needed is not known. When a company is building or refurbishing, they are not thinking that somebody with a disability is a potential customer, they are not thinking that one of my staff members or even themselves need a space that is barrier free. Those are some of the things which create the gaps - the lack of consultation, planning for customers of all shapes and sizes," she said.

HUGE GAPS

The executive director added: "Gaps are created as well because some lawyers will say, 'I can't bother to talk to somebody who is deaf, I can't do sign language.' When you go to the health centres you have to wait. This service and the work of the JCPD have become necessary because of these huge gaps due to the fact that persons with disabilities were left out of society."

She used the platform to encourage members of the disabled community to be patient, noting that though there are not enough visible results, there is a lot of groundwork taking place which is critical.

"They (Government) are in the process of helping us to work through that transition and finalising the structure. We will now be offering expanded services, including legal services, research. We will be doing more advocacy and advising government on policy where persons with disabilities are concerned," Hendricks said.

"We will be monitoring the environment to see how inclusive it is. We will be inspecting buildings, doing audits to ensure accessibility, and so on. That structure does not exist within the current department. We are basically doing rehabilitation and providing those basic minimal services," Hendricks told The Gleaner.