Robbing the disabled - Able-bodied man threatens to shoot prosthetic user for parking space
A member of the disabled community in Jamaica recently dared to tell an able-bodied person that he had parked in a space reserved for her and other persons like herself. The man threatened to shoot her.
Sarah Newland-Martin, a double prosthetic user, who has dedicated her life to help transform the lives of at-risk boys at the Young Men's Christian Association, recounted to The Gleaner her shock and dismay after she tried to persuade a man who had no disability that he was parking in an area reserved for persons like her.
"I remember once I parked at the BNS (Bank of Nova Scotia) in Liguanea and it was somebody who was not disabled parked at the disabled sign, and when I spoke with him, he said, 'I'll shoot you.' That's what he told me.
"I said, 'This parking space is reserved for persons like myself.' He said, 'Don't talk to me, I'll shoot you,' so I didn't bother to have an argument with him. That's how some persons behave."
She is of the view that many Jamaicans do not respect the international access sign that clearly indicates that parking is reserved for persons with disabilities.
"They could never do it in the United States of America - US$600 or imprisonment, whether it is private or non-private; they can't park there," Newland-Martin said.
She added that even persons with disabilities in the US who do not have a special parking sticker for the disabled cannot access reserved parking facilities.
Newland-Martin commended several businesses and owners of shopping plazas who erect disabled-friendly infrastructure to accommodate the disabled. However, she said that the security personnel in these areas suffer immense abuse by members of the public who show no regard for the disabled.
She argued that as persons get older, they may need the same facilities to help them to get in and out, "so respect it before you get to that point".
How does a person with disability look?
Among the issues militating against the disabled community at some public and private business places is the question of how to identify a disabled person.
Sarah Newland-Martin a double prosthetic user, said that ignorance on the part of some persons as to who is disabled is creating problems for them.
She shared with The Gleaner an incident in which security personnel at a business place challenged her claim of being disabled. "My sign is on the car, you know, and he would say, 'Why are you parking there?' When I come out, they disappear and then come back and say, 'You donít look disabled.'
"How does a person with a disability look? Newland-Martin said rhetorically. "They have in their mind that you have to have a dribbling mouth and a twisted hand. Worse, you shouldn't be driving.
"I don't wish for persons to become disabled to understand why it is that we need that sign. It's just for easy access to get in and out."
She said that the management at Sovereign Centre has been very accommodating to the disabled community. Newland-Martin said requests for handrails to be installed along stairs have been granted, and there are five spaces reserved for the disabled.
Debating a motion in the Upper House in December, last year, Senator Dr Floyd Morris, who is blind, drew attention to the challenges faced by the disabled who could not find parking in public spaces, as able-bodied persons often take over those reserved facilities.
He suggested that persons without disabilities who use facilities set aside for the disabled community should face sanctions.