Wed | May 22, 2019

The disabled deserve equal access to MPs too, says a member of the community

Published:Wednesday | November 14, 2018 | 12:00 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
The office for Karl Samuda, Member of Parliament for St Andrew North Central, on Red Hills Road is located on the second floor.
The Waltham Park Road office for Angella Brown-Burke, Member of Parliament for South West St Andrew, is located upstairs.
People's National Party President, Dr Peter Phillips, Member of Parliament for East Central St Andrew, has his Hagley Park Road office on the ground floor.
A flight of stairs lead up to the office of Member of Parliament for West Kingston, Desmond McKenzie, located on Charles Street in Denham Town

Alister McLean, a member of the disabled community in Jamaica, believes that members of parliament (MPs) must express the same zeal for allowing persons with disabilities easy access to constituency offices, as they do when it is election time.

Speaking with The Gleaner recently, McLean said, "I know it might be a little bit costly to install elevators due to their budgetary allocations, but at minimum, I think they could relocate their offices to ground level."

He also recommended that ramps be put in place where possible.

"At election time, they would come for persons who have disabilities. They find all types of means to get them to polling stations. It is within that same breath that I am expecting the same level of representation and access to representation," he insisted.

McLean, a young Jamaican executive, said it was disheartening that the same MPs championed the cause for the building code to be amended, yet the same effort was not dedicated to giving the disabled community access to their offices.

"The offices are sometimes upstairs on a plaza. It is disappointing seeing that these members of parliament would have been very integral in the amendments to the building code and would have made the necessary adjustments with their offices," he said.

"While we are a minority group within the society, we do have special needs, and it is, therefore, why I believe we should have equal access to our members of parliament."


 ... A lot depends on where an MP can get an office to rent - Robinson

Two Members of Parliament (MPs) who represent constituencies that are strongholds for both sides of the political divide have declared that they are comfortable with the location of their offices, when questioned about concerns raised by members of the disabled community that most constituency offices are not easily accessible.

"Unfortunately, I am in a position where it is difficult because I have a constituency office that I have had around 25 years. That office is on the second floor. I have established that spot on Red Hills Road now for over two decades," Karl Samuda, MP for St Andrew North Central, told The Gleaner.

"I do sympathise, but we really don't have a problem because if persons want to access my office, we assist them to come up or I go and speak with them downstairs."

Julian Robinson, who is the MP for St Andrew South East, said, "A lot depends on where an MP can get an office to rent. Sometimes you don't have the luxury of getting it on the ground floor, so it is not always within your control. Sometimes you get ground floor, sometimes the top floor and other times the second floor.

"My office is easily accessible. It depends, however, on what the MP gets. You need somewhere that is central, easily accessible by public transportation, where most of the people in your constituency can go."

Yesterday, The Gleaner also visited the constituency offices of Desmond McKenzie (West Kingston), Angela Brown Burke (South West St Andrew) and People's National Party President, Dr Peter Phillips (East Central St Andrew).

Constituents in West Kingston who wish to visit McKenzie's office have to go up a flight of stairs. Brown Burke's Maxfield Avenue office is upstairs as well. The constituency office belonging to Phillips on Hagley Park Road in St Andrew is located on the ground floor.