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Letter of the Day | Special needs ignored in Kingston roadworks

Published:Tuesday | August 14, 2018 | 5:48 PM

It is remiss of the Jamaican Government to build brand new, state-of-the-art roadways, with upstairs road even, while completely ignoring the existence of persons with physically disabilities within these urban areas.
The new Barbican superway is a gleaming example of refurbished roads that now have perfectly smooth sidewalks only two feet wide – this means that they can barely accommodate two regular-size persons walking side by side, let alone accommodating a regular-size or oversize wheelchair. Similarly, the roads being resurfaced and widened in Constant Spring area seem they will be outfitted with little to no sidewalk surface.
One would think that reforming the rights for persons with physical disabilities would involve public infrastructure, including the ability to access public spaces. Constant Spring Road has pharmacies and one of the biggest tax offices in Kingston, but wheelchair-friendly sidewalks are not being installed. There is a major problem of access for persons with disabilities in Jamaica to basic public spaces like banks, civil-service buildings and recreational areas. In reconstructing roadways in the Corporate St Andrew area, this is the perfect opportunity to take into consideration all road users, especially those not previously catered for.
Mr Prime Minister, why would you promise to include persons with disabilities but exclude them from transportation-based development currently taking place? Most of us do not have to think about using the roads, we just do! If, however, there is a paraplegic person who is living independently, he or she cannot just get up and go.
Plans would have to be made in advance before that wheelchair user can attempt to traverse any road way in Jamaica, between lack of proper sidewalks, no special-needs crosswalks, no special-needs traffic signals and lack of pedestrian and vehicular courtesy, anyone using a wheelchair in urban Kingston is in grave danger. It gets worse when there is no support accompanying said person.
While we can understand the lack of sidewalks or the very deteriorated state of sidewalks on older roads, the lack of special-needs access implemented into roadwork plans in 2018 is unacceptable from the prime minister and the roadworks agencies in Jamaica.