Wed | Jun 19, 2019

Letter of the Day | Ensure access for persons with disabilities on our roads

Published:Saturday | April 27, 2019 | 12:10 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

Amid the current road rehabilitation and development which is taking place across the Corporate Area and Jamaica at large, there appears to be an increasing lack of accessibility for persons with disabilities. While we welcome the development of our roadways, we must be careful to ensure that the plans have taken into consideration the needs of vulnerable populations, including people with disabilities, children and the elderly.

In a number of areas, there are dug up roadways and sidewalks, concrete medians on major roadways, unbroken for miles in some areas, debris and precarious ditches, made more treacherous after a downpour.

All in all, these conditions present a challenge for the general pedestrians and motorists, but can prove to be a nightmare for those in our community who are deaf, blind, have a physical disability, whether permanent or temporary, as they try to navigate the roadways.

Accessibility for people with disabilities to our roadways has been somewhat of a challenge for sometime in Jamaica.

I take this opportunity to refresh our memories of the tragic case of Marlon King, the 39-year-old resident and artist from Cheshire Village in Mona, who was tragically struck from his wheelchair by a Jamaica Urban Transit Company bus while travelling in the vicinity of The University Hospital of the West Indies in 2015.

While the international symbol for access depicts a wheelchair user, most people with disabilities do not use a wheelchair. But for those who do, having appropriate ramp access (as not all ramps are suitable) to and from the kerb is an important feature of accessibility.

Access to the built environment for persons with disabilities is a fundamental right. They should be able to move about and go about their business like everyone else. Creation of a barrier-free environment is enshrined in various international laws and conventions, including the Convention of Rights for Persons with Disabilities (2007).

Note that Jamaica was the first country in the world to sign and ratify this agreement.

The Disabilities Act (Jamaica) was passed in 2014 with the mandate to “promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment by persons with disabilities, of privileges, interests, benefits and treatment, on an equal basis with others”.

Again, I would like to point out that the improvement to our road network is indeed welcome; however, please be mindful of the need to consider inclusivity and general safety in the planning and execution process of same.

CHRISTINE STAPLE-EBANKS

Founder,

Nathan Ebanks Foundation

info@nefjamaica.org