New push for Building Act
A GOVERNMENT senator has called for the long-promised Building Bill to be tabled in parliament this legislative year as a companion measure to the Disabilities Bill which is now being debated.
Angela Brown Burke, while making her contribution to the debate on the Disabilities Bill in the Senate, argued that when it is passed into law, it will be even more imperative to have the Building Act being part of the country's legislative infrastructure.
The Disabilities Bill, which has already been passed in the House of Representatives, is proposing that in constructing any public or commercial premises, the owner or agent must ensure that it is accessible to and usable by a person with a disability. The premises should also be built in accordance with the National Building Code and designed in such a way as to make the common areas accessible to a person with a disability.
The bill is proposing that for existing buildings, the owner or agent of a premises being leased or rented make alterations, a far as is practicable, if requested by a disabled persons. Alterations are also to be made to public buildings to accommodate the disabled.
The alterations made in relation to a public or commercial premises should be such to cause the premises to be made readily accessible and usable to a person with disability, in respect to bathrooms, telephones, drinking fountains and emergency exits.
FORCE OF THE LAW
Brown Burke argued that it is important that the standards, which are set out in the Disabilities Bill, have the force of law, and that the enforcement efforts would be best assisted by having a Building Act in place.
"I am well aware of the importance of passing the Building Act as a necessary and complementary step to both the Disabilities Act and the National Building Code," said Brown Burke.
The Government senator, who is also mayor of Kingston, said the "significance of our discussions and act today would be diminished if we did not hasten to complete the circle".
She argued that requiring that the construction of new commercial or public buildings take place in accordance with the National Building Code is not enough.
"By now we would all be aware of how difficult enforcement is under existing laws. And I know that I speak for all local authorities in Jamaica when I say that they are all ready to do their part in protecting our vulnerable brothers and sisters. What we need now is the force of law and those changes that make enforcement less difficult, and hold those in breach accountable," Brown Burke told the Senate last Friday.
She added: "I therefore call on the Government and the Cabinet to ensure that the Building Act is brought to both houses for approval within this legislative year."
The debate on the bill will continue this Friday.