Tue | Oct 16, 2018

Disabled community embraces plans for new Parliament building

Published:Thursday | April 6, 2017 | 12:00 AMJason Cross
Alister McLean

Much appreciation is being expressed for the Government's plan to build a new Parliamentary building, which will include features to properly facilitate members of the disabled community.

Visually impaired director of policy research and political education in the Jamaica Labour Party's Youth Arm, Young Jamaica, Alister McLean, who has warmly welcomed the proposition, said that the new structure is a necessity because the current building does not facilitate ease of access for the disabled.

"Persons with disabilities have a challenge accessing the gallery of the Parliament in its current state. It lacks the relevant amenities such as ramps that persons who are physically challenged would need. You don't even have bathrooms at the facility that have the capacity to deal with the challenge that persons with disabilities have," McLean told The Gleaner on Monday.

He stated that when the Disabilities Bill was being debated in Parliament in 2014, some members of the community had to remain outside because no provisions had been made for them to easily access the building.




"I was quite taken aback that they did not do more to facilitate the improvement of the Parliament structure to accommodate, particularly, users of wheelchair," McLean shared.

"You cannot have a Parliament building where the laws are made and one sector of the society cannot access the building properly.

Democracy is about majority rule, and minority rights. As a minority group, persons with disabilities should be tolerated in the Parliament. When some of us went to see the debate on the Disabilities Bill (2014), physically challenged persons were not able to go into the gallery and it was quite embarrassing. The move to build a new Parliament structure is bold and decisive, and all Jamaican citizens should welcome it."

Over the years, several persons have lobbied successive administrations to build a new Parliament because of the inadequacies of the current one officially named the George William Gordon House, located at 81 Duke Street, Kingston, which was built in 1960 and named in honour of one of the country's national heroes. Plans are now under way to have it relocated to the National Heroes Circle as part of a campus of

government buildings.