THE EDITOR, Sir:
It's sad and extremely dangerous that Jamaica continues to fall below international standards in protecting its more than 70,000 deaf and hard-of-hearing citizens.
For them, inaccessibility to important information and services could mean the difference between life and death. For example, one late night, a deaf lady had to run for her life from a taxi man who was trying to rape her because there is no provision in the system to access any emergency service if you cannot speak. Currently, one cannot send text messages to the 119 system for help.
Consider that approximately 20 tropical storms and 11 hurricanes are projected this season, yet the television stations in Jamaica have still not figured out how to transmit this information to deaf and hard-of-hearing Jamaicans.
In fact, it was reported, in 2010, that flooding caused by Tropical Storm Nicole killed a deaf farmer in St Elizabeth because he, unknowingly, went out during the storm. Do we mean to sit back and wait for situations like these to happen again?
This situation is truly a travesty which begs several questions. As a society, where are our values of internal solidarity and mutual support which ensures open access to benefits and protection for all? What is the Government doing with the thousands of tax dollars that we pay to provide such services? What is the responsibility of agencies that serve a public need, such as broadcasting entities?
It is time for the television stations to add closed captioning or sign-language interpreting to their emergency broadcasts, and for the Jamaica Constabulary Force to add the software for deaf persons to access emergency support through the 119 public service.
I believe that if the challenges of the least of us do not concern all of us, we cannot truly recite our motto, 'Out of Many, One People'.