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Disabled children challenged by JUTC shortage

Published:Sunday | March 22, 2015 | 5:02 PMRichard Mitchell
JUTC bus driver Courtney Morrison assists Sophia Sutherland with her wheelchair on a JUTC bus designed for persons with disabilities last year.

Donna Lowe, principal of Genesis Academy, has revealed that students at her special-needs school are suffering as the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) grapples with bus shortages.

"Children with physical disabilities take the special bus every day and are waiting on the bus for three, four hours a day because there are only three buses in the Corporate Area for these children," Lowe said last week during a 'Pon di Corna' session hosted by the Ministry of Youth and Culture at the Half-Way-Tree Transportation Centre.

Lowe also highlighted a gap in the public bus service, noting that special buses only run on weekdays. The principal questioned the JUTC's decision to not provide a service to the physically challenged on weekends.

"What are you saying to these children, that they ought not to have a social life? That is not fair. We want more for our children," Lowe stated.


Bus repairs


Clinton Clarke, marketing and communications manager at the JUTC, sought to clarify utterances made by the principal when contacted by The Gleaner. While he acknowledged that there are only three buses designated to service the disabled community currently in operation in the Corporate Area, the bus company has eight of these vehicles.

"The JUTC does whatever is necessary to ensure the disabled in the country are properly taken care of, but like any other vehicle, we have challenges," Clarke explained.

Of the eight buses to serve the physically disabled, Clarke said four were received in 2014, but one from that batch is not operational because it is undergoing repairs to its windscreen. He said the bus will be back in service in two weeks. The other four buses are older and are also undergoing repairs.

The communications manager emphasised that members of the disabled community can ride on regular buses.

"We are ultra-focused on customer service; we have recognised the needs of the disabled and have increased the number of persons who are charged with making customer service their number-one priority."

"If a disabled person needs assistance on our regular service, they just need to engage in dialogue with the staff of the bus, they would have no problem with providing assistance," Clarke continued.

When asked about a potential weekend service for the physically challenged, Clarke admitted that it is "something we can look at".