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New school building codes to facilitate physically disabled

Published:Thursday | April 8, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Christine Hendricks of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities greets Dr Hixwell Douglas, education officer with the Ministry of Education, at the 'Falling Through the Cracks' conference focusing on special education needs at the Mona School of Business Tuesday. - Rudolph Brown/Photographer

The Ministry of Education (MOE) is working towards revising building codes governing infrastructure within its purview, making schools fully accessible to all students, particularly those living with disabilities.

Addressing a conference themed 'Falling Through the Cracks' at the Mona Business School in Kingston Tuesday, Dr Hixwell Douglas, education officer for the MOE, declared that the rights of physically or otherwise challenged Jamaicans should be respected.

"No new schools should be built without having full physical access," he said.

"The need to examine the national guidelines for service delivery to persons with special needs becomes even more important as we move forward," Douglas added.

According to the education officer, the Draft National Disability Bill, which is being monitored by the Ministry of Labour, went through its ninth rewrite, with the possibility of more editions to be done.

"The aim is to perfect the provisions for programme and service delivery here in Jamaica and to ensure that the rights and dignity of all persons living with disabilities are protected," Douglas said.

Critical resources unavailable

Daemion McLean, who works with the Ministry of Labour and is visually impaired, said he was concerned about the unavailability of critical resources which are needed to fulfil Jamaica's Vision 2030, its ambitious plan to elevate the country to First-World status.

McLean said despite aiming to develop an inclusive environment where both fully functional and disabled students could learn, there were benefits to be in a "specialised" environment.

"It provides skills that will equip (persons living with disabilities) to function in an inclusive environment."

Christine Hendricks of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities agreed.

"There will be some places for persons to maximise their potential wherever they are.

"There is a balance, because we understand the reality of the situation," she said.