The Persons with Disabilities Act (2014) came into force in February 2022, after eight years in limbo before parliamentary approval of the final regulation in October 2021.
It was hailed as a historic achievement, and in a media statement dated 11 February Labor and Social Security Minister Karl Samuda encouraged “all Jamaicans to join us in celebrating this historic milestone”. The law, as enshrined in the Constitution, “promotes and protects the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities (PwD) in all areas of development,” he continued. Opposition leader Mark Golding hailed the bill as “one of the most important bills passed in Jamaica this century”. Therefore, the disabled community can be forgiven for believing it can do more than rely on the goodwill of caring citizens and organizations.
Ostensibly, the law promises persons with disabilities many of the “same basic rights as other people”, among them rights to education, employment, access to health care, facilities and housing. included. However, a disability rights court has not yet been established to hear and settle victims’ complaints, as provided for in Article 15 of the Act. Of course, it could be another eight years for him to come into compliance.
Meanwhile, the unspeakable misery experienced by members of this community and their caregivers will continue to prove our hypocrisy. remains a threatening challenge. Most importantly, access to public or commercial premises (a fundamental provision of the law) remains largely ignored, ultimately rendering other rights dependent on it irrelevant. Few things are worth celebrating with.
Articles 36 and 37 of this Act provide that new facilities so classified shall be constructed in such a way that they are readily accessible and usable by persons with disabilities and that the ownership of existing buildings at the time of passage of the Act shall be stipulates that the person/agent “must make changes to it”. ” To the same end. In a country where developers are known to flout the terms of construction approvals with impunity, and where construction activity is currently at record highs, new buildings are being built in compliance with newly promulgated regulations. Who guarantees that it is?
The hall on my church grounds is a two-story building. For years, the congregation has been trying to raise enough money to fund the installation of some sort of wheelchair lift for constituencies of wheelchair-bound and mobility-impaired members. A study estimated the cost of installing the lift at $6 million to $7 million. We were told this could be supplied at a much lower cost without the significant import duty part. Additionally, none of the major elevator companies contacted offered any alternatives on how to achieve the required access without expensive imported content. Therefore, my church should resign to manually lifting disabled members to our hall events.
But what about our classrooms and our right to education and training? Many of our classrooms are on the second floor, just like my church hall. At the start of Disabled Week on December 3, the Secretary General of the Jamaica Council of Disabled Persons (JCPD) said, “Some schools have refused to accept students with special needs, contrary to the provisions of the Disability Act. I refuse,” he said. Greener, December 4). But what options do they have? How many of these institutions have the resources to spend millions of dollars installing chairlifts to accommodate students with mobility problems?
According to this law, it is the responsibility of the Minister of Education to provide reasonable arrangements within the education system to expedite the process. But under the tight constraints of the current financial budget, this is only a ‘basket for carrying water’ on the one hand and a ‘promise to fools’ on the other.
Then there are families whose orderly lives have been turned upside down in an attempt to cope with the mental and physical disabilities of their members. The pain that many disabled people and their parents (usually mothers) suffer cannot be changed by the passing of unenforceable acts. The story of Alecia Buckley, who appears in Observer I am one of the doting mothers of 5 children taking care of my 19 year old son on December 11th. She and her other children had to give up some of her rights for the benefit of her loved ones. It’s a disturbing account of the challenges faced by parents who cannot afford the special education needs and medical care their children with disabilities need, and is just the latest in similar stories that exist across the island. , some of which sometimes make headlines.
Of these, at least three have appeared. Greener Feb 15 – “Disabled people are nothing, says frustrated mom.” July 28 – “Her Mother Sacrifices Her Job for Her Autistic Son”; September 19 – “Mother Seeks Help for Cerebral Palsy Son”. To this day, there is no indication that anything will change for these citizens anytime soon. Even if the bill does pass, it won’t guarantee that all needed remedies will be provided in just one year, but there should be some indication that its provisions are being taken seriously. The following, if enacted, ensure that the government intends to pay more than lip service for its actions.
• Immediate establishment of a disability rights court.
• Hold a competition to encourage the Jamaican invention of affordable single-story chairlifts.
• Monitor new buildings to ensure adequate accessibility.
• Rehabilitate sidewalks, starting with the sidewalks adjacent to the Old Hope Road site of the Jamaica Blind Association.
• Expand the capacity and resources of early stimulation units.
• Establish a unit in the Department of Health and Human Services to address the needs of persons with severe disabilities.
Until persons with disabilities and their caregivers begin to reap tangible benefits from the passage of the Disability Act, further references to it by the relevant authorities must be viewed as merely ringing cymbals. The government and its agency, the Jamaica Disability Council, must get their act together and ensure that it works better and now for our disabled people who deserve it. .
n Olive Nelson is a Chartered Accountant. Send your feedback to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.