Jamaica News: Government Senator, Robert Morgan, says the Administration continues to prioritise the interests of the disabled community, especially in the development of infrastructure projects.
He was responding to a motion moved by Opposition Senator Dr. Floyd Morris, during the sitting of the Senate last week, for Government to ensure that disabled persons have greater access to Gordon House and the new Parliament building to be constructed at National Heroes Park.
Senator Morgan assured that the new structure will be the most disabled-friendly in the Caribbean.
He noted that the design concept, which was arrived at through a competitive process launched by Prime Minister the Most Hon. Andrew Holness in May last year, has special features for the disabled.
“The building is being designed with barrier-free access, and throughout the entire building there will be use of appropriate technology so it is completely useable for the physically, visually and hearing impaired,” he said.
“From the beginning of the design process, the interest of the disabled was front and centre in our considerations, including disabled-friendly lighting, brail inscription on walls throughout the building, grab bars in bathrooms and in the general area – all the modern requirements,” he added.
Mr. Morgan noted further that discussions are taking place “at the highest levels of Government” on retrofitting the existing Parliament building “to ensure disabled-friendly access” during the two-to-three-year span before the new structure is completed”.
Turning to other initiatives in support of the disabled community, the Government Senator informed that between 2016 and 2019, more than $1.5 billion was allocated to organisations such as the Abilities Foundation, the Jamaica Society for the Blind, and early stimulation programmes.
He noted, further, that in 2018, the Government allocated $50 million for the installation of wheelchair ramps at public education institutions across the island.
Senator Morgan said that the digitisation of the Hansard – the official verbatim/written notes of parliamentary proceedings, and other government documents will democratise information sharing within the society and create greater access to public information by members of the disabled community.
In the meantime, the Government Senator implored Jamaicans to change how they think about people who have a disability.
“Disabled people can contribute significantly to economic growth and development of our country,” he asserted, while also thanking Senator Morris for his advocacy for persons with disabilities.
In his presentation, Senator Morris, who is visually impaired, expressed his “profound support” for the construction of a new parliamentary building, noting that “from day one” he had called for a “total disability experience to be inscribed in its construction features”.
He noted, as well, his satisfaction that in 2014, the Houses of Parliament through the Senate, commenced the use of sign language for its sitting, after which it was introduced in the Lower House.
Senator Morris also urged the society to show a greater level of empathy for persons with disabilities.
“Persons with disabilities don’t want any sort of charity… . We want an empowering environment that will allow us to achieve our full potential, and accessing the Parliament is one such means of empowerment,” he said.
Source: JIS News