Disabilities community happy with Labour Day focus

BY RACQUEL PORTER
Observer staff reporter
porterr@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, May 24, 2018

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MEMBERS of the disabilities community, claiming that they have been neglected over the years, say they are thankful for this year's Labour Day projects, which saw the building of ramps at hospital and schools that will make life easier for them to gain access to these important facilities.

Members of the Combined Disabilities Association commended the Government and Opposition Senator Dr Floyd Morris, who had pushed for the community to benefit from this year's projects.

“…It is the first in our entire life we are actually being included in a Labour Day project, and it means that Jamaica has come a far way,” said Camille Wilson, who 34 years old and visually impaired.

She added: “Previously, we wouldn't have a chance. So I just want to big up the work of the Combined Disabilities Association, which I am a part of, Mr (Floyd) Morris and the Government to actually include us, because first time disabled person would not even be a topic. The fact that we are here scraping off a fence or a grille, painting and being included feels good,” said Wilson.

She beamed with pride after, along with other members of the Combined Disabilities Association, she scraped the paint from the grille at the entrance to Cumberland Road Health Centre on Brunswick Avenue in Spanish Town yesterday.

“It is a wonderful feeling, and it makes me feel like a real Jamaica now, not just a sidelined, second-class citizen…” Wilson told the Jamaica Observer.

Work at the health centre was one of the national Labour Day projects for 2018. The other project took place at St Ann's Bay Infant School, at which ramps were also built.

Robert Williams, another member of the disabled community who participated in refurbishing of the Cumberland Road Health Centre, said retrofitting of the facilities would enhance the development of individuals with disabilities.

“Persons with disability can be more fruitful if there are facilities and different services that we can access,” said Williams, who is also visually impaired. “Yesterday (Tuesday) I was walking on the road from Oxford Road to Cross Roads (in St Andrew) and I said to myself, 'If these sidewalks were very smooth and co-ordinated, then my walk to Cross Roads would be as good as me seeing.' If the Government fix these infrastructure we will have less accidents,” Williams said.

Executive director of the Combined Disabilities Association Gloria Goffe said for this year's Labour Day focus, which had the theme 'Ramp It Up… Fix It Up', “We want to ensure that whatever is done is done to the right specification, is also done in a way that persons with disabilities can have access and operate in a more comfortable environment.” She called for similar projects to be done after Labour Day.

In the meantime, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that all buildings must have ramps under the new building code. In addition, he said directives have been given to the National Works Agency that all the new roads must have wheelchair ramps.

“Jamaica must be an inclusive society, as we tend sometimes to take for granted that everyone who exists in our society has access to all the benefits that are in the society, or can access all the services that are given in the society. The truth is that the disabilities community is not able to access all the services in the society and sometimes for simple reasons they are not able to enter, for example, this facility with ease because there are no ramps, and this is something that can easily be corrected,” Holness added.

Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips, who also participated in yesterday's national Labour Day project, said it recognised the role of people with disabilities.

“I want to pay tribute to Senator Dr Floyd Morris for having agitated to get this day recognised in honour of members of the disabilities community, and I want to thank the Government for having agreed to put the focus on the members of the community today,” Phillips said.

Phillips said everyone has a role to play in ensuring that people with disabilities live fulfilling lives.

Digicel Foundation's Acting CEO Karlene Dawson told the Observer that the foundation has a long history of supporting persons with disabilities, and so they were extremely happy with this year national Labour Day project.

At the same time, Dawson said the foundation has donated $1 million that will assist in installing wheelchair ramps at the 130 facilities that have been identified across the island.

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