Fri | Feb 26, 2021

Hendricks wants Gov’t to give teeth to Disabilities Act

Published:Tuesday | January 5, 2021 | 12:15 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer

Implementing the Disabilities Act, which was passed in October 2014, would be a “dream come true’’ for an estimated 15 to 20 per cent of the Jamaican population, or between 410,000 and 540,000 persons, this year.

The act seeks to ensure full participation and inclusion of persons with disabilities in the society and provides important safeguards to enhance their welfare.

“For 2021, the disabilities sector is looking forward to the act being finally made effective and for the JCPD to become the corporate body tasked to see to it that the act is implemented,” Dr Christine Hendricks, executive director of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD), told The Gleaner yesterday.

She said that Jamaica has ways to go to become a more disabled-friendly society as inaccessible facilities, including buildings and roadways, are potentially dangerous and could cause secondary or additional disabilities.

“The challenges are still there. You might have a ramp on the outside, but when you get in, how accessible is inside?” she questioned.

More opportunities

Hendricks reasoned that COVID-19 has provided more opportunities for persons with disabilities, particularly in the areas of education and employment.

She pointed out that once the act is implemented, using relevant regulations and codes of practice, schools will no longer be able to use the excuse of not having the proper facilities to turn down students.

“Once we get the Internet provision right, more persons would be able to be facilitated,” Hendricks said.

Similarly, she foresees better job prospects for the disabled as more companies transition to remote work during the pandemic.

“Even if you are a quadriplegic or a paraplegic or it is your head alone that you can use, it wouldn’t matter, once you can get the work done virtually. I’m looking forward to that happening because employers would then have less reasons to say no. Schools, too, would have less reasons to say no, because usually the reasons are ‘we don’t have ramps or wide doors for the bathrooms’,” the executive director explained.

Further, Hendricks said the justice system has been accessing the services of sign language interpretors for cases involving the deaf.

“That virtual availability of our interpreters to the court system is a step in the right direction. The court system has improved in terms of its use of technology and that can be extended because persons with various disabilities are faced with issues which require the court’s intervention,” she reasoned.

She also hopes that Jamaica will become more embracing – not just by offering charity, but by providing real training, job and educational opportunities for the disabled.