Friendly City Project to make Public Facilities more Accessible to Disabled Persons

Easy access to buildings, climbing stairs, and moving around without a challenge are things that many able-bodied persons take for granted.
Unfortunately for persons with physical disabilities, it can be a lot harder to carry out these everyday activities as many facilities and services across the island are not easily accessible to members of the disabled community.
The government of Jamaica is however addressing this issue and has embarked on a Friendly City Project, which is designed to make public facilities more accessible to persons with disabilities. “We take into consideration both our local disabled persons as well as prospective visitors, who have that particular challenge,” says State Minister for Labour and Social Security, Senator Floyd Morris, at a recent JIS Think Tank.
He notes that, “in light of the fact that we have a tourist product, we would want to see that tourist product so attractive and inclusive, that persons with disabilities and the international community can visit Jamaica and enjoy the luxury and comfort of our beautiful island”.
The Friendly City Project, Senator Morris tells JIS News, involves infrastructure work such as installing ramps, grab rails, Braille inscriptions at elevators, and proper lighting to alert deaf persons to an emergency; widening bathroom facilities to make them more accessible for wheelchair users; among other things.
In addition, he says a massive public education campaign will be undertaken to “sensitize persons to the needs of persons with disabilities. So we [are] talking about media campaign, talking about documentary, talking about features, talking about the publishing of posters. We will be launching as well what we call a ‘do’s and don’t’ booklet, which is geared towards demonstrating to individuals within the hospitality trade, individuals within the commercial sector, as to how they can relate to persons with disabilities”.
According to Senator Morris, teaching people how to relate to the disabled is very important, as many persons are not sure how to treat these individuals.”Some people believe that boy, if you see a blind man on the street, the first thing that comes to mind is that, you grab them by their hand, and just drag them across the street without even asking if they need some form of assistance. The do’s and don’t book is geared at ensuring that people adopt the correct attitude and approaches to people with disabilities,” says Senator Morris.
Meanwhile, with the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 to get underway in another 14 days, the relevant access features are being put in at the two international airports and at Sabina Park and the Trelawny Multipurpose Stadium.
“Montego Bay airport is way, way ahead in terms of access features for the disabled and the Kingston airport is coming on just as well,” says Senator Morris.
He informs further that “the stadium at Sabina Park is up to speed in terms of the access features for the disabled, and so disabled persons will be able to get in any one of the stadiums that have been constructed and renovated.”
In the meantime, the National Works Agency is carrying out repairs to sidewalks and curbs and patching roads, and the work will be intensified in the next few weeks. Work is being done in New Kingston and the roadway leading from the offices of the Jamaica Society for the Blind to Liguanea. Trelawny will also benefit from renovated sidewalks, while ramps will be installed in Montego Bay to provide easy access to public sanitation facilities.
Senator Morris notes that while most of the work now underway is to ensure that visitors to the island for CWC, especially those with disabilities, will be able to move around comfortably, the initiative should not be construed as a project solely for the tournament. “The project has different phases and the first phase is the lead up to World Cup 2007. The government of Jamaica is on a rigorous campaign to make Jamaica more accessible for persons with disabilities, so that they can move around in the society with comfort and ease, but we are capitalizing on the flurry of activities taking place in the lead up to World Cup 2007, to make sure that some of the facilities are accessible,” he points out.
The Friendly City Project is being implemented in collaboration with the Jamaica Tourist Board, the Ministries of Tourism, Entertainment and Culture; Housing, Transport, Water and Works; Local Government and Environment; and a number of other stakeholders.

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