The Disabilities Act is to come into effect on February 14, 2022.
Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Karl Samuda, made the announcement during Wednesday’s (October.6) sitting of the House of Representatives as he tabled the Disabilities Regulations, 2021, Resolution.
The Regulations were approved by Members of the House and will now enable the Disabilities Act and all its attendant parts to come into effect.
The Disabilities Act, which was passed in 2014, makes provisions to safeguard and enhance the welfare of persons with disabilities across Jamaica.
Minister Samuda said it is unfortunate that implementation of the Act has taken such a long time and noted that “a lot of work has been done, especially by the legal team to bring it to this stage”.
“Among the reasons why it has taken this long is in order to complete the organisational review and structure for the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD); to recommend and submit a structure of the Disabilities Rights Tribunal – a body to be established under Section 15 of the Act; to develop a standard operating procedures manual and develop codes of practice; identify the suitable accommodations to house the Council; to establish a confidential register and advance the public education and awareness campaign and to consult with stakeholders,” he outlined.
He said the Regulations comprise 15 provisions, which cover, among other things, the registration of persons with a disability.
“An application is to be made by a person with a disability or his caregiver, and a caregiver is defined under the Disabilities Act as a parent, a legal guardian or any other person responsible for caring for the health, financial, physical, security and general well-being of a person with a physical disability. The Council is required to review the application within 30 days of submission,” he noted.
Minister Samuda said that once the Council is satisfied that the person being registered is a person with a disability, the body must issue a Certificate of Registration, which will be valid for five years from the date of issue.
He noted that the certificate will cease to be valid on the death of the person with a disability.
Regulation nine specifies that the particulars of persons with disabilities are to be kept in a confidential register. “These include the person’s name, address, date of birth, approximate date the disability was acquired, type of disability, including blindness, deafness, hard of hearing, intellectual disability, developmental disability,” Minister Samuda said.
Leader of Opposition, Mark Golding, in his contribution, said that the Disabilities Act is one of the most significant pieces of legislation to be passed in Jamaica in this millennium.
“It really sought to bring Jamaica’s domestic law into compliance with the United Nations (UN) Convention for the protection of persons with disabilities, and Jamaica was, I think, the first signatory to that convention, which I think was a symbolically significant act at the time,” he said.
He noted that the disabled community is one of the most disadvantaged, and the legislation is intended to change the attitudes of Jamaicans towards persons with disabilities and their needs.
The legislation protects and promotes equal rights for the disabled and prohibits discrimination against them.