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JIS News

Operators and prospective operators of early childhood institutions are being reminded that the construction of any new complex must have facilities to accommodate children with disabilities, in keeping with the 2005 Early Childhood Act and its regulations, which will be enforced in 2007.
Speaking to JIS News, Executive Director of the Early Childhood Commission, Merris Murray, noted that the provision of adequate and appropriate facilitates for children with disabilities should not be taken lightly by operators of early childhood institutions.
“There are standards that speak to access for children who are physically challenged, for example for new institutions. The law recommends that any new institution that is going to be built, after the commencement of the Act, should have a ramp on it to give free access to children who are physically challenged,” she emphasised.
These facilities include ramps and walkways, which can allow for easy access to classrooms, administrative areas, bathrooms and play areas. In addition, she noted that there should be adequate space for children who use crutches and wheel chairs. “The institution should have adequate space for crutches and it should also have an adequate number of wash basins and toilets that are of wheel chair height, so we are really looking at a policy of inclusion, whereby children who are physically challenged can be comfortably accommodated,” Miss Murray said.
As it relates to the physical environment, she also noted that any operator who wished to operate an early childhood institution at a place of residence, for instance, must ensure that the early childhood facility was properly separated from the living area.
“It (the law) recommends that no institution shall be located where a person resides. However, if this occurs, the section of the building where that institution is being operated should be used exclusively for this purpose during the hours of operation of that institution, so you can’t have people living in an institution that is being operated,” she said.
Miss Murray pointed out that an early childhood institution must have a sick bay for children, and separate bathrooms for staff and children. In addition, she said that there should be separate sections designated for sleep, food preparation and eating.
All indoor and outdoor areas, she said, must be safe for the children to play. “The premises must have space for internal play and access to an outdoor play area, because if we are talking about an environment that is stimulating for the child, then the child must be given the opportunity to explore the external environment,” she added.
In this regard, she stressed that the institution must be properly fenced and gated, in order to prevent children from leaving the compound as well as prevent persons from entering the premises without permission.
Prior to the implementation of the regulations and accompanying measures, the Early Childhood Commission, in collaboration with the Enhancement of Basic Schools Project (EBSP), will be undertaking a public education campaign beginning in January 2007.
“We will be enforcing the law very soon, and so we are working closely with the Ministry of Education and with the EBSP, to develop a national consultation programme so that we can inform stakeholders about the requirements and the mechanisms that are going to be put in place, which will be required under the law,” Miss Murray said.