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Story Highlights

  • One of Canada’s leading architectural firms is to visit Jamaica with a view to developing plans to make the nation’s parliament, Gordon House, accessible to persons with disabilities.
  • This initiative follows the recent passage of the long-awaited Disabilities Act.
  • This collaborative effort was initiated by Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, Minister of Justice and Senator Floyd Morris, President of the Senate.

The Government of Jamaica has made arrangements with Carleton University in Canada and Quadrangle Architects Limited, one of Canada’s leading architectural firms, to visit Jamaica with a view to developing plans to make the nation’s parliament, Gordon House, accessible to persons with disabilities.  The team from Canada, in undertaking this task on a voluntary basis, collaborated with the University of Technology’s Caribbean School of Architecture and the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) as Jamaican counterparts.

This initiative follows the recent passage of the long-awaited Disabilities Act which makes provisions to safeguard and enhance the welfare of persons with disabilities across Jamaica, ensuring full and effective participation and inclusion of such persons.

This collaborative effort was initiated by Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, Minister of Justice and Senator Floyd Morris, President of the Senate, who jointly approached Dean Mellway, the Acting Director of the Research, Education, Accessibility and Design (READ) Initiative at Carleton University. The engagement of Carleton University arose as a result of its renowned leadership in the promoting accessibility, driven by the READ Initiative that supports research and projects on accessibility while fostering partnerships with various groups in the field of disability.

Along with the Carleton team, consulting architects from Quadrangle Architects Limited, Ted Shore and Amy Pothier, both with years of experience in the area, inspected the building over a two-day period earlier this week.  “We have been involved in all aspects of accessibility in Canada and in Ontario including advising our Building Code Commission regarding accessibility. Toronto is the host of the PanAm Games this summer and we are also the Accessibility Consultants to that as well as some other cities,” Mr. Shore stated.

Speaking at a Meeting held at the Ministry of Justice on Monday February 16, Chief Architect at the Urban Development Corporation, Kamau Kambui contended that the partnership will add value to the design process and enhance the current plans that have been drafted by the UDC.

“We received a request from Parliament for us to look at making the Houses of Parliament more disable-friendly; we did our surveys and actually looked at some options. With the Canadians coming on stream, it gives us the opportunity to have fresh eyes looking at our existing plans with their assessment being incorporated in these plans,” said Mr. Kambui.

A team of students from the University of Technology, along with Dr. Patricia Green, Head of the Caribbean School of Architecture and UTECH Lecturer Mark Drew Martin, have also participated in the process. “By bringing us all together, it shows that the government is taking this seriously and recognizes that it needs to be done. We at the Caribbean School of Architecture are using this opportunity to challenge our students as well to think in a certain way and to see how they can come up with recommendations,” said Dr. Green.

The results of this assessment will inform the changes that will be made to the Houses of Parliament allowing for easier access for the disabled community.

“This is a significant and symbolic development. It is important that the Parliament in which legislation was passed to give effect to the protection of certain rights for the disabled community, should be accessible to these citizens, and we need to set the example for others to follow” explained Minister Golding.  “With the technical assistance of an eminently qualified group of persons on this project, I hope that accessibility will become a reality in the very near future.”