The Government is moving to amend the Road Traffic Act Regulations to allow for persons who are hearing impaired to apply for a driver’s licence.
Minister of Labour and Social Security, Horace Dalley made the announcement at the opening ceremony of the Caribbean Ministerial Conference on Disability on Wednesday (May 12) at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston.
“The issue of drivers’ licences for the deaf has been outstanding and is now moving forward to a resolution. I am pleased to announce that after careful studies and tremendous advocacies, the granting of drivers’ permits to persons who are deaf has now reached the stage where drafting instruction was given for the Regulations to be amended,” he said.
Minister Dalley said that the Chief Parliamentary Counsel was currently preparing the changes to the Regulations.
Meanwhile, Iris Soutar, Executive Officer of the Jamaica Association for the Deaf, has lauded the move by the Government and pointed out that it was a breakthrough for persons from the disabled community.
“I am excited this morning to hear the announcement. It has been a long and exciting advocacy so to hear that instructions have been given to amend the Regulations now, it is heartening,” she stated.
Continuing, she said, “the deaf community has been waiting with bated breath to have the Regulations amended”.
She argued that the amendment would definitely help especially farmers in rural Jamaica who would now be able to transport their produce to market.
“What we are dealing with is not a privilege. It is a basic facility to be able to cope with daily living. You have farmers in St. Elizabeth who will grow their crops and their crops become spoiled because they are unable to take it to the market. They are dependent on others when they are quite able and willing to be able to transport their crops but the legal issue of a driver’s licence is the barrier,” she said.
She added that amendment to the Regulations would make a “tremendous difference”. Meanwhile, Minister Dalley further stated that discussions were currently taking place to introduce a National Disability Act.
This Act, he said would, “give added strength and legislative support to the National Policy for persons with disabilities. This is an area in which, as a region, we could work toward developing common legislation”.
He also encouraged all sectors of the society to participate in the discussions for the legislation.
In declaring the Conference opened, the Minister said, “this Conference is intended to take us a next step further in promoting the rights and dignity of persons with disability through the creation of an enabling environment that provides them with opportunities for economic and social advancement”.
The two-day meeting will culminate on Thursday, May 13, with the presentation of a draft CARICOM Plan of Action for the disabled community, which will be presented to members of the media and the wider Caribbean public at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel at 6:00 p.m.
The draft will in turn be sent to the CARICOM Heads of Government who will meet in July and also to the Ad Hoc Committee of the United Nations, for inclusion in the International Convention.