Legislation to Allow Hearing Impaired to Drive to go to Parliament by March


Amendments to the Road Traffic Act, which would give deaf and hearing-impaired persons the right to drive, could be completed before the end of the legislative year.
Senator Floyd Morris, Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, told JIS News, that the Bill was before the Chief Parliamentary Counsel and could be put before Parliament by March 2005.
He said that government was committed to addressing the issue. “It is taking a little time because there are some technicalities involved, however it is something that we are committed to as a government,” he stated.
Turning to the long awaited National Disability Act, Senator Morris told JIS News that it was expected to take “some time” for the legislation to be drafted and no time frame has been set for its completion.
“One would understand that in the context where it is the first time we are seeing such a legislation in the Caribbean that it is going to take some time,” he commented.
He noted however, that Prime Minister P.J. Patterson had asked that debate be conducted in the lower House on the National Policy for the Disabled, which would inform the National Disability Act. When the debate was completed, Cabinet’s approval would be sought to issue drafting instructions.
In the meantime, research is being conducted to put together the draft legislation for the Act.
“The National Disability Act is more comprehensive because it would be the first time in Jamaica and in the Caribbean that an all embracing legislation is being drafted to protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities”, Senator Morris told JIS.
In addition to the National Disabilities Act and amendments to the Road Traffic Act, Senator Morris said that several pieces of legislation were being sent to Parliament that specifically addressed the needs of the disabled. This, he said, was a positive trend.
“I think that this is a positive trend; for example, the Access to Information Act, which makes provision for information to be provided in the recommended form for the blind and the visually impaired” he stated.
In terms of the reactions and feelings of the disabled community to the proposed legislation, the Senator said that they were upbeat about the possibility of the new laws, but noted however, that there was some disquiet about the amount of time being taken for implementation.
To this disquiet he responded, “there are certain bureaucratic procedures that one has to go through and time might be a critical factor. I want to crave the support and patience of the disabled community where the two pieces of legislation are concerned. We are working assiduously on the legislation.”
Disabilities Awareness Week will be observed from November 28- December 3, during which time, the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities will highlight the positive work done by persons with disabilities as well as to sensitise the public on how to treat the disabled.
The theme for the week will be ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’ to commensurate with the theme for International Day for the Disabled on December 3.

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