Accessibility checklist to identify architectural, structural, communication barriers
THE Government is again making a strong appeal for development stakeholders and related parties to adhere to the stipulations of the Disabilities Act 2014 for which breaches may incur fines of up to $1 million.
The call, made Monday by Minister of Labour and Social Security Pearnel Charles Jr, came as the Government rolled out the Accessibility Checklist at the AC Hotel by Marriott in Kingston.
Under the Disabilities Act 2014, which came into effect on February 14, 2022, public buildings should be outfitted with the requisite amenities to enable easy access by these people.
This checklist is designed to be a convenient source for identifying architectural, structural, and communication barriers. It is a valuable tool to assist in the removal of barriers as it can be used to survey an entire facility or specific areas and components of the facility.
Speaking during the launch ceremony, Charles Jr emphasised that public sector/private sector collaboration is needed to help with removing barriers to accessibility for persons with disabilities.
“We are charging all of the entrepreneurs, all of the planners, the architects, the managers, we are charging you with responsibility to ensure that we have the requisite ramps and rails and elevators and accessible websites and other necessary accommodations within our facilities so that we can give all Jamaicans the opportunity to thrive,” he said.
The minister said he and the team at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security are committed “to diligently pursue all of the legislative and policy agendas that are required for us to ensure that persons with disabilities are a priority — not just a peripheral issue, but a priority.”
“Within my ministry we are dedicated to exploring all opportunities and strategies to eradicate discrimination, to create a society where persons with disabilities can be fully and completely engaged…and where their rights are protected and equal opportunities are afforded to all. Persons with disabilities have an inherent right to actively participate in shaping their society,” he said.
He said that the Accessibility Checklist is just one element of a range of things that the Government has been and will continue to do to ensure that accessibility is for all.
“We started two years ago with legislation that was pivotal in creating that framework, a legislative triumph in terms of the full implementation of the Disabilities Act and the accompanying regulations. That Act certainly is a very important cornerstone in terms of our social development strategy and it is complemented now by the accessibility checklist,” he said.
Further, under the Disabilities Act, it states that in constructing any public or commercial premises, the construction of which began on or after the appointed day, the owner or agent shall ensure the premises being constructed are readily accessible to and usable by a person with a disability; built in accordance with the National Building Code; and designed in such a way as to make the common areas accessible to and usable by a person with a disability.
It stipulates that a body corporate that commits an offence against this Act is liable on summary conviction before a resident magistrate to a fine not exceeding $1 million.
It further notes that every director, manager, secretary, or other similar officer concerned with the offence is liable on summary conviction before a resident magistrate to a fine not exceeding $500,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both such fine and imprisonment.
Charles Jr noted, however, that having the checklist is not a solution to all things. He said it is complementary and not a replacement for compliance with the National Building Code.
“It is to serve as a guiding beacon, aiming for us to raise awareness and dispel the ignorance of those who are entrusted with the planning and developing of building of facilities for individuals with disabilities across Jamaica,” he said.
Also welcoming the document is executive director of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD) Dr Christine Hendricks, who said she is happy that the checklist not only addresses the physical environment “but it also addresses how we place information and how we communicate to ensure that all the different persons with disabilities have that access that they require”.
“So we are moving towards inclusion in a very deliberate, strategic way, but also practical to make sure that people on the ground feel it, because we know that there are some persons who have begun feeling the full impact of the Disabilities Act, but we know over time and as we move in they will begin to feel the reality of it,” she said.
In the meantime, the JCPD said the checklist is designed so that a ‘yes’ or ‘N/A’ (not applicable) answer indicates ‘accessible’ and a ‘no’ answer indicates the existence of a ‘non-accessible’ feature in the building or facility.
The accessibility checklist covers areas such as signage, parking, public restrooms, public telephones and water fountains, meeting rooms, restaurants, guest rooms, hazards and emergency, elevators and automated teller machines, and accessibility for the Worldwide Web.
For more information on the accessibility checklist people may visit the JCPD website at https://jcpd.gov.jm/.