Jamaica dead last like Sha'Carri in helping disabled, says BrownSaturday, October 23, 2021
BY ALPHEA SUMNER
Opposition Senator Lambert Brown has accused the Government of being lax in advancing the rights of the disabled community and pointed to what he said was an absence of clear provisions to accommodate those individuals for COVID-19 vaccination.
“When it comes to looking after the business class, we have fast lane, but when it comes to people with disabilities, we are like Sha'Carri – dead last,” he said, his reference to American track and field sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson who, after much hype, fizzled to place ninth in the much-anticipated women's 100 metres at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon, in August this year.
That race was a repeat of the Jamaican 100-metre sweep at the Tokyo Olympics from which Richardson was excluded after testing positive for marijuana.
“It is clear that in the approach to data collection we didn't put any priority on the people with disability,” Brown charged yesterday, pointing to questions about vaccination put forward by colleague Senator Floyd Morris.
“So the question is asked, how many persons with disabilities have been vaccinated, [and] the best they could tell us is that they have written a protocol, but nobody knows where that protocol is, and it tells you the lack of priority for people living with disabilities,” Brown said.
He was speaking in the Upper House where the regulations to the 2014 Disabilities Act were affirmed. The regulations give effect to the law which is to take effect next year February.
Brown said having been the first signatory to the United Nations Convention on persons living with disabilities in 2007, Jamaica should be much further along with the implementation of the framework for the welfare of these individuals.
The Disabilities Act is expected to enhance and safeguard the welfare of individuals with disabilities. It also covers the work of the new Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities and provides for the establishment of a disabilities tribunal, which is now before the finance ministry for approval.
Brown said he was apprehensive that, even the regulations could fall by the wayside, due to lack of enforcement. Citing examples of lapses in legislative enforcement, he called attention to the Road Traffic Act of 2018, pointing out that crashes are a major contributor to physical disabilities.
“Three years [after] many more persons have been maimed because of the madness on the road and failure to put in place the new Road Traffic Act and enforce it, and curtail what is happening,” he lamented.
“I ask that the Government do everything in your power, between now and February, to get this law and the regulations up and running so we can give a better day to the people living with disabilities in our country,” he said, making clear that the Opposition would be dogged in its monitoring of the implementation of the regulations.
Government Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, who piloted the provisions, stressed that disability is a complex issue, which needs systemic interventions that require time for consultation and implementation. She said the process has now been adequately advanced to get off the ground successfully.
She acknowledged that the operationalisation of the disabilities framework has taken a long time, with more than a decade before the national policy on persons with disabilities was translated into the Act, and for the regulations to come into force.
Johnson Smith said, over the past decade, Jamaica has made strides to promote the inclusion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities, noting the approval of the national policy in 2000, in keeping with UN's standard of rules on the equalisation of opportunities for persons with disabilities.
However, she assured that since the Act was passed, the empowerment and welfare agenda for the disabled community has been advanced. She said this includes addressing critical areas such as the completion of the organisational review and structure of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, as a body corporate.
She advised also that codes of practice to provide guidance to the public on the inclusion of people with disabilities have been completed for the areas of employment, education and training, health care, and health facilities. The consultancy procurement for the code of practice for public passenger vehicles is now under way, she said.
The provisions of the regulations include registration of the various categories of people with disabilities with the council; review of the decisions of the council in specified circumstances; notification of a subsequent disability acquired after registration; confidential register of disabilities, access, and disclosure of information; renovation of information; updating of the register; and issuance of replacement certificates. It also addresses alteration of leased premises for accessibility by persons with disabilities.