Saturday 22 September, 2018

Majority of schools not disabled-friendly, Senator Morris wants change

Senator Dr Floyd Morris

Senator Dr Floyd Morris

With 77 per cent of Jamaican schools reportedly not accessible to persons with disabilities, Opposition Senator Dr Floyd Morris is calling for Labour Day 2018 to focus on the disabled community.

Morris, who is blind, made the call in the Senate on Friday while presenting a motion on the challenges that the disabled community faces in Jamaica, especially those in the school system.

He lamented that three years after the Disability Act was passed, it is yet to take effect, a breach of the constitutional rights of persons with disabilities. The law makes it mandatory for educational institutions to be made accessible to persons with disabilities.

Acknowledging the shortcomings and the large sums it would take to correct the problem, Senator Morris is urging the government to target one primary and one high school in each of the 63 constituencies on Labour Day, to make them more disabled friendly.

He also noted that the Education Minister, Senator Ruel Reid, has committed to setting aside $50 million per year for the next five years to improve conditions in schools for the benefit of the disabled community. However, Morris said it would take $10 million to retrofit each school.

Senator Morris pointed to a 2014 World Bank study that showed that non-access to educational institutions was a major contributing factor to poverty among the disabled community. He argued that disabled persons “want to be independent, not dependent.”

Government Senator Kavan Gayle supported Morris and in turn appealed to the Education Minister to mandate the HEART-Trust/NTA to introduce programmes that cater to the needs of the disabled community, with a view to making them more independent.