Corporate and public entities are required to retrofit their premises to accommodate persons with disabilities (PWDs).
Building contractors must also ensure that new public and commercial buildings are constructed in a way that make them accessible to these persons. This was disclosed by the Interim Executive Director of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD), Dr. Christine Hendricks, in an interview with JIS News.
The Disabilities Act of 2014, which came into effect recently, states that PWDs have the right to gain access to public spaces without being subjected to discrimination. According to Dr. Hendricks, to eliminate barriers for PWDs in accessing public premises, the Disabilities Act regulates service providers. Section 36 of the Act identifies the need for owners or the agent of the owner of an existing premise to make alterations or changes to physical features to accommodate PWDs.
This process is also known as a reasonable arrangement where the physical features of a public premise are adjusted to remove all physical barriers, which include widening doorways to allow a wheelchair to pass through easily; providing accessible toilet facilities; replacing steps with ramps; and putting in place audiovisual fire alarms. Section 37 of the Act highlights that construction of any public or commercial business on or after the enactment of the Act, should be accessible to PWDs and in accordance with the National Building Code.
Additionally, Section 50 of the Act stipulates that existing buildings have 24 months from the enactment day (February 14, 2022) to make all necessary alterations to any public premises for accessibility to PWDs. If this section is not complied with, a person will be deemed liable for breaching the Act.