Wheelchair-bound Experience Found Access to Business Places Wanting – Joe Issa
Executive Chairman of Cool Group, Joseph John Issa, says in an interview that greater access to business places is needed for disabled customers, including the availability of a wheelchair.
It’s not only about those who can’t walk, but also the large number of people who can’t see or hear; they too must be facilitated with access to business places as is promised.
Business guru Joseph John Issa, says in an interview that greater access to business places is needed for disabled customers, including the availability of a wheelchair.
Joe Issa’s statement comes in light of his personal experience in July 2014, when he was severely challenged in entering business places to conduct his affairs, as a result of a knee operation which put him in a wheelchair and on crutches.
The comments were also timely, coming as the Jamaican Government was challenged by an opposition member of parliament, to “pass a Bill requiring that all public buildings provide easy access for physically disabled persons, yet the Parliament building (Gordon House) in which we sit has no such access,” it was reported in a Jamaica Observer online article published on July 4, 2014 (Henry, 2014).
“Recently, I had a rough time in Kingston trying to get to my meetings to conduct business, and for the first time I realized the plight of the large disabled community, many of whom do substantial business on a daily basis, with the level of endurance that requires as there are no ramps, lifts, or wheelchairs to assist their access to business places,” Executive Chairman of Cool Group, Joseph John Issa, laments.
An unscientific survey undertaken in July shows that most public buildings do not have a wheelchair to assist persons with physical disabilities, including Tinson Pen Aerodrome in Kingston, Ian Fleming International Airport in St. Mary, NCB Knutsford Boulevard and Half Way Tree branches in Kingston and the Towers on Dominica Drive in New Kingston and its tenants, including the Visa Application Department of the UK Embassy.
The small number of public buildings with access for the disabled was recognized in the Vision 2030 Jamaica – National Development Plan, (Planning Institute of Jamaica, 2009).The plan showed that only 10% of all public buildings had access for disabled persons.
Under the banner: Creating an Enabling Environment for Persons with Disabilities, the selected sector strategy, seeks to make Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise family and do business. Based on the strategy, persons with disabilities (PWDs) will be given opportunities to participate in all spheres of life, on an equal basis with others.
“We will improve access for persons with disabilities by removing social and physical barriers and educating the public on the rights of persons with disabilities. The modifications to buildings and public spaces, as well as the enforcement of appropriate policies and legislation, will be undertaken,” says the document.
Joe Issa argues, however, that “it’s not only about those who can’t walk, but also the large number of people who can’t see or hear; they too must be facilitated with access to business places as is promised in the Vision 2030 plan.”
Joey’s point is supported by the plan, which stresses that “public buildings will make wheelchair ramps available for persons who are wheelchair bound, blind features will be placed on buildings and documentation in Braille will be available to allow access by the blind, and visual alerts for the hearing impaired.”
The plan also acknowledged a steady increase in persons with disabilities between 1991 and 2001, while figures extrapolated from the 2011 Population and Housing Census Conducted by The Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) (The Statistical Institute of Jamaica , 2011), show that of the total population of 15-year-old and over, 136,540 or 5.5% had difficulty walking, and of that amount about 40% lived in Kingston and St. Catherine.
Joey believes that among persons with walking difficulties “there must be a substantial number of retirees who can’t get around to conduct their business, especially in Kingston, the financial district, as I have experienced firsthand.”
It was also calculated from the housing census that of the 136,540 15-year-olds and over who had walking difficulties, approximately 70,000 or 51% were 65 years and over, comprising 25,774 males and 44,283 females.
Noting that access to public buildings by disabled persons is a key requirement in Jamaica’s thrust to achieve first world status by 2030, Joey says, “We are almost half way there yet so few public buildings have access for persons with disabilities.”