Local charity cites poor public planning for disabled during ‘Beryl’

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Jamaica Charity for the Homeless and Disabled is claiming that Government agencies failed to provide shelters that are adequate to assist persons with disabilities during the recent passage of Hurricane Beryl.

In a press release, the organisation said the impact of Hurricane Beryl has revealed the inadequacies of the Jamaican Government agencies in providing accessible and inclusive shelters for persons with disabilities.

It said the perceived neglect spans across information dissemination, food distribution and access to shelters or temporary accommodations. In many cases shelters were said to have been inaccessible to persons with disabilities.

Jamaica Charity for the Homeless and Disabled executive director, Cleon Porter, said lack of preparation and accommodation for the vulnerable population is unacceptable and highlights a pressing need for reform.

“It has become evident that there are three distinct classes of Jamaican people: the rich, the poor and the disabled. The affluent do not rely on public shelters during hurricanes, leaving the poor and disabled to bear the brunt of inadequate facilities. Current shelters are not designed to accommodate persons with disabilities, leading to significant disparities in safety and accessibility,” Porter said in the release.

The organisation bemoaned what is cited as lack of targeted preparation for mentally ill individuals living on the streets and in gullies as being particularly concerning. It said there were many mentally-ill persons who have been left on the streets of Kingston and rural parishes throughout the passing of hurricanes and storms year after year.

“There should have been coordinated efforts, led by the Ministry of Health, to locate and assist these individuals. Without such measures, many mentally-ill persons may have been washed away or left unaccounted for,” the release continued.

Porter said the first lesson from Hurricane Beryl is clear, in that if direct attention is not given to persons with disabilities, they will be left behind in disaster response efforts.

All types of disabilities should be addressed, said the organisation, noting that the span was not just visible mobility-related disabilities. The needs of individuals using wheelchairs, those who are blind or have low vision, people using crutches, those who are deaf or hard of hearing, individuals who cannot use their hands, and those with psychosocial disabilities need to be all be considered, the organisation said.

It recommended comprehensive training in disabilities awareness, rights, inclusion and accessibility for: the National Disaster Committee (NDC); Welfare and Shelter Subcommittee; the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM); the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development; and all the parish municipalities.