Jamaica open to giving disabled drivers licences
Legislative amendments could be coming to allow disabled Jamaicans to get driver's licences soon.
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Monday June 18, 2012 – An almost 80-year-old law that has prevented disabled Jamaicans from being independently mobile looks likely to be soon struck from the statute books.
Reports coming out of Jamaica are that amendments are likely to be made to the Road Traffic Act Regulations of 1938, which prohibited persons with paralysed legs from taking driving tests and earning the right to legally drive.
According to the Jamaica Observer, their coverage of the discrimination against physically disabled persons who have been refused licences to drive based on the requirements 1938 act caught the attention of Transport Minister Dr Omar Davies and Senator Mark Golding, minister of justice, who have started the process toward reform.
This was an area crying out for reform, so that persons with physical disabilities in Jamaica are facilitated rather than held back by laws which have not kept pace with modern thinking," Golding reportedly told the media house.
While it is possible for persons with disabilities affecting their spine and legs to still drive vehicles by having the necessary pedals and levels normally positioned in the floor of the vehicle moved to within arm's reach of the disabled driver, according to the Observer, disabled people have been thwarted from getting this far as the licensing authority had barred those with a “walking disability” from even taking the driving test under the 1938 law.
Forty-four-year-old Gausia Burchell was one of the men whose plight was highlighted in the Sunday Observer story. He was paralysed from the waist down after receiving serious injuries while working in the US.
Sections 18 and 20 of the Road Traffic Act oultines the circumstances under which an applicant for a driver's licence can be refused one. Applicants who have a physical disability must produce a certificate "from a registered medical practitioner, in the prescribed form, certifying that he is not suffering from any such disease or physical disability as may be specified in the form, or any other disease or physical disability which would be likely to cause the driving by him of a motor vehicle to be a source of danger to the public...," including:“Loss of both hands or both feet, or one hand and one foot.”
However, after consultations among the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing; the Ministry of Justice; the Combined Disabilities Foundation of Jamaica; and other stakeholders such as the Island Traffic Authority, an amendment is being made to this regulation which would delete the words "both feet".
The minister of transport, works and housing has reportedly approved the amendments which will come in force as soon as they have been signed and gazetted, possibly within weeks.
President of the Combined Disabilities Association, Gloria Goffe, has been quoted by the Observer as saying that the disabled community is really happy about the amendment to the act, which will allow some of them to get their licences on modified vehicles.