Disabled cry out for relief
THE CRIES OF members of the disabled community to get improved public transportation and access in The City seem to be falling on deaf ears.
So says president of the Barbados Council for the Disabled, Maria Holder-Small, who lamented that the association was at its wits end trying to get these issues addressed on a national level.
Speaking to the media before the start of a walk-through yesterday organised by the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Holder-Small said the disabled community had lobbied to governments for several years and while the current administration was planning on importing new buses soon, there had been no talk of any being for people with mobility challenges.
Five air-conditioned Mercedes Benz coaches that could carry up to four wheelchairs, were imported in December 2006 from Brazil. More than two years prior, the Transport Board imported a small fleet of minibuses equipped with wheelchair lifts, but after being idle for several months, they were allocated to regular routes. This was after members of the disabled community expressed serious reservations about the vehicles’ design.
Holder-Small said it was unfair that people in Barbados with mobility issues had to go to extreme lengths just to travel across the island.
“We are still being put at a disadvantage. There were a few buses the Transport Board had years ago but those are now non-existent. People with disabilities cannot afford taxi rates because it is expensive.
“There was a nationwide cry-out about the increase in bus fare from $2 to $3.50 and it made us laugh. For us a trip from our homes costs $70 and $70 to go back; and that money is only spent one day and dependent on the distance of the journey,” she told the DAILY NATION.
While she said the community remained hopeful for some form of relief, she stressed that “the issue of transportation is at the worst it’s ever been”. President of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Terry Hope, said there was still limited access in Bridgetown for wheelchair and scooter users. She said it was absurd that in 2019, people had to manoeuvre their devices in the road with oncoming traffic.
She added there were not enough sloped curbs for the wheelchairs and scooters to move off pavements.
The walk-through was also an opportunity for the members of the association to bring awareness about the condition and to commemorate World Multiple Sclerosis Day. They distributed flyers and also asked for donations from the public.
About 20 people participated, including wheelchair assistants and others supporting the cause.
The group started in Independence Square, moved onto Broad Street, Lower Broad Street, circled at Chapel Street, on to Swan Street before returning to where they started. (SB) PRESIDENT OF the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Terry Hope, receiving a donation from Dale Husbands as her wheelchair assistant Jalisa Burnett looks on.
(Pictures by Christoff Grifiith.)
MEMBERS OF THE Multiple Sclerosis Society moving through Swan Street yesterday.