Home » Jamaica’s Santa Cruz Courthouse gets a Wheelchair Lift
Reports from WHO suggest that more than 65 million people worldwide (around 10% of the disabled population or 1% of the total population) use wheelchairs. Wheelchair lifts resolve mobility barriers and enable wheelchair users to move freely to the various levels in a building. Public buildings need to be handicap accessible. The Santa Cruz Resident Magistrate’s Court in St Elizabeth, Jamaica has taken a step in this direction by installing a vertical wheelchair lift, which is the first one in the country. U.N. statistics indicate that Jamaica’s population of people with disabilities stood at 15 per cent of the general population, or approximately 400,000 people.
The Jamaica Observer reported that the wheelchair lift was commissioned into service by Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding. Earlier, this year, the courthouse was closed by the St Elizabeth Health Department when it became uninhabitable after being overrun by pigeons. After undergoing major renovation works, the courthouse was reopened in the first week of November.
Commenting on the installation of the wheelchair user-friendly accessibility device at the reopening ceremony, Senator Mark Golding said, “The installation of this vital piece of equipment will ensure the independence of persons in wheelchairs in accessing the two-storey building. The ‘inclinator’ as it is called, is the first of its kind in the island’s courts”.
Designed specifically for the assistance of wheelchair users or other people with mobility challenges who use the courthouse facilities, the vertical wheelchair lift features a load capacity of 340 kg (750 lbs). Emergency stop and alarm and back-up power supply are the other key features of the device.
The installation of this wheelchair lift can be regarded as a significant achievement, following the passing of the Disabilities Act in 2014 by the Jamaican government. The Act makes adequate provisions to safeguard and ensure the full and effective participation of people with physical disabilities.
The Minister pointed out that it is the duty of the Government to ensure that persons with disabilities are given a fair and equal opportunity to fully participate in general affairs, while maintaining their dignity. He urged users of courthouses and other justice-related facilities to treat the new facilities with due care so that it remains functional in the years to come.
The courthouse which was refurbished at a cost of over $9 million included the complete refurbishing of the interior of the courtroom, balcony and office including the refinishing of the floors. Some of the other major renovation works include – new electrical distribution and fittings, partial pavement of the entry area, total gutting and reconstruction of the water closets, new plumbing and fittings, fabrication and installation of pigeon-deterring devices, construction of a ramp and the painting of the area for the police.
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