The move to have the hearing impaired community having the opportunity to legally drive on Jamaican roadways took one step closer to reality on Wednesday, March 11, 2009.
A programme for the testing and certification of hearing impaired drivers was launched at the offices of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) on March 11. What this means, is that stakeholders such as certifying officers and clerical staff from the Island Traffic Authority (ITA) and police officers will participate in a sign language training course which will equip them to deal with the hearing impaired when they apply for a driver’s licence.
Speaking at the ceremony, Ms. Valerie Simpson who deputised for Minister Mike Henry noted that there were enough safety provisions in place to allow for deaf persons who routinely applied the principles of defensive driving, to share the Jamaican roadway with motorists.
Continuing, she said, “Today marks a revolutionary development which, importantly, is happening now. Let’s hail, accept and seek to facilitate the development. Let’s learn to accommodate and interface comfortably with members of the deaf community on the roadways.”
Also speaking at the ceremony, was Hon. Andrew Gallimore, Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.
“As Minister with portfolio responsibility for persons with disabilities, I wish to use this occasion to inform you that this administration is committed to ensuring that there is equity in how we treat with persons with disabilities,” he emphasised.
“The granting of driver’s licence is one example of this commitment, as we create the opportunity for them to make choices,” he added.
For her part, Ms. Dianne McIntosh, Chief Technical Director who deputised for the Minister of National Security spoke to the process leading up to the granting the hearing impaired community the right to drive.
“Specifically, we are assembled here today, because a group of agitators saw the need to advocate for the hearing impaired to be accorded the right to drive. Let me applaud these persons for the bold vision,” she declared.
“For many years, they have agitated for the laws to be amended to enable persons with a certain degree of hearing impairment to be allowed to drive. That is now becoming a reality,” she continued.
Long time agitator for rights of the disabled community, former State Minister in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Floyd Morris said that he was very elated to see where the lobbying has now achieved. He played an integral role in lobbying for the 2005 amendment in the Road Traffic Act which now permits deaf persons to drive on the road.
The sign language programme will take place between March 9 and April 3, 2009.
In the training programme, identifiable stickers will be affixed to the vehicles being driven by deaf persons.
Jamaica now joins 25 other countries now commencing testing and certification of deaf drivers.