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Consultation told: Normal people squeezing out disabled from parking spaces
Parking spaces assigned for the disabled are often occupied by normal people, and narrow pavements with many poles often hinder the blind. These were among many concerns made at a stakeholders’ consultation on a national accessibility code, held at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.
Harrilal Singh, of Combined Disabilities of T&T, who uses a wheelchair, said oftentimes he cannot access either one of the four parking spaces reserved for the disabled at the San Fernando General Hospital because they were occupied by doctors and nurses. Complaints to the security guard were also futile as Singh said he was told the guard could not do anything about the situation as the doctors and nurses were “there first.”
Past director of the T&T Contracting Association Dr Victor Bishop said too often there were those posing as contractors when in fact they had no idea about proper building requirements. “You buy a wheelbarrow, you get two shovels and all of a sudden you are a contractor,” Bishop added.
President of the Trinidad and Tobago Institute of Architects (TTIA) Jennifer Smith, who gave an overview of the International Building Codes (IBC) requirements at the consultation, said T&T did not have national building codes but these were now being developed based on the IBC’s stipulations. She could not say when the codes would be finalised but said it entailed a lot of work.
“But once those codes are put into place, what they need then is to be passed into some kind of legislation so that they have teeth in terms of compliance, it should not be voluntary, it should be mandatory,” she said. Smith said this must also be backed up with workshops, using professionals, on how to understand the code.
“What we have been hearing at the consultation is even if you get a magic wand and all buildings would be code compliance, if the pavement between those buildings and the spaces between those buildings don’t allow you to get into those buildings it doesn’t really make sense,” she said. Saying there must be a practical approach, Smith added that there must also be an approach where all members of society were recognised as equal.
“We are a developing country and what we need to do is learn from other countries that have already put in place systems that do work, there’s not enough attention paid to the practical issues,” she said.
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