The following is a statement from the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development in response to questions from the media regarding the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities), Act 2014 following an interview of Melanie Griffin, former Minister of Social Services and Community Development, and the Tribune.
The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities), Act 2014 and its provisions are largely monitored by the Disabilities Commission, a Board appointed by the Cabinet under the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development.
The Commission recognizes that the date for enforcement with respect to the Disabilities Act was December 31st, 2017.
The public and all persons and businesses affected have been given two (2) years to become compliant with the provisions of the Act, from January 1st, 2016 to December 31st, 2017. The implementation of such measures require financial adjustments, in addition to engineering and structural arrangements.
Given that backdrop, it is the Commission’s considered position that a widespread extension is not preferable. However, there has been requests for extensions which have been responded to on a case-by-case basis.
While not all government or private buildings are compliant to date, we have noticed that private businesses and government building operators have been making considerable efforts to ensure their buildings are accessible as required by law. The current challenges include the ability of proprietors to make the necessary investments in the physical upgrade of premises, in addition to the difficulty with older building structures challenged with spacing and otherwise to make the necessary accommodations.
The Commission on behalf of the Ministry will facilitate the enforcement of the Act for and on behalf of members of the disabled community. We will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure the disabled are enabled to obtain equal access and opportunities to function effectively in the society.