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Disability-Friendly Hotels

The Ministry of Labour and Social Security will be introducing a certification program for hotels that cater to persons with disabilities.

State Minister Senator Floyd Morris, who made the announcement at the launch of the Friendly City Project on Wednesday (Sept. 27) at the Hilton Kingston Hotel, explained that hotels having all the facilities for the disabled would be certified platinum, with ratings of gold and silver for properties that have some facilities.

"The aim is to say to the world and the wider Jamaican society that those particular hotels have facilities to accommodate the disabled," the Senator remarked. "I think all hotels should yearn to be in that platinum category," he added.

The certification program will form part of the Friendly City Project, which has three distinct components--public education, accessibility and customer service.

Expounding on the public education campaign, Senator Morris said that it was designed to ensure that all Jamaicans become more sensitive to the needs of persons with disabilities.

"It will not just be confined to ensuring that we make Jamaica friendly, but to sensitize the public about the issues that disabled persons are confronted with on a daily basis," he explained.

The issue of accessibility to facilities and services, he stressed, remained a major challenge for persons with disabilities, and as part of the project modifications will be made to the two international airports, hotels, places of entertainment, public thoroughfares and public transportation.

"The truth is that we must create greater access for persons with disabilities so that they are able to go about their legitimate business. You cannot exercise a right if you do not have the means to exercise that right," he argued.

Turning to customer service, Senator Morris pointed out that this component was very important if Jamaica is to be successful, especially in the area of tourism.

"There is need to adopt a more courteous approach and that is what we are emphasizing, because if we are going to be attracting visitors to our country, we definitely will have to know what are the international norms, what are the international standards, and what is the international language in terms of relating to persons with disabilities," he argued.

The Minister stated that the launch of the project signalled the government's commitment to ensuring that Jamaica adopted a friendlier approach to the disabled. In addition, he said the project was the culmination of a vision he had from 1998.

"Vision has nothing to do with sight," said the Senator, who is visually impaired.

Reprinted from the Jamaica Information Service, October 2, 2006: {http://www.jis.gov.jm/}