By Shermain Bique-Charles
Dozens of disabled people are expected to walk through St John’s on April 23 to show their dissatisfaction with the way plans to improve disability parking in the city have been handled.
President of the Antigua and Barbuda Association of Persons Living with Disabilities Bernard Warner said the government had failed to notify the group of its intention to improve the availability of spaces for differently abled people in Antigua and Barbuda.
This week’s budget debate saw an announcement that disabled parking spaces are to be officially designated next month.
“We will walk through St John’s because we recognise if we don’t stand together nothing will be done. We will be airing our concerns and dissatisfaction when it comes to the whole provision for parking for disabled people,” Warner told Observer.
Police Commissioner Atlee Rodney, along with the Transport Board and the Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin have been informed about the association’s “awareness walk”.
Warner said he has been advocating for more disability parking in St John’s for years and was disappointed that he was left out of discussions between Works Minister Maria Browne and Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez who undertook a walkthrough in St John’s recently to assess areas in need of general improvement.
“We are disappointed with the unkept promise by the government to ensure St John’s is marked to accommodate parking for people with disabilities. We have had many walkthroughs over the past two years in looking at how we can make St John’s an accessible city to meet the needs of people with disabilities,” Warner explained.
Legal Affairs Minister Steadroy Benjamin told Parliament this week that the government will be taking a hardline stance to deal with the vexing issue of parking in the city.
The minister explained that the government will be assigning certain areas for persons with disabilities as well as paid parking spots. Those wishing to have a designated parking space will be required to apply in writing to the Police Commissioner indicating the reasons for it and the precise location requested.
Benjamin said the restrictions will be enforced as of next month.
But Warner said when he heard the news he was very concerned, saying, “all we have been hearing is empty promises”.
“While we are happy that they will be doing something, we are saying they have not done anything so far, especially after they have promised on numerous occasions to provide this parking for people with disabilities,” he added.