‘We are people too’

Born with cerebral palsy, Donald Martin, 45, has never walked. A resident of the Rock Crusher community, Martin lives in his parents’ house and is unable to work.

While he does his best to get around in his electric wheelchair, Martin said his independence is greatly hampered by limited handicap accessibility across New Providence, along with a lack of compassion from fellow Bahamians.

“We’re just like normal people,” he said.

“I want to do things too. I want to get around too.

“I was rolling in the road one day, right?

“And I’m not in the road. I’m on the side of the road. And this lady just blowing me out.

“She said, ‘You need to come out the road!’ 

“I said, ‘Well why don’t you hop out and put me in your car and carry me where I need to go?’

“I don’t know. Some people just…”

Asked whether the general public makes it difficult for him, Martin said, “Most all the time. Most all the time.”

He said it can be discouraging to know that, as a handicapped person, he is treated better in foreign countries than in his own.

Martin said, despite the Persons with Disabilities Equal Opportunities Act, many places are still inaccessible to him.

He said sidewalks, even when they are present, are often not easy to use.

“When my family took me away, it was more versatile than over here,” he said.

“I could catch the bus even by myself when I reached over there. I’d tell Mummy I going to the mall. Mummy said, ‘Okay then, go on.’

“But over here, when I’m rolling in my chair, you’ve got to look out for people because they ain’t handicap-friendly over here. And they tell you to use the sidewalks, right. But when you get up on the sidewalk, when you reach way down, ain’t no slope, so you have to either drop there or you got to go way back down to get off and go in the road.”

He added, “It’s hard, but I hope they change the policies for disabilities over here. We are people too, and we need to live. We’ve got to do stuff too. We’ve got to have our own independence too.”

Martin said he can’t even do his own grocery shopping sometimes.

“When you get there, you ain’t got no cooperation,” he said.

“Sometimes when I was driving my electric chair, the security guard would say, ‘Oh well you can’t come in this building.’

“…Come on, man. But you know, it is what it is. I just take it as it is and keep a smile up.”

Martin said he used to be able to catch the bus, but that depended on the kindheartedness of bus drivers.

“Back in the day, you might not believe me, but I used to try and catch the bus,” he said.

“But I had friends who drove the bus. I used to wait on the bus stop and they actually stopped the bus and they came out and lifted me in the bus and folded up my chair and put me in [a seat].

“They tried to help me out every now and again, the bus drivers back in the day.”

However, Martin said that does not happen anymore.

“This is all I have to carry me around now, my chairs,” he said.

Martin owns a red handicapped-friendly scooter, but he said it stopped working nearly a year ago.

He now moves around in an electric wheelchair.

Martin said he and his blind friend, whom he met at an event for the disabled, do their best to assist one another.

“His name is Dan,” he said.

“That’s my good friend you know. He is be by the souse house. Sometimes I go there with him and help him around.”

He added, “We got tight a couple of years ago and then from then, he helps me out and I help him. We’re there for one another.”

When the Persons with Disabilities Equal Opportunities Bill passed in 2014, it offered those in the disabled community a glimmer of hope.

It brought national attention to an issue that was largely ignored. However, as the arms on the clock continue to turn, that hope is being slowly snuffed out.

Under the act, it is illegal to deny a disabled person equal access to opportunities for suitable employment.

On January 1, 2016, the provisions of the Persons with Disabilities Equal Opportunities Act pertaining to accessibility to public buildings and parking came into force, starting the clock for proprietors of public spaces to ensure compliance with rules governing accessibility for persons with disabilities. The clock ran out more than a year ago.

Yet, a drive around New Providence reveals that many of these components are not being adhered to. Many businesses still don’t have disabled parking and multiple offices are still not disabled-friendly.

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Rachel Scott

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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