Sen. DeGazon works with VITEMA on issues faced by the disabled during COVID-19 crisis
Updated: Apr 17
Sen. Allison L. DeGazon spoke with officials from the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) and the Territorial American With Disabilities Act (ADA) after learning that disabled citizens were having trouble with transportation along with other issues.
Roselin McFarlane, Community Services coordinator for the Center for Independent Living on St. Croix, said disabled persons in the community are no longer able to use the paratransit to tend to their errands.
“VITRAN is no longer providing them with that Service. The only service that VITRAN paratransit is providing is for dialysis people and persons who have appointments. So that means, that part of the disabled community has no transportation to take care of their personal affairs,” McFarlane said.
McFarlane said that while she believed in the importance of social distancing, there has to be a way for the disabled community to be helped.
“We’re calling on the leaders of the community, the Emergency Management Agency and people who work with emergency and disasters to come up with a plan to solve that situation,” McFarlane said. “Where is the emergency management, disability integration Unit? This is an emergency. Where are the people who plan for persons with disabilities during emergencies and times like these and natural disasters? For three weeks, these people are waiting to get some kind of transportation but there isn’t a plan.”
Sen. DeGazon reached out to the entities to find out how the problems could be remedied.
“Yesterday I had a three way call with Ms. McFarlane with ADA, the VITEMA Director and Mr. Henley, the ADA Coordinator, to discuss disability issues within the disabled community,” DeGazon said.
The officials discussed having sign language staff at VITEMA, the establishment of a Disability Integration Unit, and Accessibility and transport for the disabled community during a state of emergency or a pandemic.
“I coordinated the call between ADA and VITEMA because there are specific gaps that must be filled. It’s important that all members of the community are represent,” DeGazon said.
Based on the call the senator submitted legislation to establish a disability integration unit within VITEMA.
VITEMA is open to suggestions and has noted that steps to fix the issues were already being taken.
“Mr. Henley vouched his continued support and availability to make more offerings for the disabled a reality,” DeGazon said.
As the former Assistant Director of VITEMA, DeGazon understood how vital VITEMA is in bridging the gap.
“I know the power and capability of this agency and want to see it perform at its full capacity. Properly addressing the needs of the disabled during an emergency is one of them,” DeGazon said.