Ever since I saw the movie Oliver Twist and experienced tears
burning my eyes when the hungry Oliver asked for some more
(and was ridiculed for it) I have appreciated the meaning
Early in my professional life, I recall visiting a colleagues
chambers and having a discussion with a woman who was sitting
in the waiting area. She told me where she livedsomewhere
deep in the countryand of her older son a young man,
who had been convicted of bestiality (sex with an animal)
and was in prison.
She spoke of the ridicule that her family suffered in the
village with people pointing at them. She said no one spoke
to them and she expressed her concern for her younger son
and wondered how he would survive the ostracism (although
she did not use this word). I felt immediate compassion.
One of the first murder cases that I had prosecuted involved
two brothers. The older brother who was apparently violent,
and a bully, had been killed by a younger brother when he
could not take the aggression any more.
At the time of the trial, a third brother was hospitalised
in St Anns suffering from some form of mental illness.
The family lived in Coalmine and every day the mother, a frail,
old-looking woman, used to attend court.
On the day that her son was convicted for the murder, (the
jury would have found manslaughter if the defence counsel
had properly done his job) I saw the mother leaving the Hall
She was wearing rubber slippers and her clothes were worn.
She had on an old ornhi over her prematurely grey hair. She
was all alone as she crossed over to Woodford Square on her
way to the bus station to wait for a bus for the long trip
It is something that I have never forgotten and even as I
remember this now, tears come to my eyes.
More recently, I saw a young constable, whom I know to be
hardworking and dedicated, though not very experienced. He
was on his way to court judging by his wear and the heavy
items he carried. As he walked, he was looking straight in
front of him and talking to himself. It was clear to me that
he was on his way to give evidence and he was trying to give
himself confidence. I felt immediate sympathy for this young
The above incidents are not tragedies as for instance are
the deaths of young Amy or Sean Luke. They are, however, reflective
of everyday situations where human beings who are suffering
mental distress are isolated and at the time, have no one
who can help them.
In a way, they are reminiscent of the day-to-day life of the
For these we have initial sympathy but after the first rush,
few of us are interested in bothering with the of treating
with their special needs. Our compassion does not extend that
far. Too often, the physically challenged suffer in silence.
That having been said, I want to acknowledge the many people
who took the time to respond to last weeks column highlighting
the frequent failure to obey the handicapped parking
designations in public areas. Perhaps, if I share a few extracts
from these responses I might stir public conscience?
Ali writes: It is the dont-care attitude that is so
sad. This behaviour permeates all levels of society.
Joe from Maraval says: I am a diabetic and suffer with neuropathy.
As a result, some days it becomes almost impossible to make
more than a few steps without terrible pain, I have had experiences
of not being able to park in the allocated areas in [named
grocery] and have brought it to their attention.
Nothing has been done. On one occasion after, I very politely
spoke to a young man who was physically able and parked in
the designated area. His response was, yuh have a problem?
The guard who was there did nothing.
Zena from Texas: My daughter suffered an accident ten years
ago in T&T.
I have often witnessed this thoughtless act and it happens
in the restrooms too... At least Hi-Lo is trying. We always
deplore the fact that T&T is so wheelchair unfriendly.
Only a few hotels are accessible.
Robert: I appreciate your writing about these observations.
I often point out the same thing to my children in the hope
that they might grow up not following these actions.
Geoffrey from St Clair: [You] exposed the problem, but the
solution is untenable. You cannot place police on every corner
to look out for every infringement. Citizens must want to
follow the rules. If the law does not take disability rights
seriously, then why should citizens?
Edward/Oscar from Canada: T&T is not ready for the society
you envision. The handicapped parking spot here carries a
fine of $500 for misuse. Parking without a handicapped permit
for even one minute will result in the police issuing a ticket.
Mervyn from Orlando: Once a parking spot is designated handicapped
there must be a handicapped sticker visible on the vehicle
or the car will be towed and the driver fined.
Fayaz from Canada: This would be a noble issue for Parliament
The readers put the case well. We need to develop more compassion
and empathy as a society as regards those who are disadvantaged.
Until such time however, Parliament must step in and enforce
the protection of the disabled. This should encompass a general
appreciation of their specific needs, not just protection
of parking spots. The State must intervene.