Coral Harbour Base, Bahamas, September 20, 2016 (RBDF) – After years of not being able to gain easy access to the Bahamas Historical Society and Museum (BHSM), Marines from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force made life a little easier for the physically challenged with the construction of a ramp and the renovation of the restroom for wheelchair bound members and visitors.
Led by Chief Petty Officer Gary Pratt, a senior supervisor of the Defence Force’s Base Maintenance Team, the Marines built a ramp on the western entrance of the historical site, located on Shirley Street. Before now, persons who were physically challenged had to be lifted from their wheelchairs to enter the building. The Defence Force’s Base Maintenance Team also made improvements to BHSM’s restroom facility to accommodate persons in wheel-chairs.
The museum, which opened in 1959, displays a number of Bahamian artifacts including a replica of a Lucayan canoe, as well as historical documents dating as far as the British colonial era. President of the BHSM, Mrs. Andrea Major, was thankful for the effort of the Marines.
“Before now, the physically disabled could not access the building,” said Mrs. Major. “People had to lift them up, and it was difficult for them if they had to use the restroom. The main problem was that we didn’t have the funds or technical support to make the necessary changes. We are eternally grateful to Captain (Tellis) Bethel and his men for their expertise, professionalism, physical support and willingness for all they have done in the past.”
In July 2014, the Persons with Disabilities-Equal Opportunities Bill, was passed in parliament. This Bill gave building owners two years to modify their facilities, which included utilizing restrooms. Ms. Iris Adderley, who serves as Consultant for the Secretariat of the National Commission for Persons with Disability views this achievement as a stepping stone to greater things. She has been dependent on a wheelchair for 34 years, and expresses her thanks for the job done by the Defence Force.
“I am so honored on behalf of the community of persons with disabilities that Mrs. Major has fulfilled her promise to ensure that we, too, have access to a place that is rich in Bahamian ancestral history,” said Mrs. Adderley. “I am able to say that persons with disabilities can now go and experience a part of our history at the Historical Society and Museum, thanks to the work of the Defence Force.”
Commander Defence Force (Acting), Captain Tellis Bethel, said that Mrs. Major expressed the need for the construction of a ramp and the renovation of a restroom for persons with disabilities.
“I shared those concerns with Chief Petty Officer Gary Pratt and his enthusiastic team, and they made it happen,” said Mrs. Major. “So I’m very proud of what they accomplished having made it possible for all Bahamians and visitors alike to experience our rich heritage at the Bahamas Historical Society; this is just another way for the Defence Force to live up to its motto, as we “Guard Our Heritage”.