George Daniel, the man who in 2007 fought the State from his wheelchair for violating his constitutional right to liberty and won a victory for the disabled people, has died. Daniel, former president of the local chapter of Disabled Peoples' International (DPI) died at Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope, yesterday morning. Current DPI president Michael Fraser confirmed that Daniel passed away shortly after 8 am at the hospital where he had been warded for some time. Fraser praised Daniel's contribution to the disabled, saying it could never be measured.
Daniel is best remembered for his 116-day protest in 2003 under tents outside the National Flour Mill, to get that company to change its hiring practices. The protest stemmed from the NFM's denial to employ two disabled people. During his lifetime, Daniel led demonstrations throughout the country, demanding better and more accessible buildings and facilities for the disabled. It was this passion and drive which caused him on March 8, 2005, to file a constitutional motion against the State, because of his inability to access the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain. He contended that there were no wheelchair ramp and the long flight of steps at the front of the building made it difficult for people like himself to be pulled up the steps backwards.
Attorney Anand Ramlogan, who represented Daniel in that matter, had asked the court for an order directing the State to break down the steps at the front of the Hall of Justice with a view to redesigning and reconstructing the same to cater for wheelchair-bound citizens. Speaking by telephone from Canada last night, Ramlogan said it was a shame and a disgrace that more than two years ago, Daniel won that historic victory to ensure the disabled would gain access to the Hall of Justice and to date, that order has not been complied with. "I have appealed that matter to the Privy Council and I intend to pursue that in memory of George," Ramlogan said.
He said denial to the Hall of Justice meant that disabled people were unable to meaningfully participate in the justice system as jurors, attend court, give evidence or simply visit to listen to a particular case. "George was a personal friend and a source of inspiration...He gave the disabled a voice and a face in Trinidad and Tobago and forced the nation's conscience to confront the way they treat differently-abled people as an issue," Ramlogan said.