I was very moved when I read the online version of Peter Moll’s Sept. 27 commentary, “VI urged to rebuild to be disability friendly.”

I was moved firstly because of Mr. Moll’s very kind words — and that I should be remembered so fondly by my beloved second home. Secondly, I was moved because in September 2017 I watched in horror, albeit from the other side of the world, as my beloved second home was destroyed. I was heartbroken. But then I saw the interviews with islanders as they stood amongst broken buildings and absolute mayhem, and they talked of hope and they talked of rebuilding their beloved home.

I think it is the resilience and kindness of residents that makes the place so special. I was also very touched by Mr. Moll’s mention of the document I had written five years ago about how I thought the Virgin Islands could make itself more welcoming to people with disabilities. I offered my services to come and make that a reality, but my approach was rejected by those in government.


Rebuilding stronger

So when I saw the damage that the hurricane caused — and when I learned of the destruction of the Eslyn Henley Richiez Learning Centre, where I was shown so much affection by the disabled students and their teachers when I visited — I too thought here is an opportunity to rebuild these beautiful islands. With only the smallest changes and a little bit of thought and consideration, public buildings, restaurants, hotels and public spaces — not to mention the roads and sidewalks — could be rebuilt to accommodate people with disabilities.

Islanders are already welcoming to visitors of all nations and all creeds. They would be just as welcoming to people with disabilities. Do not panic. I’m not suggesting the island would be overrun with thousands of wheelchairs. Not everyone with a disability uses a wheelchair. But with an accessible environment and with a positive attitude, tourism could be opened up to a whole new audience. Don’t forget that some 15 percent of the world’s population has a disability of some sort.

And what about the cruise ships? What about all of those disabled passengers who have to stay aboard their ship when she docks in Road Town because they cannot get off the boat. There are few accessible vehicles, hotels or restaurants in the VI. And if they do decide to visit Road Town, they are faced with potholes, high curbs and inaccessible buildings. It’s no wonder many of them stay on the boat. What a shame that they do not get the opportunity to see the beauty of our islands.


‘Thank you’

So thank you again, Mr. Moll, for your kind comment. It made my day. And as for your suggestion about holding a sailing championships in 2022 — what an inspired idea! That would give three years to plan the event and for those rebuilding to make suitable adaptations now so everyone could be welcomed.

I miss my second home and my friends very much. I have wanted to return so badly, but I have been advised now would not be a good time, especially considering my wheelchair.