OPINION: JAM (Just a Minute) Card can be a lifeline for those in distress

Spring is here! Long bright nights means the season of carnivals, concerts, festivals and generally connecting with each other and getting ready for holiday season.

Tuesday, 12th March 2019, 7:11 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th March 2019, 8:15 am
The JAM (Just A Minute) logo featured on the cards, which Sinn Fein Ballyarnett Councillor Aileen Mellon said can help people in distress

For some people this is an exciting time where most of the worry is about arranging babysitters, deciding what events you want to take in or what to wear. However, for others, the thought of shopping, visiting parades or going for an outing can be a very stressful and daunting task.

But help/support is available. The JAM card is a tool that lets people identify their needs, disability or difficulty in a discrete way. Then with their permission, information can be provided to a business or event organiser to have individual issues addressed.

Tasks such as shopping, getting out to a carnival, festival or other event can be stressful even for generally active people but can often be exceptionally difficult for those with health or anxiety issues. It is situations like this where the JAM card can be very useful to people with disabilities or other difficulties, or for their carers if needed. The JAM card app provides information about what services and events participate in the JAM card programme. It allows you to review the various ways you can use the card so that you can plan where you want to go worry free.

The app itself is very easy to download or you can register for a JAM card to be posted to you and if you require assistance with any of this just contact my office and I will be more than happy to assist.

As a councillor for the Greater Galliagh area and an advocate for young people in particular, I am committed to promoting inclusion for everyone regardless of ability or disability. I am therefore happy to acknowledge the efforts by Council Officers in ensuring that all council events, and most notably the St. Patrick’s Day carnival, is accessible to all. Information points at events can provide JAM cards and there are quiet areas, a parade viewing platform and accessible drop off and pick up zones for those who need assistance.

I have spoken to parents who were unaware of the JAM card scheme but when I explained its purpose they were delighted and welcomed the assistance it could provide for them and their children with varying disabilities including autism, who often need quieter spaces at large or busy events.

One parent whose son has autism explained: “As autism in particular is not a visible disability, I sometimes feel as though I have to explain my son’s disability, and he is at the age now where I know he feels embarrassed when I do it. Now I can just show the JAM card”.

I would therefore encourage local business to sign up to the JAM card scheme and promote a fully inclusive experience for all your customers. I commend those Jam champions who already operate the JAM card and who continue to promote inclusion within our society; Nerve Centre, Translink, Millenium Forum, Foyleside, The Alley Theatre are all participants.

If you require more information or assistance accessing the app or indeed if you are a business or service provider who would like to sign up to the programme, just call the Sinn Féin Advice Centre at 71 359747 and leave your details and I will get back to you.