Wheelchair user sues building's owners over lack of ramp access

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 September, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 September, 2003, 12:00am

The Quarry Bay resident's case may be a legal first for HK

A wheelchair user is suing the owners of the Quarry Bay building in which she lives for failing to provide a ramp, in what may be the first court challenge on accessibility rights in Hong Kong.

The woman, who cannot be named, has the backing of the Equal Opportunities Commission, which yesterday filed a writ on her behalf against the Incorporated Owners of Nam Fung Sun Chuen Block 6 in the District Court for allegedly violating the Disability Discrimination Ordinance.

The complainant says she has been unable to enter the building independently because there are several steps leading up to the front and back entrances.

She failed to persuade the incorporated owners of the building to provide a ramp and took her complaint to the commission.

After attempts at conciliation failed, the commission agreed to grant legal assistance.

A commission spokesman said that the watchdog had granted legal assistance because it 'raises an important question of principle in the area of disability discrimination in the provision of means of access'.

'The commission is working towards eliminating this type of discrimination, which is prevalent in Hong Kong,' he said.

'We understand there are two access points into the building but it is impossible for wheelchair users to get access through either one independently.

'But the defendant has refused to provide some alternatives, for example, by building a ramp.'

This is the third time the commission has filed a writ on accessibility grounds, but the other cases were settled out of court when the owners agreed to build a ramp.

Surveys have found that accessibility for the disabled in Hong Kong rates poorly compared to other rich territories.