Toilets for disabled put city to shame

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 January, 2005, 12:00am

Alliance demands legal action after every building in survey fails standard

Disabled people face an obstacle course of locked doors, confusing signs, badly designed facilities and clutter when they try to use public toilets provided for them by law.

A survey of 95 toilets for the disabled in government and private buildings found that none fully complied with legal requirements and many were locked or in use as storerooms.

Four more buildings in the survey didn't even have one.

The Rehabilitation Alliance has called for legal action against offenders after surveying 99 buildings in 18 districts because of numerous complaints from its members. It will pass its findings to the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Buildings Department.

'None of the 95 toilets we checked were suitably designed according to the design manual and some suffered from management and hygiene problems,' alliance secretary-general Simon Wu Wing-kuen said.

'About 65 toilet seats were too high, 61 washing basins were inaccessible because they were too high, 39 toilets had no [alarm] call bells, 19 toilets were locked and 20 were being used as storage rooms.

'There were many other problems like position or design of handrails, signage, doors, and flush handles being too high.'

The best of the 95 toilets had seven design defects, while the worst - at a public hospital in Tsuen Wan - had 28 problems that made it inaccessible to wheelchair users.

Lee Koon-hung, wheelchair-bound vice-chairman of the alliance, took the South China Morning Post to a toilet for the disabled at Western Market in Western, which has a confusing 'no entry' sign pasted just below the sign for accessibility.

Inside, a trolley loaded with a large bucket made it impossible for Mr Lee to enter the cubicle. The toilet seat was too high, there was no retractable handrail for support and no alarm button.

Mr Lee said special toilets were often locked and had to be opened by a janitor or manager.

'When you are in a rush to go to the bathroom, and you have to spend 10 minutes looking for a toilet, and then spend another several minutes waiting for someone to open the door, it is not right,' he said. 'Toilets are basic human necessities. Some wheelchair users don't drink water when they are out so they will not need to use the toilet but that is bad for health.'

Mr Wu said the survey had been carried out to check compliance with the Buildings Department's 1997 design manual on barrier-free access.

'We hope the government will check buildings and force property developers and managers to follow the regulations, which have been published since 1984 and updated in 1997,' he said.

A spokesman for the Buildings Department said the department would follow up the results.