Resident fights for disabled access

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2007, 12:00am

Wheelchair-bound man seeks equality

A wheelchair-bound man is trying to force the owners of a Kennedy Town residential block to provide an access ramp, claiming he is being discriminated against.

Leung Kong-yuen, who filed a writ in the District Court through the Equal Opportunities Commission yesterday, is suing the Incorporated Owners of Pearl Court, Belcher's Street.

He wants the court to declare the failure to build a ramp a violation of the Disability Discrimination Ordinance. Mr Leung also is asking the court to order the owners' body to provide proper wheelchair access at the front entrance of the building.

Mr Leung, who says his feelings have been injured by the discrimination, is also asking for compensation for damages, with the amount to be assessed.

Since 1996, the EOC has issued seven writs on accessibility for disabled people. Four were settled out of court.

The Pearl Court owners' committee said yesterday that Mr Leung's demand for a ramp at the building's front entrance was impossible to fulfil.

Committee chairwoman Wong Mi-hing, outside the Kennedy Town building, said a contractor hired to renovate the complex in 2004 had determined there was no space to build a ramp at the building's front entrance.

Ms Wong said she had told Mr Leung that he could hire another contractor to reassess the situation - which she said would cost about HK$10,000. But he declined to pay for the cost of the reassessment.

Ms Wong said the committee was considering the possibility of building a ramp at the block's back entrance instead, but Mr Leung had insisted that the ramp be built at the front entrance.

A resident said he felt Mr Leung was trying to take advantage of other residents. 'We can not sacrifice spending a lot of money because of only a few people,' the resident said, standing at the front entrance to the apartment complex.

'Because you are handicapped, you ask for everything. Is that right?'

But another resident, Louis Lok Wo-kai, believed the money should be spent to build a ramp.

'We have some people who need it, so I think we should make the arrangement,' he said.

According to legislators and officials Hong Kong is still not doing enough generally to provide wheelchair access to buildings.

Legislator for the social welfare sector Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung of the Civic Party, said the government had yet to present legislators with draft amendments to the design manual enacted in 1997, which covered the issue.

'We have been talking about the revision of the design manual since 2002 and here we are in 2007 and [the government] still has not quite completed the review,' Dr Cheung said.

'It [also] does not say anything about buildings before 1997. We had cases where people who had bought these units had become disabled and therefore were not able to access their own buildings,' he said.

Candice Lam Hou-heung, deputy chief executive of the Society for Rehabilitation, said there were many places in the city that were not accessible to people in wheelchairs.

'That is not good for Hong Kong as a metropolitan city,' Ms Lam said.

Philip Yuen Chi-hoi, the rehabilitation chief officer of the Council of Social Service, said the council had suggested that the government should help building owners out with the costs of constructing ramps.