Most public facilities to be accessible to all
The vast majority of government facilities will be free of barriers by mid-2014 for the benefit of the disabled, the government pledged.
Ninety-five per cent of 3,885 government facilities - including public toilets, libraries, post offices, footbridges and bus stations - will provide access for the disabled by June 30, 2014, according to a Legislative Council document submitted by the Labour and Welfare Bureau.
The government responded yesterday to a report by the Equal Opportunities Commission in June, which said access to public premises for the disabled was 'far from satisfactory'. The commission, which examined 60 government buildings, found all five food markets, for example, failed the barrier-free standard issued by the Buildings Department.
According to the government's reply, 85 per cent of retrofitting could be done before mid-2012, but it would take another two years to refurbish another 10 per cent - projects that are too large or involve many technical difficulties.
The remaining 5 per cent, or 193 facilities, were not recommended for upgrading; some of these, such as the Murray Building and west wing of the Central Government Offices, are to be redeveloped or demolished.
The chairman of the Direction Association for the Handicapped, Lee Yuen-tai, said completing most of the work by 2012 was acceptable. 'The government never had a clear timetable. Now at least they have one.'
He hoped priority would be given to facilities in public housing estates, where most disabled people lived.
Commission chairman Lam Woon-kwong welcomed the government's pledge, saying it was a 'major breakthrough on addressing accessibility issues ... and will benefit hundreds of thousands people'.
He said the commission would monitor its implementation closely.
The government said it would appoint access officers for all its venues to assist disabled people, field public complaints and inspect facilities.