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LCQ13: Barrier-free environment

     Following is a question by the Hon Emily Lau and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (July 11):


     The Steering Committee on Population Policy Progress Report 2012 has forecast a shift from younger to older age groups in the Hong Kong population, and 25% of the total population would be above the age of 65 in 2029. In order to give effect to the Government's policy to encourage the elderly to participate actively in community life, a barrier-free community is one of the requisite conditions. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether:

(a) the authorities have, in response to the ageing trend of the population, estimated the community's need for barrier-free access and facilities from the present to 2029, and the number of existing buildings posing an unfriendly environment to the elderly and thus in need of improvement; if so, of the results; if not, whether relevant estimation will be made;

(b) it will look into countries with an ageing population such as Japan, etc, to find out how the systems, policies and laws in these countries create a friendly environment for their elderly population;

(c) it will consider following the practices in places such as the United Kingdom and Australia, etc, and employ professional access consultants to provide professional advice on the design and provision of barrier-free access and facilities during the construction stage of buildings and public facilities as well as at different stages of service delivery, so as to ensure compliance with statutory requirements, and provision of the most appropriate access and facilities to cater for the different needs of persons with various types of disabilities; and

(d) it will follow the practice in Norway to formulate an action plan for universal design for 2025, which seeks to lay down a target for buildings and different modes of transport to achieve by 2025, together with the strategies and measures for achieving the target, so as to create a barrier-free community?


     It is Government's established policy objective to provide barrier-free access and facilities for people in need (including persons with disabilities and the elderly) with a view to enabling them to access premises and make use of the facilities and services therein on an equal basis with others, thereby facilitating them to live independently, participate in full in various social activities and integrate into the community. To achieve this policy objective, the Government strives to build and make improvements towards a barrier-free environment. On the one hand, we have put in place relevant legislative and administrative measures with a view to providing people in need with reasonable access so that they can access the premises and move around in the community. On the other hand, we will continue to strive for promotion and implementation of the concept of a barrier-free society in collaboration with the rehabilitation sector, the business sector and the community. My reply to the Hon Emily Lau's questions is as follows:

(a)-(d) Section 72 of the Building (Planning) Regulations (B(P)R) under the Buildings Ordinance (Cap.123) prescribes design requirements on barrier-free access and facilities to ensure that suitable barrier-free access and facilities are provided in buildings to meet the needs of persons with disabilities and elders. The Buildings Department (BD) also issued the Design Manual: Barrier Free Access (DM) which provides guidelines on barrier-free access and facilities to supplement the provisions of Section 72 of the B(P)R. All newly constructed buildings and any alterations, modifications or additions to existing buildings are required to comply with the latest barrier-free design standards as stated in the prevailing B(P)R and DM.

     The DM was first published in 1984 and updated in 1997 and 2008 in light of the advancement in building technology and social development. In other words, following the introduction of the statutory requirements in 1984, all new buildings submitting their building plans after 1984 and any alterations/additions to existing buildings thereafter should have complied with the prevailing barrier-free design standards upon completion of their projects. Apart from providing guidelines on barrier-free access and facilities for persons with disabilities, the DM has included a chapter on the design guidelines for the elderly. The guidelines set out the design considerations which should be taken into account having regard to the special needs of elders and their common physical problems (such as unstable gait, unclear eyesight and tendency to fall easily, etc.) to ensure that elders can enjoy life in a more healthy and safe environment.

     BD will continue to collect views through various channels including the social welfare sector, the construction industry, the local community and relevant parties, and make reference to overseas experience in making amendments and updates to the content of the DM where necessary. Indeed, in the course of reviewing the DM in 2002, apart from conducting extensive consultation with the sectors, the stakeholders and the public at large, BD also commissioned a consultancy study on the international standards and overseas experience by making reference to the practices of overseas countries including the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Japan and Norway.  Having given due consideration to the information and views collected and taken into account the actual circumstances of Hong Kong, the Government put forward proposals for amendments to the DM 1997. Subsequently, the 2008 version of DM was published following approval of the relevant amendments to the B(P)R by the Legislative Council.  In the future reviews of the DM, the Government will continue to consult various sectors and make reference to relevant overseas experience with a view to continuously enhancing the barrier-free design standards.

     While the Building Ordinance is not binding on Government premises and public housing estates, the Government indeed will observe the Universal Accessibility Best Practices and Guidelines devised by the Architectural Services Department, as well as the best practices set out in the DM, and whenever practicable, strive to achieve a standard beyond the statutory requirements when constructing new Government buildings. On public housing estates, the Housing Authority has adopted universal design principles in public housing developments since 2002, in order to promote the concept of universal accessibility, to meet the diverse needs of users of all ages and persons with disabilities and to provide them with a barrier-free, convenient and safe living and social environment.

     As regards barrier-free consultation service, the Environmental Advisory Services, which is operated by the Rehabaid Society under Government's subvention, provides community based architectural consultancy service, including provision of specialist information and consultation service on the design of buildings and amenities having regard to the environmental needs of persons with disabilities and the elderly.  The service is provided by architectural professionals in collaboration with occupational therapists and physiotherapists in rehabilitation speciality. Apart from providing free advisory services to clients with disabilities, Government departments and non-profit-making organisations, the agency also offers project management services for various organisations on a cost-recovery basis.

Ends/Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Issued at HKT 12:45


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