Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Kwok-che and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung, in the Legislative Council today (November 18):
Last year, the Buildings Department published the Design Manual – Barrier Free Access 2008 (the Manual) to provide guidelines on building design to facilitate access by persons with disabilities (PWDs).However, some of the guidelines are not applicable to food premises.A survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong in June this year reveals that the entrances of most of the restaurants of fast food chains in Hong Kong have steps or thresholds but no access ramps.Immovable seats are also used in many food premises, neglecting the needs of PWDs.In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) why the Manual has not made it mandatory for food premises to provide suitable ramps at their main entrances for access by PWDs and seats specially designed for them; and
(b) whether it will examine when it will incorporate the requirements in (a) in the Manual so as to meet the needs of PWDs?
(a) To facilitate persons with disabilities (PWDs) to enjoy equal opportunity in entering premises and using the facilities therein, a requirement that ramps shall be provided at all changes in level (including entrance to premises), other than those served by a suitable accessible lift or accessible lifting mechanism at non-domestic premises, has already been stipulated in section 14 of the Third Schedule of the Building (Planning) Regulation (the Regulation) and section 14 of Chapter 4 of the Design Manual: Barrier Free Access 2008 (the Design Manual).The requirement of provision of ramps is not only applicable to food premises, but also generally to other non-domestic premises (such as shopping arcade, department stores etc.) and the common area of domestic premises.The above-mentioned requirement of provision of ramps at non-domestic premises has already been incorporated in the Regulation and Design Manual since 1985 and applicable to new buildings and alterations or additions of existing buildings thereafter.Since the Regulation and Design Manual do not have retrospective effect, this requirement is not applicable to food premises located at buildings built before the effective date of this requirement.However, these premises will be subject to this requirement when carrying out alteration or addition works (these include works involving structural alterations).
At present, the Regulation and Design Manual mainly regulate the building design and do not stipulate specific requirements for the furniture, including the seating design, of the food premises.
According to section 26(1) of the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO), it is unlawful for a person who, whether for payment or not, provides goods, services or facilities, to discriminate against another person with a disability in the terms and conditions or in the manner, in providing goods, services or facilities to the latter.If a person with a disability is not able to use the goods, services or facilities provided by a food premises owing to inadequate access facilities or lack of suitable seating for use by a person with a disability, he/she may lodge a complaint to the Equal Opportunities Commission.However, as stipulated in section 26(2) of DDO, section 26(1) shall not apply if the provision of the goods, services or facilities would impose unjustifiable hardship (circumstances to be taken into account include : the reasonableness of any accommodation to be made available to a person with a disability; the nature of the benefit or detriment likely to accrue or be suffered by any person concerned; the effect of the disability of a person concerned; and the financial circumstances of and the estimated amount of expenditure required to be made by the person claiming unjustifiable hardship) on the person who would have to provide those goods, services or facilities.
(b) The requirements incorporated in the current version of the Design Manual have been made on the basis of consensus reached after a comprehensive review and extensive consultation with stakeholders conducted since 2002.These include a six-month public consultation between January and June 2006.During the consultation, relevant stakeholders did not make concrete proposals on the seating design of food premises for thorough discussion.We will continue to listen to the views of PWDs and stakeholders and strive to encourage all sectors, including the food business, to collaborate to build a barrier-free environment, thereby facilitating PWDs to receive services and enjoy community facilities on an equal basis.