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EOC’s response to the suggestions of installing visual fire alarm and 992 SMS emergency service for persons with hearing impairment

19/12/2017

 

On 18 December 2017, a group of persons with hearing impairment came to the office of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) to express their dissatisfaction with the Housing Department on not installing visual fire alarms in the housing units of residents with hearing impairment. The group indicated that consideration was being given on lodging a formal complaint. In addition, they stated that the 992 SMS emergency service (992 SMS system) by the Police was only available to users upon prior registration, which is different from the existing 999 system. Also, the 992 SMS system does not accept photos and videos, hence causing inconvenience to persons with hearing impairment. In response to the concerns aforesaid, the EOC has issued the following statement:

Professor Alfred CHAN Cheung-ming, Chairperson of the EOC said, “The EOC is highly concerned about the views expressed by the concern groups. There is certainly room for improvements in the existing measures. An effective fire alarm system and emergency service are of utmost importance for the protection of everyone, including persons with hearing impairment. The omission of such services, apart from failing to protect personal safety, lives and properties, may also violate the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO).”

The DDO protects persons with disabilities (PWDs) from being discriminated, harassed and vilified on the ground of disability. It covers various domains, including education, and the provision of goods, services and facilities. It may be unlawful for Government departments to discriminate against PWDs during the process of providing services, carrying out their functions or exercising their powers.

All Government departments and public bodies should comply with the DDO and where appropriate and reasonable, provide assistance to PWDs in the course of providing services, handling cases or carrying out their functions.

Professor Chan added, “Although the law stipulates that requests for such assistance should be reasonable, and the extent of assistance and the manner of providing assistance should be subject to actual circumstances, the EOC firmly believes that persons with hearing impairment and/or other disabilities should enjoy equal opportunities in social participation. Therefore, different sectors in society, organisations and bodies should take appropriate measures to ensure that everyone in society is treated equally. As a result of technology advancement, more and more new facilities and products can cater for the needs of PWDs, and further improve the quality of life for them. The departments concerned should review the existing policy of installing visual fire alarms for persons with hearing impairment and the means of accepting emergency calls by PWDs in order to keep up with the times.”

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was extended to Hong Kong, following the adoption of the Convention by China on 31 August 2008. The Convention aims to advance and protect the rights of PWDs and ensure that they can fully and equally enjoy all human rights and basic freedom with respect. The EOC hopes to see the full implementation of the Convention with the needs of the hearing impaired addressed.

The EOC will proactively follow up the issues with the Government departments concerned, including the Housing Department and Hong Kong Police, and conduct investigations into the policies of installing visual fire alarms in the units of residents with hearing impairment and making 992 SMS calls by persons with hearing impairment.

Professor Chan concluded, “The EOC urges persons with hearing impairment and their family members to lodge complaints with or make enquiries to the EOC if they are facing similar situations.”

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For media enquiries, please contact Mr Sam HO at 2106-2187.

Equal Opportunities Commission
19 December 2017

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