EOC Releases Hong Kong’s First “Practical Guide on Universal Design for Catering Services” to Meet Diverse Customer Needs
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) held a press conference today (30 October 2023) to release Hong Kong’s first “Practical Guide on Universal Design for Catering Services (the “Guide”). In view of the lack of accessible facilities and difficulties encountered by people with disabilities (PWDs) in enjoying dining services, as relayed by various rehabilitation and self-help organisations of PWDs, the EOC has produced the Guide to offer practical guidelines for the catering industry on serving diners with different needs and points to note in providing accommodation.
Mr Ricky CHU Man-kin, Chairperson of the EOC said at the press conference, “When it comes to fostering a barrier-free community to support PWDs, the public usually focuses on the area of transportation, such as whether the services and facilities of public transportation meet the needs of PWDs. By contrast, little attention has been paid to the accessibility of goods, services and facilities provided by restaurants. Therefore, the EOC has launched the Guide to enhance the public’s understanding of the needs of PWDs in restaurants and dining facilities.”
According to the findings of a study conducted by a rehabilitation organisation, over 70% of the sampled restaurants failed to comply with accessibility requirements. Common problems include wheelchair-inaccessible entrances, fixed seats that are unfriendly to wheelchair users, narrow aisles, and dark lighting for those with low vision. Besides, a study found that only 10% of the stores in an old district are equipped with barrier-free facilities. Under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO), it is potentially unlawful for catering service providers to discriminate against a person with a disability by refusing him or her access to the premises, or in the terms or conditions or manner of provision of goods, services or facilities.
As a statutory body tasked with implementing the DDO and other anti-discrimination ordinances, the EOC believes that all sectors of society should take appropriate measures to ensure that PWDs can live independently and enjoy equal participation in all aspects of life. In the past, the EOC has issued a number of guidelines on supporting PWDs, such as a guide to accessible air travel. In compiling the Guide, the EOC has taken reference from various international accessibility standards and local guidelines, as well as consulting local rehabilitation organisations and catering management companies.
At the press conference, Dr Ferrick CHU Chung-man, Executive Director (Operations) and Ms Doris TSUI Ue-ting, Head (Policy, Research and Training) of the EOC introduced the content of the Guide in detail, explaining the rights of PWDs under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the DDO. Based on the typical journey from entering the restaurant to placing orders and dining, the Guide outlines design and building requirements under the “Design Manual: Barrier Free Access 2008”, and showcases illustrations of good practices for restaurants to follow. The Guide has been uploaded to the EOC website for restaurants, stakeholders and members of the public to download.
Mr CHU said, “The EOC would like to express its gratitude to organisations and people for providing assistance and valuable opinions to the Guide. As Hong Kong is facing a rapidly aging population, the EOC hopes to further promote the concept of ‘Universal Design’ (UD) such that we can build an accessible and barrier-free society. Unlike barrier-free design, which involves removing or replacing physical barriers through retrofitting and modification, the concept of UD focuses on creating products, services, and environmental designs that require no adaptation or modification, allowing everyone regardless of age, ability or disability, to use them.”
Following the launch of the Guide, the EOC will hold a seminar for the catering industry to explore the importance of adopting accessible services in restaurants, and to achieve digital inclusion of catering services. At the beginning of next year, the EOC will launch the “Universal Design Award Scheme” for the first time with the aim to recognise organisations with outstanding performances and contributions in providing an accessible built environment and encourage the sharing of good practices and the wider adoption of UD. Details of the Scheme are available on this webpage: https://www.eoc.org.hk/en/udas.
Equal Opportunities Commission
30 October 2023
(from left) Ms Doris TSUI Ue-ting, Head (Policy, Research and Training); Dr Ferrick CHU Chung-man, Executive Director (Operations); Mr Ricky CHU Man-kin, Chairperson; and Miss May Fung, Senior Equal Opportunities Officer (Universal Design) of the EOC launched Hong Kong’s first “Practical Guide on Universal Design for Catering Services” at a press conference today (30 October 2023).