Equal Opportunities Commission


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Press Releases

The EOC Submitted Recommendations to the Development Bureau on Making Hong Kong a Barrier-free City


Members of the Working Group on Access of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has met with the Secretary for Development, The Hon Mrs Carrie LAM CHENG Yuet-ngor today (15 November 2010) to exchange views on barrier-free facilities and universal design. The Working Group presented to the Development Bureau a submission with recommendations to make Hong Kong a barrier free city. (Please refer to Attachment A for the EOC’s Submission to the Development Bureau.)

The Working Group also presented its working paper called “Access for All”, which emphasizes that freedom of mobility is a basic human right. The concept of universal design and the value of access for all (including information and communication technology) should be recognized by the Government and all sectors of the community as a right to which everyone should be entitled and be mainstreamed in all new developments. (Please see Attachment B for the working paper.)

During the meeting, the Co-Convenors of the Working Group, the Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee and Ms. Garling Wong, emphasized the following suggestions to the Secretary for Development:

  1. The government should introduce a policy to gradually bring old buildings to the current barrier-free design standards and requirements.
  2. The Comprehensive Building Safety Improvement Loan Scheme administered by the Buildings Department should be extended to include property owners who need to improve the accessibility of their buildings.
  3. The EOC advocates that barrier free design be added as one of the grounds for building inspection and improvement.

Notes to the editor:

The Working Group on Access is a working group of the EOC which promotes the concept of “Access for All”. Members of the Working Group on Access include:

The Hon. FUNG Kin-kee, Frederick, S.B.S., J.P. 馮檢基議員
Ms WONG Ka-ling, Garling 黃嘉玲女士

Ms CHAN Ka-mun, Carmen, J.P. 陳嘉敏女士
Ms CHAN Mei-kit, Maggie陳美潔女士
Mrs. CHONG WONG Chor-sar, M.H., J.P. 張黃楚沙女士
Mr. CHOW Wing-hong, 周永康先生
Dr. TSE Wing-ling, John, M.H. 謝永齡博士
Mr. CHEUNG Kin-fai 張健輝先生
Mr. Joseph KWAN 關國樂先生
Mr. Kim MOK莫儉榮先生
Mr. Tsang Kin-ping曾建平先生
Mr. WONG Kai-fung王繼鋒先生

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


15 November 2010
Equal Opportunities Commission

Attachment A

Submission to the Development Bureau

The Government has a duty to take care of needs beyond the reach of market forces and plays a critical role in improving accessibility for all its citizens.  Its policy also has the capacity to facilitate or complement private coordination.  For these reasons, the EOC would like the Development Bureau to consider the following recommendations to make Hong Kong a barrier free city:

  1. Develop an overarching policy on building an inclusive society that is connected to the Government’s sustainable development and “Care for the Elderly” agendas.  This policy should adopt the principle of universal design and address accessibility issues for all persons and not only PWDs, since everyone at some point will experience some degree of mobility difficulties.  For example, the Government should adopt universal design in all its urban renewal programmes, hence development projects such as the Western Kowloon Cultural District should follow this policy direction from inception to ensure that the needs of all, including PWDs, are fully mainstreamed and addressed in the new facilities.

  2. Develop a comprehensive disability strategy for addressing accessibility issues in Hong Kong to include measures that will have a significant impact on improving accessibility in the built environment or otherwise.

  3. Ensure buildings under the Development Bureau’s care provide access to PWDs on an equal and dignified basis.  In practice, this means the Development Bureau should adopt the best practicable option rather than most cost-efficient approach in resolving accessibility issues to facilitate independent living of PWDs and provide them with dignified access.

  4. Set up a clear access policy and strategy for monuments, historic buildings and heritage sites.   PWDs are entitled equal access to monuments, historic buildings and heritage sites and the Government has a duty to devise appropriate strategies and provide the necessary amenities to facilitate PWDs participation in visits of these sites.

  5. In a formal investigation study on accessibility completed by the EOC earlier this year, it was recommended that a high-level central co-ordination body to be set up, headed by the CS, to develop policies and practices on promoting universal access to public spaces, buildings as well as services owned and operated by the government and public bodies.  Prior to the setting up of this central co-ordination body, as an interim measure, the Development Bureau should take a lead in addressing current shortfalls.

  6. In the same formal investigation mentioned in paragraph 5, it was also recommended that each government department to either appoint an existing staff or hire a new staff to be an “Access Advisor” to be responsible for providing guidance or arranging and coordinating assistance to PWDs in accessing premises under its ownership and management as well as services and facilities that it provides.  The Development Bureau should take the lead and appoint or hire an Access Advisor.

  7. As the Development Bureau is planning to publish a policy paper on the review of the Urban Renewal Strategy, it is opportune for the Development Bureau to take on the concept of universal design in the revised Urban Renewal Strategy and to ensure that special needs of the disability community become one of the key elements in the social impact assessment studies in all urban renewal projects.  In terms of preservation and maintenance, the Development Bureau should also follow the guidelines under the “Design Manual - Barrier Free Access 2008”.

  8. The “Design Manual - Barrier Free Access 2008”, published by the Buildings Department has included certain updated universal design features and has set a commonly acceptable benchmark for providing barrier free access.  According to this design manual, many of the buildings completed prior to the release of the manual are not up to the latest accessibility standards.  The Development Bureau, as the central coordinating unit of the government in terms of land use and urban renewal, should work out a reasonable time frame to bring all buildings, as far as practicable, up to the latest accessibility standards.

  9. It is noted that as part of the government’s effort to enhance building safety and renew our urban landscape, a variety of funds (loans and grants) were made available to property owners for performing maintenance and repair work on their property; for example, the Building Safety Loan Scheme offered by the Buildings Department and the Building Rehabilitation Loan Scheme offered by the Urban Renewal Authority Rehabilitation Schemes.  To be eligible for the Urban Renewal Authority Rehabilitation Loan/Grant, the property must be private residential or composite buildings over 20 years old but are still serviceable and the owners have reached consensus for rehabilitation of the building and an authorized person is appointed.  To improve the accessibility of private buildings that are currently inaccessible to people with disabilities, the EOC strongly recommends the Urban Renewal Authority to offer grants or loans to property owners who have the need to improve the accessibility of their buildings.

  10. The Development Bureau had committed to speed up the implementation of large scale projects and enhance efficiency in planning and delivery through better co-ordination and to adopt a more forward-looking mode of development to ensure that Hong Kong's infrastructure meets our future needs.  In this regard, the Bureau should incorporate the concept of barrier free access in their development and rehabilitation plans and to practically work out a timetable to make Hong Kong a barrier free city.

  11. The Government announced in 2007 that it would legislate for the implementation of the mandatory building inspection scheme (MBIS) and mandatory window inspection scheme (MWIS), requiring owners to regularly inspect and repair their buildings and windows. The Government will also provide appropriate assistance to owners.  The Development Bureau has introduced the Buildings (Amendment) Bill 2010 for the implementation of the schemes, and lists out the support measures for owners.  The MBIS will cover private buildings aged 30 years or above, except domestic buildings not exceeding three storeys in height. The BA will select around 2,000 private buildings (involving an estimate of around 70,000 units) every year and require their owners to carry out inspection and repair works in relation to the common parts, external walls and projections of the buildings.   The EOC clamours for barrier free design be added as one of the grounds for inspection and improvement.

  12. In recognition of the importance and need to provide adequate support to building owners in need in order to ensure that the two aforesaid Schemes can be implemented smoothly, the Development Bureau has secured the support of the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) to provide financial and technical assistance to eligible owners. The Society has agreed to subsidise eligible owners the cost of the first building inspection under the MBIS. The Society will also continue to assist owners to establish Owners’ Corporations, provide interest-free loans or grants to eligible owners for the required maintenance/rectification works as well as offer technical and general legal advice on matters relating to formation of Owners’ Corporations, building inspection and the required repair works.  The Bureau could consider including barrier free design in the MBIS and Mandatory Window Inspection Scheme (MWIS) scheme allowing property owners who need to improve the accessibility of their buildings the same assistance and help.

  13. The various existing building maintenance financial assistance schemes; for example, the Comprehensive Building Safety Improvement Loan Scheme administered by Buildings Department, the Building Maintenance Grant Scheme for Elderly Owners administered by Hong Kong Housing Society, the Operation Building Bright starting May 2009 (involving a total budget of $2 billion to provide subsidies and one-stop technical assistance to help owners of around 2 000 buildings aged 30 years or above to carry out repair works) should also be extended to property owners who need to improve the accessibility of their building.

  14. The Development Bureau should take the lead and initiate discussion within the Government to legislate for a barrier free Hong Kong and set out realistic timetables for full compliance with the latest barrier free design standards.  As the Bureau coordinating planning, land use, urban renewal, public works and heritage, the Development Bureau is in a position to actively engage the business sector and various developers to make sure that they would observe and comply with barrier free design standards in various development projects.  The Bureau should also consider offering achievable forward looking options for the general public and the business sector to fully comply with the barrier free design standards and to consider setting up special funds to assist property owners and other users to comply with the barrier free design standards.


Equal Opportunities Commission
November 2010


Attachment B

Access for All
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

  1. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Convention) came into force in Hong Kong on 3 May 2008.  This marked a major milestone in the effort to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.  China is one of the 146 signatories to and 90 ratifications of the Convention.  Hong Kong is under an obligation to observe the requirements under the Convention.  The Hong Kong SAR Government is not proactive enough to promote and to effect the spirit of the Convention since it came into force.

  2. Under Article 9 of the Convention, State Parties have to enable persons with disabilities (PWDs) to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life.  States Parties are asked to take appropriate measures to ensure PWDs access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public.  Under the same Article, States Parties shall also take appropriate measures, inter alia:

    • to develop, promulgate and monitor the implementation of minimum standards and guidelines for the accessibility of facilities and services open or provided to the public; and
    • to ensure that private entities that offer facilities and services which are open or provided to the public take into account all aspects of accessibility for PWDs.

  3. Under Article 30 of the Convention, State Parties recognize the rights of PWDs to take part on an equal basis with others in cultural life, and shall take appropriate measures, inter alia, to ensure that they enjoy access to places for cultural performances or services, such as theatres, museums, cinemas, libraries and tourism services, and, as far as possible, enjoy access to monuments and sites of national cultural importance.


  1. Hong Kong proclaimed itself to be a world-class city, but when it comes to barrier free access we still have a long way to go.  In a recently completed Formal Investigation on Accessibility in Publicly Accessible Premises (the Formal Investigation), which examined 60 publicly accessible premises owned or managed by the Housing Authority, Hong Kong Housing Society, The Link Management Ltd. and various Government departments, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) found that the provision of barrier-free facilities at these public premises is far from satisfactory. 

  2. Since accessibility affects many aspects of our lives and is one of the primary factors affecting the social participation of PWDs, a Working Group on Access was formed under the Policy and Research Committee of the EOC to look into the matter.  The EOC believes that the Government has a duty to take care of PWDs’ needs beyond the reach of market forces and has the ultimate duty to legislate for barrier free access for all.  This position statement sets out the Working Group’s views on the issue of barrier free access.

Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO)

  1. Under Section 25(c) of the DDO, it is unlawful for a person to discriminate against another person with a disability in relation to the provision of means of access to such premises unless the premises are so designed or constructed as to be inaccessible to a PWD and any alteration to provide such access would impose unjustifiable hardship on the first-mentioned person who would have to provide that access.  In other words, owners of premises to which the public or a section of the public are entitled/allowed to access are required under the law to provide barrier free access even if it would mean retrofitting certain accessible facilities or features, unless there is unjustifiable hardship.

Current situation

  1. As mentioned earlier, the Formal Investigation found that the provision of barrier-free facilities at the public premises audited is far from satisfactory.  The EOC is following up on the issues identified with the departments and agencies concerned.

  2. Accessibility in private premises are not much better since most old buildings built before the introduction of any barrier free requirements or standards (before 1997) are not fully accessible to PWDs.  One should take note that compliance with the prevailing building requirements or standards at the time does not mean compliance with the DDO.  Most respondent owners or managers of premises of accessibility complaints that we handled seemed unaware of this fact.  According to a local study conducted in 2007, by the Hong Kong College of Technology, 1088 out of 1933 (over 56%) facilities in the Kwun Tong district were not up to the standard set in the Design Manual 1997.  A follow-up study conducted a year later (Feb 2008) reported that only 4.5% of the facilities made improvements to its accessibility.

  3. The EOC receives access-related complaints relating to old premises from time to time.  From our operational experience, a complaint-based, case-by-case approach to address the issue is both time consuming and inefficient.  It would take decades before these premises are replaced or retrofitted.  A more proactive and holistic approach should be considered to achieve access for all.  Creating a barrier free environment benefits not only PWD, but also other people with special needs such as the elderly, pregnant women, parents pushing baby-strollers, shoppers with shopping carts and workers moving heavy goods.

  4. 10. It is now universally accepted that free and independent access for all is a matter of human right.  The concept of universal design is hence widely adopted elsewhere as a means to enhance accessibility.  Universal design is a framework for the design of places, things, information, communication and policy to be usable by the widest range of people operating in the widest range of situations. In essence, universal design is human-centered design of everything with everyone in mind.  It goes beyond the mere concept of barrier-free access and incorporates “soft” designs such as internet access, and special facilities to cater for common disabilities.

  5. Though complaints about the physical access still accounts for the majority complaint in the accessibility related complaints received by the EOC, it might not be reflective of the actual cases of discrimination suffered by people with visual impairment, hearing impairment and people with special needs.  These people may not be aware of their rights to lodge a complaint as many aspects of their lives are being neglected in a systematic way. 

  6. Full digital inclusion should be our collective vision. To achieve this, our society has to tackle the fundamental causes of the digital divide, which include socio-economic and technical factors.  Strategies in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) development and bridging the digital divide should cater for the special needs of people with disabilities so that they would not be victims of marginalization in a digital society.  PWDs are equally entitled to appreciate, create, and participate in arts and cultural activities and the Government has a duty to provide guided tours and/or other ancillary and supporting amenities to facilitate PWDs participation in arts and cultural activities.  A high level ICT accessibility within a society shows a strong acceptance of differences and diversity among its members. It also demonstrates a commitment to respect the fundamental rights of individuals in accessing information. Accessibility enables an individual to link up with others, achieve his/her potential, become self-reliant and make contributions to the society.

EOC’s position

  1. Freedom of mobility is a basic human right for all.  It is particularly important to PWDs, who have to face many barriers to achieve independent living and full integration in society.  Therefore we call for :

    1. The concept of “universal design” and the value of “access for all” (including information and communication technology) be recognized by the Government and all sectors of the community as a right to which everyone should be entitled, and should hence be mainstreamed in all new developments (e.g. West Kowloon Culture District Development Project, Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, Internet accessibility etc.), urban renewal (e.g. Kwun Tong Renewal Program) and major renovation/construction plans.

    2. A policy and legislative framework with financial commitment should be adopted by the Government to ensure all people in Hong Kong, particularly PWDs, have the right to attain full mobility and independent living.  Government has the legal and moral obligation to take the lead.

    3. A new mechanism should be introduced to systematically plan for and audit improvement to premises with unsatisfactory access to ensure that they meet the needs of all, in particular PWDs.

    4. Stakeholders who are in a position to influence the planning, design, building, or alteration of buildings and/or premises should join hands to proactively improve accessibility of the built environment in Hong Kong.  The Government should ensure that PWDs have access to sporting, recreational and tourism venues as well as access to services from those involved in the organization of recreation, tourism, leisure and sporting activities, including web services and other public information. It should also include guided tours, simulation and arts appreciation and participation in arts and cultural activities.

  2. The EOC will continue to engage and work together with relevant stakeholders and to advocate on the issue of “Access for All”. 


Equal Opportunities Commission
November 2010