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A critical review on the built environment policy for disabled people in Hong Kong in a decade: Progress or regress?

Simon Wing Kuen Wu, City University of Hong Kong


Disabled people are restricted by the built environment including transport system. This restriction affects not only the independent living of disabled people, but also citizenship of disabled people in society. Unsurprisingly, like in other countries, citizenship of disabled people has long been neglected in Hong Kong. Over the past ten years, the Hong Kong government, policymakers, disabled service users in Hong Kong have become increasingly concerned with the barrier-free environment and the universal design. The most significant three events regarding the built environment of disabled people are the enforcement of the White Paper on Rehabilitation, the Disability Discrimination Ordinance and the Design Manual - Barrier Free Access in 1995, 1996 and 1997 respectively. It is undeniable that the enforcement of the policies and law related make the companies and departments related do 'something' for disabled people.

After the 1997 handover, in 2002, the transport department in Hong Kong adopted a '5-Betters Strategy' so as to achieve the goal 'Transport for All', in particular for disabled people. The five strategies are:

  1. Better accessible transport services for all;
  2. Better public transport infrastructure and facilities for all;
  3. Better streets and pedestrian areas for all;
  4. Better planning standards, guidelines and procedures;
  5. Better partnership for actions and results.

The strategies have been adopted for some years, but the extent to which the goal of this strategy is achieved. Some argue that the built environment for disabled people has been improved a lot over past twenty years, so we do not need any further amendment on the policies related. Undoubtedly, it is not the case and is one of the reasons for doing this policy review.

In this paper, the research method for data collection is twofold: secondary data and interview. Based on six interviews and secondary data collected from a variety of resources such as research reports, policy documents and documents of some advisory committees related in about ten years, this paper critically examines the policies related to the built environment from a social model of disability perspective.

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