Advocates call for better sidewalk accessibility in Taipei

TAIPEI:  More should be done to enhance sidewalk accessibility, disability rights advocates said yesterday at a hearing at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.

“There are more than 16 government agencies that are free to ‘rape’ or trample over sidewalks, but we cannot find a unified government agency responsible for approving things,” Access for All in Taiwan project manager Chen Ming-li (陳明里) said, adding that regulations technically mandate a sidewalk width of 1.5m, but lack of space often leads that to be shrunk to 90cm, potentially creating problems for wheelchair users.

“When wheelchairs are opened up, they take up more than 68cm, so where are they supposed to go if some agency adds a light pole or a traffic light control box to a narrow band of pavement?” Chen said.

A lack of government action and slow progress were common themes from those who testified at the Internal Administration Committee hearing convened by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Pasuya Yao (姚文智).

“Over the past 30 years, I have been hit by cars three times,” said Liu Yi-yun (劉逸雲), a Republic of China Spinal Cord Injury Victims Association consultant who uses a wheelchair.

“As an electric wheelchair does not count as a ‘vehicle’ under traffic laws, I am actually liable if I am hit while going down a street instead of the sidewalk, but the problem is that sometimes I cannot use the sidewalk,” Liu said.

Parents Association for the Visually Impaired secretary-general Lan Chie-chou (藍介洲) called on government agencies to level pavements inside building arcades and reduce the number of arcade stairs, adding that blind people face huge obstacles crossing roads because of the absence of traffic lights with audio signals.

“People often assume that my guide dog can tell me when the signal turns, but the reality is that dogs are color blind. I have to pay attention to what I hear and order him to take me across the road when it sounds safe,” he said, adding that he has been trapped in the middle of the road numerous times after misjudging the situation.

Taiwan Institute of Landscape Architects president emeritus Monica Kuo (郭瓊瑩) called for a portion of the NT$880 billion (US$29 billion) “Forward-looking Infrastructure Construction Project” announced by Premier Lin Chuan (林全) last week to be allocated to improving accessibility.

“The NT$1.5 billion [budgeted by the Ministry of the Interior’s Construction and Planning Agency for accessibility] might sound like a lot, but after you sprinkle it among all the nation’s townships and cities, it is just the remainder of budgetary scraps,” she said.

Source: Taipeitimes

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