Hong Kong announces multi-billion dollar plan to improve accessibility
Asia-Pacific, August 22 2012
A multimillion-dollar plan is under way to build elevators at footbridges and pedestrian subways to help elderly people and persons with disabilities.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced the scheme yesterday after visiting the St James’ Settlement’s Central and Western District Elderly Community Centre.
He said work has already started at 10 locations in Southern District, Kowloon City, Sham Shui Po, Kwai Tsing, North District, Sha Tin and Tsuen Wan.
In the first year HK$100 million will be spent, and this figure will eventually reach HK$1 billion to build all the 220 sites within a time frame of three years.
Instead of asking the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee for funding each time, the government plans to set up a central fund to pay for the scheme.
“This is a huge social investment, but I believe elderly people or people with disabilities will support our plan,” Leung said.
But former lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu- hung, a lecturer at Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s department of applied social sciences, said Leung’s plan is not new.
“Barrier-free access facilities have been discussed for years but the government has done nothing to execute these plans,” he said.
Though he welcomed the start of the work, Cheung said the government should also concentrate on more urgent issues such as building more day centers and increasing admission quotas for people with mental disabilities.
Hong Kong currently has 56 day activity centers and “it takes 10 years or more to be admitted into one,” he said.
CSSA and Low Income Alliance community officer Au Yeung Tat-chor said the government should have done the work on making facilities more accessible years ago.
“It seems like the chief executive has picked an easy job to do,” he said. “Our chief executive should have the vision to propose bigger policies that our society really needs.”
Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Ping-leung said any proposal to build such facilities at private and MTR properties besides those at public estates would be welcomed.
Residents can call 1823 to suggest which pedestrian subways and footbridges need elevators before October 31.
The bureau will refer these proposals to the relative district councils.
Source: The Standard