The Human Rights aspect of a lack of building access to mobility challenged citizens
Last week I read a letter in the Solomon Times with the heading “Lack of buildings accessible to mobility challenged citizens.” The letter was written by Gena Areca from Honiara, and I will quote her words.
“Many new commercial and office buildings are going up all over Honiara but very few make any concessions to people with mobility problems.
“It is high time a building code was introduced by the City Council to make all new buildings accessible to people who cannot climb steps. Every new building should have an entrance ramp. The new Bulk shop at Rove is a perfect example of a building with such a ramp.
“Many of our people living with diabetes who have had amputations or orthopedic patients suffering from arthritis and needing walking aids are excluded from many buildings in Honiara.”
Given it is true there many citizens with diabetes and also true there are numerous people having had lower limb amputations and in need of mobility aids, such as crutches or wheel chairs (a subject I raised only a couple of days ago) I share Gena’s concern about buildings needing to have access facilities for people with mobility problems, but take her word for the situation not having seen the situation she described for myself.
I look at the problem from a Human Rights perspective and one which invokes discrimination against people with disabilities.
Several countries have laws which protect the rights of people with disabilities, including the rights of access to premises.
In the United Kingdom as long ago as 1995, the UK Government introduced the Disability Discrimination Act which came into force in different stages, but eventually contained legal provisions for businesses to take action about the problems their premises caused for disabled people – such as steps, heavy doors and bad lighting.
The law required reasonable adjustments to premises – such as adapting premises, removing physical barriers or providing service another way - so disabled people could use the service. Failure to act provided for legal action.
Today, in the United Kingdom, the provisions contained in the Disability Discrimination Act have been incorporated in more comprehensive legislation known as the Equality Act 2010. It brings together over 16 pieces of legislation into one Act.
The Act provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all.
It provides Britain with a discrimination law which protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society.
I believe the Solomon Islands Government has at heart the need for the rights for disabled people and will continue to do so but the situation described by Gena Areca does need to be addressed, by legislation if necessary, so that businesses and premises are made accessible for disabled people.
I understand that in terms of the UK Equality Act 2010, many of the adjustments that businesses and property developers were required to make to their premises qualified for tax relief and the legal guidelines clarified the reliefs available in relation to several of the most common types of adjustments in order to assist businesses and property developers to comply fully with the law.