Date
22 May 2017
As our population ages, more people will rely on special access to public transport. Wheelchair passengers are only some of them. Photo: HKEJ
As our population ages, more people will rely on special access to public transport. Wheelchair passengers are only some of them. Photo: HKEJ

How to make public transport more disabled-friendly

Guide dogs have significantly improved the lives of visually impaired people but I notice that the disabled in Hong Kong still face a lot of challenges, largely due to a lack of facilities for them in our public transport system.

There is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to building a truly disabled-friendly and barrier-free Hong Kong society.

A co-worker witnessed an unpleasant incident at a bus terminal involving an elderly woman in a wheelchair. 

She got on the bus without difficulty but the problem came when a second disabled person, also in a wheelchair, tried to board at the next stop.

There simply was no room on the bus for two wheelchairs.

In another incident, a wheelchair passenger was unable to board an MTR train because the compartment was packed.

In fact, it’s quite common to see disabled people having to wait for space on a train during rush hour.

These incidents show the disabled experience a lot of inconvenience when using public transport.

The issue needs to be addressed.

As our population continues to age, we will see more wheelchair-bound passengers on public transport.

One parking slot for wheelchairs on our buses no longer meets their needs.

Bus companies should redesign compartments to provide more space for wheelchairs.

Also, MTR Corp. should adopt measures to minimize inconvenience to disabled passengers.

For example, station staff could notify others to make way for wheelchair passengers. Perhaps it could consider a dedicated car for them.

There are several non-governmental organizations and private companies that provide transport services for wheelchair-bound people.

However, due to their limited resources, the service is also limited — they have few vehicles or operate shorter hours.

The government should support these private service providers with tax incentives and subsidies, if necessary.

In the meantime, government agencies should work more closely with public transport operators to improve facilities for the disabled, so that they can commute freely like everyone else.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 16.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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RA

Legislative councilor and head of nursing and health studies in the Open University of Hong Kong

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