Report of the CIB Expert Seminar
on Building Non-Handicapping Environments,
Disability legislation and constitutional provisions
This first session deals with disability legislation
and constitutional provisions. We briefly review each of our respective
country's situation. The topics cover not only specific legislation in the
field of building and planning but also constitutional provisions, i.e.,
general legislation in this field.
In Zimbabwe we do not have clear legislation on access issues. Of course,
the public, the architects, and so on have been approached with the idea
of including access issues when planning. It appears the message is getting
through but this will have to be contained in some kind of legislative format.
We are happy that we are just about to get to the stage of having some kind
of legislation. There is no legislation in Zimbabwe, however, the modern
building bylaws clearly state that all public and commercial buildings must
have access for disabled persons.
It is very important that there should be a provision in the constitution
for the protection of disability rights. It does not have to be very detailed
because the constitution provides only the guidelines, the structure of
a social system. Since the constitution is the base of operation of any
country, our rights have to be protected in that document. Thus, it will
be easier for other legislation, in the area of access, transport or any
As for Lesotho, the new constitution is still being worked on. That new
constitution has got a provision for rights of people with disabilities,
there is a new chapter on that as well as on the rights of women. I refer
you to my paper on constitutionalism and access legislation.
In Lesotho legislation has been inherited - the British legislation under
the Governor's Proclamation of 1928 did not include any accessibility provisions.
At the present time we have the Town and Country Planning Act and the regulations
thereunder. Again, accessibility is not here provided for despite the fact
that we are trying to get draft regulations accepted. Most of the buildings
are not accessible.
Republic of South Africa
In South Africa the majority of the people do not recognize the existing
constitution, despite the fact that the South African Republic is recognized
by the international community as a sovereign state. The majority of the
South African community have not exercised their democratic right of either
participating in the formation of the existing constitution or participating
in terms of that constitution because that constitution, by its nature,
is exclusionary of the majority of the population.
I might comment on a few developments that are likely to take place in South
Africa. One is the proposed bill that was brought forward by the African
National Congress. Article 8 of that bill enshrines the fundamental rights
of disabled people. Subsection 1 reads: "There shall be no discrimination
against disabled persons". Subarticle 2 states: "Legislation shall
provide for the progressive opening up of employment opportunities for disabled
men and women; for the removal of obstacles to the enjoyment by them of
public amenities and for their integration into all areas of life".
We have had a bit of criticism and have presented this to the ANC because
we felt the whole question of disability is isolated like a little island
within the proposed bill. There is an article that deals with positive action
or affirmative action. Women are mentioned, children are mentioned, the
right to religion and the protection of religion is also mentioned, but
disability which is one key area which a lot of discriminatory practices
are found has not been included. The only clause I have found that deals
with disability is that disabled people are equal before the law. As you
know, that is not the key area with which we are concerned, there are many
other issues which we are concerned with, and that is just an obvious statement
and it does not develop the matter any further. There are developments whereby
the political forces in the country have agreed to come together and try
to work out a solution for a democratic country in South Africa. Our concern
is that the disability question may be forgotten in the process of negotiations.
The whole question of equal opportunities and equal distribution of wealth
and the general resources in the country is a key subject of debate in the
political arena in South Africa. For instance, the underprivileged majority
feel that the result of their impoverishment was a history of discrimination
and exploitation. And that therefore in a new political and constitutional
dispensation there will be a need for redistribution. Whereas it is felt
among certain quarters that to adopt such a policy would be a violation
of certain principles enhanced under first generation rights, such as the
right to own property, etc. So the question of inclusion of second generation
rights, that is social, economic and cultural rights, in a bill of rights
has been contested by certain political theorists who argue that it is not
a progressive step because you discourage the incentive for productivity
in society. I think that is one of the reasons why the disability rights
issue has not been fully addressed by the existing government and the commission
that has been appointed to draft a bill of rights for a democratic South
Coming to the question of whether disability should be specifically mentioned
in a bill of rights or in any other similar instrument, it reminds me of
a statement made by a Comrade. At an ANC conference I recently attended,
she said that she does not believe there is such a thing as women's rights,
but we are talking about the same rights that women have been denied in
history. I would say the same principle could apply to disabled people.
We are talking about access and everyone else in society has the right to
access, just like disabled people. But because of historical, cultural and
other factors, disabled people have been deprived of that access. Because
of that very fact it is necessary to specifically mention disabled people
because if you do not mention them, there is no guarantee that just as society
has forgotten disability in the past, that it will be able to remember unless
you mention disability. So I belong to the school of thought that to mention
disabled people is not discrimination in reverse as other people try to
argue. I agree that there is no such thing as disability rights, they are
the same human rights that all other members of society are fighting for
or claim to have but I think that it is necessary, due to the history of
discrimination against disabled people, that special provisions be made
for disabled people.
In some respects does this not follow from what we perceive democracy to
be? If we live in a so-called democratic system, which is essentially elected
by the majority, the question of addressing minority rights is really what
we are talking about. And whether it comes to special legal provisions or
providing a ministerial position, the fact is that there has to be a mechanism
to protect the rights of minorities and obviously the disability movement
is one of them.
I will give you a brief history on what has been done in South Africa. It
all started in 1981, when the United Nations declared the International
Year of Disabled People. Very little happened in South Africa during that
year, it was only five years later that the State decided in their wisdom
to proclaim a second Year of Disabled. It was there we found ourselves,
when many active disabled South Africans attempted to improve the environment
and the quality of life of their colleagues throughout the country.
It was in 1985 that DPSA (Disabled People South Africa) was started. Our
Secretary General, Mike du Toit, was probably the most active person, together
with Dr. William Roland. We then formed DPSA officially and held a national
conference. At the same time the State saw fit to call various bodies together
and to examine the macro-position of disabled people in the country. A series
of documents were produced covering various subjects, including: barrier-free
design, education, health, transport, opportunities for employment. My particular
portfolio was barrier-free design and transport. Again, various structures
were set up and in particular the examination of the general building codes
of the country, which at that time were all separate codes in either regions
or municipalities. We have come a long way. We have, for example, a document
called "Facilities for Disabled Persons" which is embodied in
our national building regulations.
A document such as this, however, is not sufficient for developers, architects
or regional authorities to work on, so we have gone one step further and
produced what we call the "Code of Practice". This is a document
of some 40 pages and goes into more detail for the benefit of designers
and developers of buildings in the built environment. Besides buildings
it covers halls, sports fields and almost any environment in which persons
with disabilities are likely to find themselves.
It took us seven years to develop the "Code of Practice". We were
fortunate it only took us two years to develop the Section S of the Building
Regulations. I am told that the achievement of DPSA in this field is probably
unique in the world to have legislation passed inside a period of two years.
At the present time this "Code of Practice" has been presented
to our South African Bureau of Standards under whose control building regulations
and codes of practice fall. At this present time they are perusing our document,
referring it to other authorities such as the Institute of Architects, the
Institute of Municipalities, and various other statal and para-statal bodies
for comment. This process should not take more than one year. Within one
year we will have a document which can be used by any party in any sphere
of development of public buildings.
Khalfan H Khalfan
I am not speaking about Tanzania, although we are part of Tanzania. Zanzibar
has got its own house of representatives which passes legislations for the
interest of Zanzibar. What I am about to say applies only for Zanzibar and
not for the whole of Tanzania.
Zanzibar is perhaps one of the most inaccessible places in the world. Most
of the buildings, whether private, public or commercial are not accessible.
After realizing the needs of disabled people, the Zanzibar National Association
of the Disabled started to knock on the doors to see the possibility of
influencing the authorities to work with our organization to see that legislation
is made that will insure disabled persons access and the right to fully
participate in social, economic and other activities as any other person
in Zanzibar. We have been organizing meetings with ministers, principal
secretaries and directors of various departments involved in the issue of
accessibility and legislation. An expert team has been developed in which
the Zanzibar Association is part. We are also coordinating an internal-steering
committee with key ministries involved in accessibility, not only of buildings,
but of environment, housing, education, etc.
We are trying to disseminate information on accessibility. Not only to the
ministry concerned with housing, but to all the ministries, to all the people.
We are doing this by using the 15 minutes of air time we are given every
week on the radio in a program called The Voice of the Disabled.
In March this year, we are going to organize a seminar which will involve
top decision-makers of Zanzibar. This will be the right place to put our
concerns towards developing legislation for disabled people.
Joseph Y. B. Tsai
In Taiwan access legislation is just beginning because of social welfare
law, article 23 that states: "All public facilities, buildings, recreation
facilities, and transportation facilities must be equipped for the convenient
access of persons with disabilities. If they do not comply, they will not
be licensed for use. The existing facilities must be modified and the funds
for such modification must be included in the budget of the agencies. All
facilities not modified by the end of 1995 will have their licenses revoked."
That is only the legislation but now we need to implement this and so we
want to attend such a conference to learn how we can make our environment
Avinash C. Bhandari
The existing building regulations and bylaws are very outdated but since
we got independence from colonial rule in 1968, we have been drafting the
new building bylaws and regulations for Mauritius. Back in 1980 we had prepared
a draft which we are still amending because of certain legislations which
will also include legislation for persons with disabilities. We hope to
get the building bylaws and regulations approved and constituted so that
the accessibility legislation will form part of it. This seminar and workshop
will give us knowledge on the legislations we would require for Mauritius.
In my country, at the moment, we do not have any legislation but I hope
for me being here we will learn more in order that in the future we can
In Ghana presently, we also do not have any clearly spelled out provisions
in either the building code or the legislation which adequately address
the issue of accessibility to persons with disabilities. But one approach
we are working hard on is to study in detail the existing building code
in other building-related legislation; to find out if, in the first place,
there is any show of concern for accessibility in general, not necessarily
for persons with disabilities. We try to capitalize on the show of concern
and work hard towards a revision of these particular provisions to be extended
to cover accessibility issues with regard to persons with disabilities.
One example is, we have our building code, something that is very old which
we inherited from our colonial government, but as recent as 1985 there was
a drafted law called Human Settlements General Planning and Development,
which after we studied we found out that unlike what provisions there were
in the original building code there were some provisions covering special
arrangements for building approaches, for hallways, for staircases, and
emergency provisions in case of fire and issues of that sort. We are going
to approach the government agencies which are involved in this activity.
Here we are, you have not directly worked for accessibility for persons
with disabilities but what you have done in this Human Settlements law shows
some concern in that area. And it would not be too much for you to extend
it to cover accessibility for persons with disabilities. In reality when
you extend this to cover accessibility for persons with disabilities, it
is obvious that other sections of the population are going to benefit.
People such as old persons and even children are going to benefit from buildings
and public places which are made accessible to persons with disabilities.
Luckily we are going to be funded by the Norwegian Association of the Disabled,
who will hold a seminar to work out a plan of action regarding community-based
rehabilitation in Ghana. In fact, the objectives of this seminar include:
identifying key components and requirements of the community-based rehabilitation
program in Ghana; to identify members of the community, professionals as
well as agencies who play vital roles in the program; to upgrade the consciousness
of these persons and agencies of their respective roles in the community-based
rehabilitation program; and, most importantly, to develop and produce an
action plan for the short term and medium term community-based rehabilitation
program in Ghana.
A barrier-free environment is a very significant prerequisite for a community-based
rehabilitation program. If we are going to encourage a rehabilitation program
within the community, making all services and facilities available to persons
with disabilities, then the disabled persons need to have a barrier-free
environment to exploit the facilities and services available to him in the
community. So, necessarily, accessibility is going to be one of the components
that we are going to identify as a significant and success of running a
community-based rehabilitation program in Ghana.
Agencies such as Town & Country Planning Department in my country and
other professionals are going to be involved in this workshop planning,
scheduled for April of this year.
Mohammad Ali Tehranian
My country Iran has, at the moment, a population of 60 million people. A
statistical report from 1987 shows that there are 450,000 disabled people
though we must add more who have since been disabled in the war. Unfortunately,
until 1989 we did not have any comprehensive legislation for access. Since
then the government has started to make some planning for legislation for
disabled people. The Ministry of the Interior is working on planning and
implementing legislation; the Ministry of Housing and City Planning is another
government agency working in this area. There is also a research center
for building and construction and an environmental organization. The present
legislation stipulating access to public buildings is summarized in a publication.
All cities must obey this legislation.
Febby M. Chizima
Of Zambia's population of about 8 million, approximately 1 million of them
have disabilities. All public buildings, housing and even the streets are
very much inaccessible to persons with disabilities. There is only one college
and it was specifically designed to accommodate persons with disabilities
to train there. We are doing all we can and are taking advantage of the
new government to talk about accessibility for disabled persons. I am sure
this legislation will give us a beginning point and it will give us more
weight to what I have already stated. We are also trying to use the media
to talk about the inaccessibility. We are asking the community businesses
and churches to come to our aid. Otherwise, inaccessibility is really a
problem, especially where transportation and housing are concerned. Even
the Ministry of Labour is very inaccessible. One day a group of disabled
men gathered to see the Assistant Secretary of the Ministry of Labour. There
are high steps and the way was very narrow. So the Assistant Secretary said,
"Since these guys are in wheelchairs I will come down." Now these
boys were stubborn and they said, "No, we do not want you to come down.
We want to see you in your office." So the Assistant Secretary came
down and, with help, carried the men in to the office. So you can see that
even the public buildings belonging to the government are very inaccessible.
In Egypt there have been many laws guaranteeing the right of disabled persons
to education, employment and social welfare. But as far as accessibility
concerned, as the first architect in Egypt to have studied barrier-free
design at the Master's and Ph.D. level, I see a need for access legislation
in my country.
There is a point a view believing that getting people interested and aware
in the issue is more important as they would then apply what is needed.
Well it is not completely against what we are suggesting here, because there
has always been more achievements and rights gained through people's attitudes,
than through laws. We should not rule out the possibility that there is
a considerable number of non-disabled people who have good intentions, who
are willing to help and who care and are committed as much to the disability
problem as disabled persons.
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