Promotion of Non-Handicapping Physical Environments for Disabled Persons: Guidelines

As part of a series of regional initiatives to translate into action the goals and objectives of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, ESCAP in 1993 embarked on a project to promote non-handicapping environments for persons with disabilities and elderly persons in the Asian and Pacific region. This publication of comprehensive guidelines for the promotion of non-handicapping environments is an activity under the project. Internet publication URL:


Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, United Nations, New York, 1995

The designations employed and the presentation of the material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Secretariat of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

This publication has been issued without formal editing.

The cover design was contributed by Mr James Harrison, Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture, National University of Singapore.

The Independent Living Institute expresses its gratitude to ESCAP Social Development Division for the permission to reprint this manual on its website.


In the course of the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons, 1983-1992, it has been increasingly recognized that the majority of people with disabilities, particularly those in the developing countries, were marginalized from society. Concern over this issue led the Governments of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) region, at the forty-eighth session of the Commission held in Beijing in April 1992, to declare, through resolution 48/3 of 23 April 1992, the period 1993-2002 as the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons. At its forty-ninth session, held in Bangkok in April 1993, the Commission, through resolution 49/6 of 29 April 1993, welcomed the signing of the Proclamation on the Full Participation and Equality of People with Disabilities in the Asian and Pacific Region and adopted the Agenda for Action for the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, 1993-2002. The mandates of the Commission include specific recognition of the urgent need to remove the physical barriers to the full participation and equality of people with disabilities.

The mandates also recognize that the increasing numbers of people surviving to older ages in the Asian and Pacific region are adding to the numbers of persons with disabilities. It is estimated that the number of people aged 60 and over in the region will increase from 170 million in 1980 to 235 million in the 1990s. That number will increase to 623 million by the year 2025. This would mean that, by the year 2025, 56 per cent of the world's elderly persons will be in the ESCAP region, as compared with 45 per cent in 1980. The needs of frail and infirm elderly persons for accessible built environments are similar to those of the group generally described as persons with disabilities.

As part of a series of regional initiatives to translate into action the goals and objectives of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, ESCAP in 1993 embarked on a project to promote non-handicapping environments for persons with disabilities and elderly persons in the Asian and Pacific region.

The preparation of guidelines for the promotion of non-handicapping environments is an activity under the project. The ESCAP Social Development Division and the ESCAP/United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (HABITAT) Joint Section on Human Settlements, Rural and Urban Development Division, collaborated closely in the development and implementation of the project.

Policy makers, practitioners, researchers and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from both within and outside the ESCAP region contributed to the preparation of the guidelines. Among them were leaders of the self-help movement of people with disabilities and researchers working on access issues. Many of those experts participated in a meeting convened at ESCAP headquarters, Bangkok, from 6 to 10 June 1994. The meeting revised a preliminary draft of the guidelines. Subsequently, the revised draft was reviewed, further strengthened and adopted by a regional meeting of senior officials and executives of self-help organizations of people with disabilities and elderly persons in the ESCAP region, held at ESCAP headquarters, Bangkok, from 14 to 18 November 1994. Their expertise and experience ranged from architecture, civil engineering, law and local government administration to public awareness promotion and town and country planning.

This publication is intended for reference by decision-makers and program personnel working on human settlements issues, especially those in architecture, research and training, supporting self-help initiatives and NGO networking, and in urban planning and management. Self-help organizations of people with disabilities and rehabilitation personnel involved in addressing access issues may also find the publication useful.

It was not possible to include in the guidelines the promotion of accessibility in rural areas and slums, although the issues had been raised by the regional meeting. It was felt that as a follow-up to the present publication, guidelines on better access for non-handicapping rural and slum environments should constitute the focus of a separate regional project.

In view of the rapid urbanization in the ESCAP region, it is hoped that national governments, local authorities and NGOs will use this publication in a concerted effort to build barrier-free structures that are in consonance with national and local conditions, bearing in mind the overriding theme of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons: full participation and equality.

I should like to express my gratitude to the Government of Japan for its support of this pioneering regional project. I also wish to place on record my appreciation of the support rendered by the Governments of Canada, Finland and Sweden, as well as the Municipal Environment Cooperation Program-Asia sponsored by the Commission of the European Union in making available the services of their respective experts. Finally, I thank all the experts who responded with valuable contributions to the secretariat's request for assistance in the preparation of these guidelines.

Adrianus Mooy

Executive Secretary



Chapter I. Introduction: Conceptual Issues

A. Preamble
B. Built Environment: What is included
C. The Process
D. Control and Enforcement
E. Research, Design Criteria and Guidelines
F. Professional Education
G. The Role of Users
H. Strategies for Change: Some Remarks on the Guidelines
Chapter II. Planning and Building Design Recommendations
A. Introduction
B. General considerations
1. Definitions: impairment, disability and handicap
2. General planning and design considerations
3. Access needs of diverse disability groups
4. Specific needs of diverse disability groups
C. Planning and design recommendations
1. General requirements
2. Public transport
3. External environment
4. Public buildings
5. Housing
6. Information technology
7. Rural requirements
8. Slum requirements
D. Local authority initiatives
E. Special considerations
1. Children with disabilities
2. Fire safety
3. Adaptable housing
Chapter III. Public Awareness Initiatives
A. Introduction
B. The initiatives of key agencies and persons
1. Government
2. Self-help organizations of people with disabilities
3. The role of elderly persons
4. Local-level access groups
5. Associations of professionals
6. Higher education institutions
C. Promotion of Public Awareness: Principles and strategies
1. Printed materials and alternative formats
2. Use of correct terminology
3. The mass media
4. Forming a speaker's bureau in the community
5. Approach to the rural community
6. Launching a National Access Awareness Campaign
D. Training on access issues
E. Regional cooperation Chapter IV. Access Policy Provisions and Legislation
A. Introduction
B. Definitions
C. Approaches to the promotion of barrier-free environments
1. Initiative approach
2. Social responsibility approach
3. Good practice approach
4. Mandatory approach
5. Incentive-disincentive approach
6. Economic approach
7. Combination of the above approaches in an overall strategy
D. Development of access policy provisions and legislation
1. Objectives
2. The main stages in the development of access policy provisions and legislation
3. Pre-formulation
4. Role of government officials and legislators
5. Formulation
6. Implementation
7. Enforcement
8. Monitoring and reviewing
9. Strengthening access policy provisions and legislation
Annex I. Requirements for buildings and related structures
Annex II. Design recommendations
Annex III. A sample illustrative outline of access legislation
Annex IV. Sample list of access legislation in the ESCAP region
Annex V. Implementation of access legislation through the establishment of access committees: the Australian approach
Annex VI. National Access Awareness Week Campaign: the Canadian Experience
Annex VII. Disability simulation exercise
Annex VIII. Sample community accessibility check list
Annex IX. Report of the Regional Meeting on the Promotion of Non-Handicapping
Environments for Disabled and Elderly Persons, Bangkok, 14-18 November 1994

ESCAP Guideline contents

Chapter 1: Introduction - Conceptual Issues


A. Preamble

When discussing the creation of a barrier-free environment, it has been customary to focus on inadequate legislation, lack of design criteria and the narrow education of planners and architects.

The entire process of planning, building and design has seldom been analysed as a basis for the development of new strategies. Nor has this process been defined as something more than a technical matter.

When physical planning and design, and the provision of infrastructure and public transport are understood as political actions, it is possible to reach the core of the problem. In fact, a positive outcome of environmental planning is a consequence of a range of factors which make a caring society. These include a general acceptance of basic citizens' rights, a complex administrative process with many responsible persons and organizations involved, and the conscious daily maintenance of the facility in use.

In formulating strategies for non-handicapping planning and design, the main political and social forces in each society must be taken into consideration, as well as the role of the organizations of users. General attitudes towards persons with disabilities and elderly people, and the level of social integration, are important factors.

B. Built Environment: What is Included

The physical environment is, both in theory and practice, a continuity of space. Barrier-free design means giving users the possibility to use space in a continuous process - to be able to move around without restriction.

The built environment could be defined as a transformation of the natural environment into a new shape. At the same time, as space is changed physically by human beings, it is normally divided and categorized along new artificial dimensions such as "public", "private" and "functional". The right to use space and the possibility of using space, which is termed accessibility, is restricted, not only by physical barriers, but also by a complex of cultural, social and economic rules.

When discussing a barrier-free society, this basic consideration of space as a continuity is often forgotten or neglected. Evidence of this is found in the manner that legislation for accessibility is introduced in most countries. Normally a step-by-step policy is used. Step-by-step policies always seem to start from administrative, economic or technical divisions of space, such as between "private" and "public" space, housing and public buildings, buildings and street environment, as well as between buildings and transport. The perspective is changed from the point of the user to that of the state, the legislator, the market, or the owner. This way of thinking results in the erection of barriers to full accessibility. Unless those barriers are eliminated, people with disabilities will not be able to participate fully and avail themselves equally of the opportunities that exist in society.

C. The Process

The creation of a building or a neighborhood is always preceded by some kind of planning, design and decision-making. In industrialized societies, this process of planning and decision-making is regulated by legislation and praxis, that is, custom. The process is accomplished by professionals and overseen by authorities. Normally, in theory at least, this process is under democratic control, following laws, codes and standards.

In countries where the administrative structure is weak, the planning and building process is informal and more open to individual wants and means. This occurs even if the central or local Government has adopted legislation, complemented by by-laws and standards.

In reality, the differences among countries are less and the true situation more complex. In most countries, the legal prerequisites for the planning process differ, for example, between urban and rural areas, and between state-owned and private-owned buildings. The planning and decision-making process concerning building may be viewed as an area wherein institutionalized and informal interests struggle for their positions.

D. Control and Enforcement

Planning, design and building may be viewed as integral stages in a continuous decision-making process. When the physical environment is created and in use, the production stage changes into one of management and maintenance. Accessibility is dependent on each stage of this development.

Continuity between the different stages of the process is of great importance. A model of that process is presented in Figure 1. According to the model, the design work is based on accessibility criteria which, in turn, are developed from national accessibility legislation.

In the model, building permission has to be obtained from the local building authority before construction may start. The same authority controls the erection of the building to ensure conformity with the permission granted. Enforcement means to give power to the control system, in this case permission control. Enforcement procedures are performed by a municipal authority. The owner of the building is held responsible if legislation is not fulfilled.

The necessary political control of the activity of the authorities has to be built into a democratic system. The function of all administrative systems is dependent on public control. Public awareness of the rights of citizens is necessary as a complement to formal control systems. In all cases, the clarity and transparency of the rules and of the political decision-making process are prerequisites for public control. Self-help organizations of disabled persons have an important role to play in helping to ensure the function of the legal system.

E. Research, Design Criteria and Guidelines

Good guidelines are necessary tools for the creation of accessible environments. Many existing documents have an uncertain quality and limited scope. An important weakness of most handbooks is that they are restricted to certain disability groups.

In many developing countries, the necessary professional, land and economic resources have not yet been allocated to support research and development work in this field.

An increase in interregional, regional and subregional exchanges of experiences in this field is recommended. Of certain value is the development of research methods applicable to a variety of national and local conditions. Studies of access issues in rural areas are important and remain to be undertaken. Research to obtain feedback from users is also required. In this regard, the experiences of persons with disabilities and their organizations need to be channelled back to planners. Differences in cultural and economic prerequisites must be taken into consideration.

F. Professionalism and Education

Physical plans and building designs are produced under a variety of conditions between and within countries. In highly industrialized societies, the processes are formalized; planners, architects and building contractors normally undergo formal training, often on an academic level.

Conventional planning and building decisions are often left to people who have not been trained in or exposed to access issues. In many developing countries in the ESCAP region, the lack of formal education is often compensated by good building traditions and learning-by-doing. In rapidly changing societies, many of these traditions are being broken and replaced by building techniques and methods which are alien to the conditions of local communities.

There is no simple relation between either traditional building and accessibility, or between the general level of education of the persons and organizations in the field and accessibility.

Some traditional rural housing systems lend themselves to improved accessibility since they use materials and construction techniques which are easily adaptable to the individual. The village street in some cultures gives simple access to buildings, or even functions as communal space for many activities.

But the opposite is also common - that traditional buildings are void of accessible entrances, are full of steps, and that the village street is narrow and bumpy. Modern vehicular traffic in old built environments is often an additional source of danger for persons with disabilities and elderly persons.

A generally high level of education of planners, architects and building technicians is no guarantee of accessibility in many countries. Access issues are often neglected in the curriculum, and the responsibility to teach them is left to the individual teacher.

Knowledge about accessibility has to be introduced to the professionals concerned, through different strategies, depending on their level of education and the educational systems that prevail. In the informal sector, the direct influence of disabled people themselves and their organizations is of great importance. When formal building, planning and design education is introduced in developing countries, accessibility issues need to be incorporated. At the established academic level, the incorporation of access issues in the curricula of architects, town planners and engineers may be strengthened through international initiatives and exchanges.

G. The Role of Users

In much of the ESCAP region, the built environment is so constructed that only a specific type of user can manoeuvre in it with a reasonable degree of convenience and safety. That specific type may be characterized by physical strength and agility and mental alertness. There is marked neglect of the needs of several groups of users. The neglected users include people with disabilities, elderly people, children, expectant and nursing women, as well as persons who may be infirm, temporarily disabled or simply frail. All those users seldom have a voice in decision-making concerning the design, construction, maintenance and renovation of the built environment in ESCAP developing countries.

The role of users of the built environment and their organizations is of critical importance in access promotion. In support of this is the observation that most of the successes in access promotion can be traced to strong national and international organizations of disabled persons. Through information to the general public and by pressure on administration and political forces, attitudes towards people with disabilities have been changed, resulting in greater attention being given to meeting their access needs. Politicians, administrators, urban planners, architects, engineers and builders have a joint responsibility to ensure that all facilities and services in the built environment are equally convenient, safe and usable by diverse groups.

People with disabilities have valuable insights based on their own experiences of negotiating every day the numerous obstacles in the built environment. They should be fully involved at every stage in the planning, building monitoring and evaluation process.

H. Strategies for Change: Some Remarks on the Guidelines

Planning and building are not only technical matters, they are also political affairs. Many interests are involved, and the results have an economic impact on all levels of society. They influence the life of the individual, as well as the social structure of the population as a whole.

The basis for accessibility is not primarily dependent on technical issues. Democratic attitudes, the level of social consciousness, and respect for the constitutional rights of all citizens are fundamental prerequisites. Implementation is dependent on the strength of the legislation, the knowledge and skills of the professionals, the vigilance of the authorities involved and the degree to which concerned and knowledgeable citizens may participate in the process of improving accessibility.

Public control is a necessity. Without the strong democratic influence of users and their organizations, the goals of an accessible society will never be reached. Even if strategies for the development of accessible environments vary from country to country, the factors mentioned are fundamental.


Chapter 2: Planning and Building Design Recommendations


A. Introduction

This chapter of the guidelines will address approaches to the planning and designing of accessible environments for persons with disabilities and elderly persons.

The creation of new physical elements, such as transport infrastructure, neighborhoods, or individual buildings, is always preceded by planning, design and decision-making.

Depending on several national and/or local factors, as well as the size of the project, the level of technical complexity and the stage of administrative development, this process varies. It may be regulated by legislation, directed by complete administrative measures and professional undertakings, or it may be realized through informal actions.

In societies which guarantee accessibility, this process is characterized by well-established polities with built-in prerequisites such as:

  • A complete legal system (from law to standards);
  • A full set of instruments (e.g., master plan, town plan, detailed plans);
  • Administrative effectiveness (from permission to control);
  • Professional undertakings (from guidelines to expertise);
  • Political transparency (openness of information, and public attendance and involvement); and
  • Democratic control (from awareness to participation).
In a long-term strategy, it is desirable to integrate access issues in the formal process of planning and decision-making at all levels. A short-term strategy would be to identify appropriate points in which to intervene in existing systems.

In most developing countries in the ESCAP region, the physical planning and design process is under development. There is scope for strengthening administrative and/or democratic control in that process. A general strengthening of the planning and design process concerning a wide range of social factors, such as shelter, health, security, equality and environmental protection, has to go hand in hand with the implementation of access requirements in the planning system.

The planning and design process in most countries is governed by a series of administrative instruments. Normally, these instruments are named:

  • Regional plans;
  • Master plans;
  • Town/urban plans;
  • Building permission documents; and
  • Construction documents.
Depending on the political and administrative system, these documents have different functions and status. Access issues are related in different ways to these levels of planning and to the legal status of the instruments. Access legislation as well as different strategies and actions must also relate to these instruments and their administrative functions.

The guidelines become effective only if they conform with the decision-making process and the distribution of authority and power built into this process.

As many ethnic, cultural, social and economic differences and prerequisites prevail in the ESCAP region, there is a danger that generalizations in the design recommendations may be too general. Even if the basic principles of accessibility are universal, the applications and technical solutions need to be adapted to national and even local specificities.

The difference between urban and rural conditions is stressed in this chapter. But even those terms mean different things in different areas: the term "urban" can refer to high rise buildings, but also include squatter areas.

This chapter contains design recommendations for accessibility, with examples of solutions already used or recommended in the region. The gaps are many and the recommendations may be considered as provisional.

Safety requirements may need to be reviewed. Stringent demands for safety are often used as grounds for excluding persons with disabilities and elderly persons.

Resources for and competence in undertaking research on access issues in the ESCAP regions as well as related exchanges of information need to be strengthened. Access research must be accepted as an important multi-disciplinary activity requiring, inter alia, applied research on accessibility.

Requirements for building and related structures and design recommendations are contained in Annexes I and II, respectively.


B. General Considerations

1. Definitions: impairment, disability and handicap

The World Program of Action concerning Disabled Persons recognizes that disabled persons do not form a homogenous group. In 1980, the World Health Organization adopted an international classification of "impairment", "disability" and "handicap". There is a clear distinction among these three. Previous terminology to define these terms reflected a medical or diagnostic approach. The new definitions represent a more precise approach.

People with visual, hearing and speech impairments and those with restricted mobility or with so-called "medical disabilities" encounter a variety of barriers. From this perspective of diversity in unity, it is useful to clarify the distinctions among three commonly used terms.

  • An impairment is any loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological or anatomical structure or function. An impairment can be temporary or permanent. This includes the existence or occurrence of an anomaly, defect or loss in a limb, organ, tissue or other structure of the body, including the systems of mental function.
  • A disability is any restriction, or lack of ability (resulting from an impairment), to perform an activity within the range considered normal for a human being. A disability may be temporary or permanent, reversible or irreversible, and progressive or regressive.
  • A handicap results from an impairment or a disability and limits or prevents the fulfilment of a function that is considered normal for a human being. A handicap is therefore seen in the relationship between disabled persons and their environment. Cultural, physical or social barriers to mobility within the built environment are handicaps.
2. General planning and design considerations

No part of the built environment should be designed in a manner that excludes certain groups of people on the basis of their disability or frailty. No group of people should be deprived of full participation in and enjoyment of the built environment or be made less equal than others due to any form or degree of disability. In order to achieve this goal adopted by the United Nations, certain basic guiding principles need to be applied.

  • It should be possible to reach all places of the built environment;
  • It should be possible to enter all places within the built environment;
  • It should be possible to make use of all facilities within the built environment; and
  • It should be possible to reach, enter and use all facilities in the built environment without being made to feel that one is an object of charity.
These basic guiding principles may serve as general requirements for consideration in physical planning and design. These requirements may be summarized as follows:
  • Accessibility
  • The built environment shall be designed so that it is accessible for all people, including those with disabilities and elderly persons.
  • Access or accessible
  • This means that people with disabilities can, without assistance, approach, enter, pass to and from, and make use of an area and its facilities without undue difficulties. Constant reference to these basic requirements during the planning and design process of the built environment will help to ensure that the possibilities of creating an accessible environment will be maximized.
  • Reachability
  • Provisions shall be adopted and introduced into the built environment so that as many places and buildings as possible can be reached by all people, including those with disabilities and elderly persons.
  • Usability
  • The built environment shall be designed so that all people, including those with disabilities and elderly persons can use and enjoy it.
  • Safety
  • The built environment shall be so designed that all people, including those with disabilities and elderly persons, can move about without undue hazard to life and health.
  • Workability
  • The built environment where people work shall be designed to allow people, including those with disabilities, fully to participate in and contribute to the work force.
  • Barrier-free or non-handicapping
This means unhindered, without obstructions, to enable disabled persons free passage to and from and use of the facilities in the built environment.

3. Access needs of diverse disability groups (Source: Design Manual - Access for the Disabled, Building Development Department, Government of Hong Kong, 1984.)

In order to create fully accessible environments, it is important to understand the nature of the access requirements of diverse disability groups. For the purpose of built-environment design, there are usually four major disability groups:

(a) Orthopaedic: ambulant and non-ambulant (wheelchair users);
(b) Sensory: visual, hearing;
(c) Cognitive: mental, developmental, learning;
(d) Multiple: combination of any or all of the above.
(a) Orthopaedic

People with orthopaedic disabilities are generally those with locomotor disabilities which affect mobility. This can mean impairment of the trunk, the lower limbs, or both of these. People with orthopaedic disabilities may also have impairment of the lower limbs and the trunk as well as the upper limbs. People with orthopaedic disabilities are divided into two subgroups, namely;

  • Ambulant disabled persons are those who are able, either with or without assistance, to walk and who may walk with or without the aid of devices such as crutches, sticks, braces or walking frames.
  • People who use wheelchairs are unable to walk, either with or without assistance, and who, except for the use of mechanized transport, depend solely on a wheelchair for mobility. They may propel themselves independently, or may require to be pushed and manoeuvred by an assistant. While being unable to walk, the majority of people in this group are able to transfer to and from a wheelchair. The built environment needs to incorporate level access, ramps, lifts/elevators, handrails and grab bars, larger toilet cubicles, clear signs, sufficiently wide paths, doors, entrances, lobbies and corridors. The presence of these features would ensure wheelchair users' access to buildings and to the external environment.
(b) Sensory

People with sensory disabilities are those who, as a consequence of visual or hearing impairment may be restricted or inconvenienced in their use of the built environment. They are divided into two subgroups:

  • Visually-impaired/blind persons who rely solely on their sense of hearing, touch and smell. The built environment must therefore incorporate certain aspects of sound, texture and aroma to assist these persons in their surroundings.
  • Hearing-impaired persons who rely solely on their sense of sight and touch and need signs, color and texture to be incorporated in the built environment to assist them in moving around their surroundings.
(c) Cognitive

People with cognitive disabilities are generally those with a mental illness, a developmental or a learning disability. To assist them to function in their surroundings, the built environment should incorporate a combination of cues such as those of sight, touch and sound, as well as signs, colors and texture.

(d) Multiple

People with multiple disabilities are generally those with a combination of orthopaedic, sensory and/or cognitive disabilities. The built environment therefore must incorporate a combination of visual, tactile and olfactory cues to assist them in their use of their surroundings.

4. Specific needs of diverse disability groups

In the planning and design of barrier-free environments, it is essential to ensure that suitable access and facilities are provided for people with all the disabilities mentioned above. Identifying and understanding the circumstances which create barriers for persons with disabilities and elderly people is a fundamental requirement. A systematic review of layouts, space requirements and the use of components and component relationships may need to be undertaken to evaluate the adequacy and performance of design proposals.

(a) Mobility-impaired people

In terms of circulation, wheelchair movement is seen as the most critical. The spatial needs of the ambulant disabled and the sensory or cognitive disabled are unlikely to exceed the space needed to manoeuvre a wheelchair.

Independent wheelchair users require more generous activity space width, while assisted wheelchair movement requires greater length or depth of space and, consequently, larger overall turning space. The built environment should accommodate both independent and assisted wheelchair mobility.

The recommendations in this publication are suitable for most standard, manually propelled chairs and electric indoor wheelchairs. Electric outdoor models generally require 10 to 15 per cent more manoeuvring space than standard, manually-propelled chairs.

(b) Visually-impaired people

Many blind people, including those who are registered as such, have varying degrees of residual vision. The following recommendations pertain to people who are totally blind and those who have low vision:

  • Dropped curbs to footpaths: Interruptions in footpath curbs and edges are useful cues for partially-sighted people. Where interruptions do occur, they should be indicated with tactile paving.
  • Stairs and ramps: Handrails should be of a bright color, contrasting with the surroundings. They should extend a minimum distance of 300 mm beyond the top and bottom of the ramp or stairs to give a blind person a chance to feel them before encountering the hazard. Staircases should have bright contrasting, preferably non-slip nosings. A tactile warning surface should also be incorporated into the floor at the top and bottom of the staircase or ramp.
  • Walkways: These should be fitted with visual signs and tactile clues (e.g., Braille blocks) as route finders. It is desirable to define clearly the edges of paths and routes by using different colors and textures. It is also possible to use plants to emphasize pavement edges, but care must be taken in the choice and placement of plants to avoid people tripping over. Large featureless paved areas in front of buildings should be avoided as these can cause glare problems for visually-impaired persons and make it difficult for them to distinguish entrances. Patterns in the paving should be carefully thought out to guide people through routed areas or to entrances. Regular bands of color at 90 across narrow pathways should also be avoided as persons with impaired vision can easily mistake these for steps.
  • Hazards: Windows and doors opening outwards can be very dangerous. One solution is to recess outward opening doors into a porch. Street furniture, trees, lamp posts, fire hydrants, waste bins, flower tubs, seats and other such items should be located to one side of pathways and roads used by the public. Some of these could be grouped together with a change in paving surface texture and color to give some warning on approach. The use of contrasting colors can greatly assist visually-impaired persons particularly on street signs or lamp posts. A contrasting band at eye level should be incorporated onto the posts. Overhanging awnings or signs should be positioned well above 2 metres. Low barriers should be placed around temporary road works to enable persons using canes to detect the hazards.
  • Tactile objects: The sense of touch is vital to people with visual impairments. Objects which are important in daily life should be distinctive in shape, texture or size. Coins and bank notes should be so designed that the value of each may easily be identified.
  • Signs: These should be in contrasting colors. Raised letters and characters should be used to allow blind persons to feel the signs. Where possible, universally accepted symbols and colors should be used, e.g., green for safety, yellow or amber for risk and red for danger. A clear system of signs should be used throughout a building, with a similar height and format at each change in direction. Signs should be fixed at eye level when mounted on a wall; a suspended sign should be hung between 2 m and 2.4 m above floor level.
  • Hedges and trees: Such plants must be maintained to prevent them from encroaching onto footpaths. Low branches hanging over footpaths should be removed.
  • Doors: The use of color to distinguish doors from surrounding walls is very useful. A color contrast between a door and a door frame, with the door handle in a distinct tone, can be of great benefit to people with visual impairments. Glass doors must have a bright colored band or motif at eye level to avoid partially-sighted persons from walking into them.
  • Corridors and circulation: All appliances and fittings should be recessed where possible.
  • Lifts: Raised numbers with tactile indications on landings should be used to indicate the floor. Buttons in the lift car should be marked with raised numbers and Braille (on control buttons). A voice synthesizer is the most important addition to any lift serving more than two floors and can give to visually-impaired persons important information such as: doors closing/opening; lift going up/down; lift free; and floor level.
  • Summary recommendations for visually-impaired people:
a. The use of Braille guide blocks should be promoted and installed in public facilities, including train stations, shopping centres and bus terminals.
b. Glare should be reduced from windows by using net curtains, solar reflective glass, or external/internal blinds.
c. Contrasts should be reduced between the outside and inside of buildings. Windows should not be positioned to cause silhouetting in corridors and circulation areas unless the possibility of glare is reduced by one of the above measures or by other means.
d. Changes in color and texture should be used to warn of differences in floor level and to indicate door handles, light switches and other fixtures.
e. Green and blue tones being hard to differentiate (for example, green carpets and blue walls can appear as one to a visually-impaired person), they should be avoided. The red color range causes the least difficulty in this respect.
f. Patterns should be used to indicate direction warning. A contrasting band of color on walls can be very helpful, e.g., a line of contrasting tiles in a tiled toilet area can help to define walls to visually impaired persons.
(c) Hearing-impaired people
  • Lifts: It is important for the emergency call button in lifts to have an acknowledgement light adjoining it. This provides both visual and auditory notification that someone is in trouble in the lift and that someone is dealing with the problems.
  • Fire evacuation: It is most important that it is widely understood that a person with a hearing impairment will react a lot more slowly than someone without this difficulty.
  • Visual signs: These must be very clear and accurate. A flashing light
  • unaccompanied by a message can be confusing (e.g., a flashing fire exit sign would be preferable to a flashing red light; it gets the message across much more quickly). Flashing exit signs in public buildings are preferable to permanently lit exit notices in emergency situations. These will be activated only when alarms sound during an emergency. Signs in all facilities frequented by members of the public, including shopping and entertainment areas, should be improved. Electric and flashing information signs to indicate stops should be installed on trains and buses to enable deaf persons to use public transportation independently.
  • Good lighting and prevention of glare: These are as important for people with hearing impairment, who focus on facial expression, as for those with visual impairment. Many people lip read. Flat lighting and conditions that remove contouring should be avoided. A flexible installation to suit the context and avoid any flattening effect, with a good combination of general and localized lighting, is better than high overall levels of lighting.
  • Alarm systems: Bedrooms used by people with disabilities and elderly persons should be provided with flashing lights activated by alarm systems to alert them in the event of an emergency. Vibrating pillows linked to an alarm clock or an alarm system are a further possibility for awakening hearing-impaired persons.
  • Hearing aids: Wherever possible (e.g., in foyers, meeting rooms, interview rooms, courts, theaters, training venues, booking offices and cash desks) an induction loop system should be installed. These can, however, cause problems of "overspill" (when people in adjoining rooms wearing hearing aids can overhear conversations in other rooms). The use of magnetic tape under carpets can reduce this effect. Infrared systems can provide a solution where confidentiality is required, but these have other drawbacks.
  • Background noise: It is most important to reduce any background noise both internally and externally, for instance, a magnetic hum can be created by mechanical ventilation systems or by fluorescent lighting. These problems should be solved by mechanical and electrical engineers.
  • Acoustics: Care should be taken to provide good acoustic conditions in all building interiors. Sound absorbent surfaces should be utilized to minimize reverberation which could seriously affect the hearing of a hearing-impaired person. In areas where there is fixed seating, such as lecture theaters, the lecturer's position should not be in front of a window or the light source which may create glare and cause difficulty in lip reading.
C. Planning and Design Recommendations

Opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in all aspects of the public and working life of the community are being progressively broadened. Persons from diverse disability groups may attend and use public and private buildings as visitors, residents or staff members. They may be alone or be accompanied by others. Whatever the circumstances, the planning and design of any built environment should provide a barrier-free setting to enable all staff, residents and visitors to circulate safely and comfortably.

Depending on the type of disability, many different planning and design considerations are required. The following general guidelines are recommended, and attention is drawn to Annexes I and II.

1. General requirements

The ideal situation that should be aimed for in all buildings is to provide reasonable means of access for all people whatever their specific requirements may be. This applies from the boundary of the site or car park to the main entrance/exit of a building. The purpose of access should be to encourage movement throughout the building with sufficient space for wheelchair manoeuvres and convenient ways of moving from one floor to another. An accessible environment should also have provision for persons who are deaf or who have sight impairment to enable them to find their way around the building and to use the facilities provided within the building.

2. Public transport

(a) Land transport

Buses, trams, taxis, mini-buses and three-wheelers should be designed as far as practicable to include facilities which can accommodate people with disabilities. New vehicles, when purchased, should comply with accessibility standards to enable all people, including those in wheelchairs, to use the service provided. Equally important, travel routes to bus stops should also be barrier-free to ensure that persons can travel from their homes to their chosen pick-up point. Training should be provided for drivers to help them become aware of the needs of persons with disabilities.

(b) Rail transport

Whether overground or underground, rail travel is a highly effective mode of transport. Every train should contain fully accessible carriages. Staff should be trained in methods of assistance and be at hand on request. Stations for all rail travel should be fully accessible with extra wide turnstiles where possible. Staff should be on hand to assist persons with disabilities to enter or exit through convenient gates. All new railway stations should be designed to be fully accessible. In a situation where full accessibility is not secured at the initial construction stage, it is imperative to design the layout of the station in such a manner that access features can be easily modified at a later stage.

(c) Water transport

All forms of water transport should be accessible to those with disabilities and infirmities. Ferries should be fitted with accessible ramps. Within a cabin space should be set aside for securing a wheelchair in a position for comfortable integration with other passengers. Piers should be fully accessible and have simple boarding and disembarkation procedures. Careful design and planning can preempt problems.

(d) Air transport

All domestic, short-haul aircraft should have the capacity to safely accommodate at least one wheelchair passenger. All national and international airports should be fully accessible and have appropriate boarding facilities. Special attention should be given to accessible toilet facilities on board aircraft.

3. External environment

Public places such as parks, gardens and zoos should be fully accessible to persons with disabilities and infirmities. This is vital if discrimination is to be avoided. The current unbalanced situation needs to be addressed so that persons with disabilities may freely move in the external environment as part of their integration into society. Parking facilities, obstructions on pavements, street furniture, pavements, crossings, changes in level, ramps, steps, plants and landscaping, signs and symbols, gratings and covers all need careful consideration.

4. Public buildings

All public buildings such as offices, shops, factories, schools, universities, hotels, restaurants, bars, cinemas and theaters should have accessible entrances and exits. Horizontal and vertical circulation and all facilities contained within buildings should also be accessible for persons with disabilities. Wherever possible, an accessible service window should be introduced in a public building to facilitate assistance which may be required.

5. Housing

Entry to, and movement within buildings must be carefully considered when designing housing. Height and layout of fixtures in each house can be tailored or adapted to suit the needs of the resident. An adaptable housing concept should be promoted, in particular, for homes financed by government housing loans or public housing schemes (see section E.3, Adaptable housing).

6. Information technology

The use of modern technology should be encouraged among blind, deaf and home-based disabled persons, to facilitate communication from within the home. Communication with others can greatly enhance an individual's self-esteem by opening up new possibilities for developing higher levels of social and other skills, thereby enhancing self-reliance and independence.

Telephones should be installed with push buttons incorporating large numerals and volume controls. Some telephones have a facility for visual display of messages. Various types of induction loop systems are available to allow persons who have impaired hearing to hear public performances, take part in discussions or even to watch television. Visual and audible alarm systems and paging systems can be used within or outside of buildings. Computer aids are available to assist people with disabilities. Many such aids open up employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.

7. Rural requirements

The majority of people in the Asian and Pacific region live in rural areas. In the coming decade, notwithstanding rapid urbanization, there will be a higher increase in absolute numbers of the rural population. Higher rates of mortality and morbidity, a lower rate of literacy and a higher incidence of poverty and deprivation characterize rural communities, placing them in a less advantageous position than their urban counterparts.

Furthermore, while several basic amenities such as piped water supply, sanitation, toilets and access to the mass media (e.g., radio and television) are available to urban residents at the household level, in rural areas, these are often available only as community amenities.

The urban built environment includes modern public facilities for education, training, employment and self-employment, as well as entertainment. In contrast, the rural built environment includes standpipes and wells, village dispensaries, primary schools, community toilets and water tanks, village markets, agricultural extension centres and village or district administrative institutions. These facilities have an impact on the daily lives of people in the rural areas. The extent to which the facilities are accessible and usable by persons with disabilities and elderly people determines their integration into rural community life.

Some of the issues faced by rural disabled persons and elderly people are: non-accessible paths, roads without pavements and non-accessible toilets or latrines. While planning and design requirements for urban settings could be adapted for rural built environments, due attention needs to be given to local conditions.

Planning and design for the rural areas should take into consideration the options presented by local solutions using locally-available materials. Applied research and experimentation in the use of appropriate technology for the development of barrier-free design for the rural built environment are urgently needed. This is an area for exchange of information among the countries in the ESCAP region.

Governments, especially local authorities, have a responsibility to improve the understanding of issues concerning barrier-free environments in rural communities. This is particularly so in the case of remote rural areas where there is a lack of non-governmental organization development assistance and the communities have limited access to the mass media. The need for public awareness activities in rural areas is critical in view of the greater difficulty, compared with urban areas, in enforcing access legislation and policy provisions. Actions to improve public awareness of access issues among rural communities include the mobilization of village-level opinion leaders and involving them in dissemination of the relevant messages using folk and traditional media.

8. Slum requirements

In much of the Asian and Pacific region, rapid urbanization has led to a proliferation of slums. The phenomenon is primarily linked with the migration of the rural poor, driven by unemployment, displacement from the land, and the lure of amenities concentrated in metropolitan areas, to towns and cities. The inability of Governments effectively to provide urban infrastructures to meet the needs of this influx compounds the problem.

Slums are characterized by high density habitation, congestion of private and public places, prevalence of insanitary conditions, high risk of exposure to health hazards, disasters such as fires and flooding, as well as drug abuse and crime. The living conditions of slum dwellers in general, and of slum dwellers with disabilities and elderly persons in particular, warrant the special attention of Governments and non-governmental organizations. That attention needs to be directed at integrating barrier-free design concerns as part of the planning and design of provisions for all slum dwellers. Issues concerning equal access to facilities and amenities for persons with disabilities and elderly people living in slums need to be addressed in all slum improvement, rehabilitation and relocation programs and projects, including schemes for low-cost housing and credit and finance for slum improvement. Governments should also encourage greater non-governmental organization involvement in augmenting their own efforts.

D. Local Authority Initiatives

(Case-study: Local-level access legislation and policy provisions, presented by the City of Yokohama, Japan, at the Expert Group Meeting on the Promotion of Non-handicapping Environments, 6-10 June 1994, Bangkok.)

Many cities in the ESCAP region have not adopted access standards. However, as an interim measure, local authorities can adopt a practical approach to ensure accessibility of certain areas within the city.

Two practical methods for access improvement in an area are described below.

(a) Inclusion of access requirements in redevelopment projects.

In most redevelopment projects, a great deal of time needs to be expended in arbitrating the interests of land owners, developers and local residents. A project usually involves large public infrastructure and facilities. It is, therefore, advisable to include access features in the planning stage of redevelopment projects. The agency responsible for access improvement should work closely with the agencies responsible for the planning of redevelopment projects through consultations, provision of technical expertise concerning accessibility and monitoring of the projects.

(b) Designation of priority areas.

A local authority can designate priority areas to be made accessible within a city. The local authority may, in the case of each selected area:

  • Contact various concerned parties, including community groups, self-help organizations of people with disabilities and elderly persons, members of the business community, public agencies and researchers;
  • Encourage them to form a committee to promote access in the designated area by:
a. Conducting surveys to identify access problems in the designated area;
b. Formulating a strategy to solve the problems identified; and
c. Presenting possible solutions to business owners and the local administration body.
The above approach emphasizes encouraging the participation of all concerned parties and facilitating face-to-face discussions among them to develop practical solutions. The practical solutions that emerge from a process of mutual understanding, cooperation and compromises among all parties are more likely to be implemented.

This approach can help to improve existing facilities. Full-fledged improvement in existing facilities generally requires large expenditure. In many instances, however, practical improvements can be made with much smaller expenditure through consultations between the parties involved.


E. Special Considerations

(Source: The More We Do Together-Adapting the Environment for Children with Disability, Monograph No. 31, The Nordic Committee on Disability in cooperation with World Rehabilitation Fund, 1985.

1. Children with disabilities

The needs of children with disabilities are often excluded in plans for access. Children with disabilities need stimulation, attention and care just like other children. Like their non-disabled peers, children with disabilities need free access to opportunities to participate in education, recreation and a full range of experiences to be acquired from guided exploration of their environment.

Children with disabilities learn at an early age to cope, physically and psychologically, with their disabilities. They encounter frustration, stress, and sometimes emotional instability in their quest to adapt to their environment. An accessible built environment can play a vital role in minimizing conflict. At the same time, surroundings can be created that are stimulating and suitable for their integration into mainstream activities.

Consideration should, therefore, focus on providing, modifying or arranging the built environment so that non-disabled children may have the opportunity to participate with children with disabilities in as many activities as possible. The following factors must be considered:

(a) The child's home;
(b) Transport;
(c) Outdoor and indoor play;
(d) Communication;
(e) School;
(f) Public areas frequented by children, including libraries, and amusement and shopping areas.
Numerous training devices and materials are available for use with hearing-impaired, deaf, speech-impaired, visually-impaired and blind children.

2. Fire safety

(Source: B. Levin, R. Paulsen, J. Kiote. "Fire Safety", Access Information Bulletin, National Centre for a Barrier-Free Environment, Washington, D.C., U.S.A., 1981.)

Efforts to integrate people with disabilities into mainstream society may result in new or increased challenges to raise standards regarding safety in the event of fire. This section describes the important aspects of fire safety to be considered by designers, engineers, fire safety personnel, building managers, as well as non-disabled and disabled facility users.

(a) Fire

Unless there are items in a room which are especially flammable, fire at its initial stage spreads slowly. As the fire gets bigger, toxic gases are given off; these quickly rise to the ceiling and spread under doorways. If there is enough material in the room, the fire will eventually develop very rapidly with flames and smoke engulfing the entire room or building.

If fires are discovered while they are still very small, they can usually be easily extinguished. However, a well-established fire cannot be extinguished by untrained persons and trying to stop such a fire could be extremely dangerous and waste valuable escape time.

(b) Fire-emergency safety

(i) General principles
a. Safety is important for everyone;
b. Persons with disabilities should be helped to protect themselves; and
c. Persons with disabilities should be included in fire safety training.
(ii) Design elements and safety measures
a. Fire-safety codes make it essential for buildings to be designed with safety features. Fire-safety design elements are directed towards three objectives:
  • Detecting the fire;
  • Separating people from the fire either by enabling prompt evacuation of the building, or by providing a refuge area within the building where occupants may safely await rescue;
  • Controlling or extinguishing the fire.
In many cases, disabled persons do not require specific design features. However, adequate fire-safety education is a necessary preventive measure. In a fire-emergency situation, non-disabled persons can become handicapped. Everyone is effectively disabled in the case of a fire. Smoke and toxic gases can obscure vision, bells and alarms can impair hearing and create panic and fear, thus limiting the judgmental abilities of everyone.

The ideal situation is for everyone to be as aware and capable of self-preservation as much as possible during an emergency. This often involves modification of the built environment. For example, flashing lights could be activated simultaneously with an audible alarm system to alert persons with hearing impairments. Tactile maps showing alternative escape routes could be installed for persons who are visually impaired. Persons with mobility impairments require little, and sometimes, no assistance from others if areas of refuge have been pre-established and are clearly indicated.

Large public buildings could introduce voluntary registration in the main lobby so that persons with disabilities may easily be located in case of an emergency. Persons with disabilities need to be included in all fire drills.

Increasingly in the ESCAP region fire safety regulations are being strengthened that require high-rise buildings to have special fire-proof lifts for the exclusive use of fire-fighters. However, in the case of those buildings which are frequented by people with mobility impairments, a special agreement should be sought with the fire authority to enable this group of users to have access to the special lifts in emergencies.

(c) Alarm systems

Alarm signals such as flashing lights, vibrating beds or variable velocity fans can alert deaf or deaf and blind residents. Emergency exit lights and directional signals mounted near the floor have been found to be useful in cases where a lot of smoke is present. Pre-recorded messages and on-the-spot broadcasts from a central control centre would be of great benefit.

(d) Raising the alarm

Special devices, e.g., fire alarm boxes, emergency call buttons and lighted panels may be needed by persons who are deaf or blind. Telecommunication devices for deaf persons (TDD) are practical for typing in conversations. A pre-recorded message installed in the telephone would be useful for notifying the fire department.

(e) Refuge

An alternative to immediate evacuation of a building via staircases and/or lifts is the movement of disabled persons to areas of safety within a building. If possible, they could remain there until the fire is controlled and extinguished, or, until rescued by fire-fighters. Some building codes require the provision of a refuge area, usually at the fire-protected stair landing on each floor that can safely hold one or two wheelchairs.

3. Adaptable housing

(Source: "Adaptable Housing - A Technical Manual for Implementing Adaptable Dwelling Unit Specifications", Barrier Free Environments, Inc., Raleigh, North Carolina, 1987.)

"Adaptable housing" means accessible, normal-looking housing which has features that can be adjusted, added or removed to suit the occupants. This applies to disabled, elderly and non-disabled persons. The house could be any shape or size, mass-produced, attractive, and universally usable and affordable.

People with disabilities will have a greater choice of area to live in and visit as adaptable housing becomes more widely available. Both government and private developers will find it less expensive if they mass-produce. Adaptable units could be adjusted or modified without renovation or structural change because basic access features are already part of such units and incorporate reinforcements for installation of hand-rails/grab bars as needed.

Non-structural adaptations could include changing counter and sink bench heights, removing a cabinet to reveal knee space under kitchen or bathroom sinks and attaching grab bars to walls where necessary. These simple alterations could be made easily by the occupants themselves.

Many elderly persons do not wish to be placed in special housing but recognize that they may need some assistance. Adaptable housing does not look special and its very nature allows many older people to remain in their homes on a more permanent basis.

The increasing demand for adaptable housing creates new opportunities for manufacturers of products for such housing and creates openings for estate agents.

Persons with extensive disabilities often live with non-disabled spouses, other family members or friends who assist when necessary. In an adaptable housing unit, disabled and non-disabled people can live together using the same facilities.

ESCAP Guideline contents

Chapter III. Public Awareness Initiatives


A. Introduction

The level of accessibility within a society is a physical manifestation of that society's degree of acceptance of diversity among its members as well as respect for the fundamental rights of citizens to free movement and use of the facilities in its built environment. Ignorance of those rights, combined with insensitivity towards persons with special needs, adversely affect accessibility levels in a society.

Negative attitudes may arise from superstition and fear. Traditional superstitions about persons with disabilities prevail in many Asian and Pacific societies. Some societies believe disability is a result of misconduct in a previous life. Others see disability as punishment for sins committed in the present life. Many individuals harbour a deep-rooted fear that if they are in contact with persons with disabilities, they may also be affected by "evil spirits".

Furthermore, persons with disabilities are commonly perceived to have limited potential. Having a family member with a disability reduces a family's social status. Families may hide such members out of a sense of shame or to protect them from the negative attitudes of society. Many people, through lack of knowledge of disability matters and experience of interacting with disabled persons at the personal level, feel uncomfortable in their presence.

Public awareness campaigns are urgently needed to change this situation. The campaigns must address the superstitions and beliefs of each culture to change both perceptions and attitudes toward persons with disabilities.

The United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons, 1983-1992, encouraged the development of self-help organizations of disabled persons. The improvement of public awareness was a major focus of the activities of these organizations. Access to the built environment began to be considered a right rather than a privilege.

The Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, 1993-2002, with the aim of full participation and equality, is a critical public awareness opportunity for government departments, NGOs, including self-help organizations of people with disabilities, international organizations and concerned individuals to build on the efforts begun during the United Nations Decade.


B. The Initiatives of Key Agencies and Persons

1. Government

The Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in resolution 48/96 at its 48th session on 20 December 1993, state that:

"States should initiate measures to remove the obstacles to participation in the physical environment. Such measures should be to develop standards and guidelines and to consider enacting legislation to ensure accessibility to various areas in society, such as housing, buildings, public transport services and other means of transportation, streets and other outdoor environments."
In order to implement these recommendations, the following initiatives are suggested:

(a) The formation of a "coordination committee on accessibility" consisting of representatives from government departments and agencies and key NGOs, including organizations of persons with diverse disabilities, elderly persons and associations of architects.

It is essential that a representative from the budget and finance department be present at all meetings.

  • Major issues for action by the committee should include:
  • Strengthening of access legislation, particularly its implementation;
  • Review of government services and facilities to find out if they are accessible or not;
  • Formation of sub-committees (e.g., on transport, public buildings, and housing) to develop action plans and public awareness campaigns;
  • Sharing of information and resources among committee members; and
  • Regular monitoring of progress and reporting of activities.
The committee should integrate access promotion into overall development policies and programs.

(b) In each government department and agency which is on the coordination committee, a person who is sensitive to the needs of persons with disabilities and elderly people should be designated as an Access Officer to serve as an active focal point to expedite the work of the committee.

(c) Awareness of access issues should be improved within each department or agency by:

  • Consulting with concerned NGOs, universities and colleges, architects, town planners, builders, civic societies concerned with access, and health and rehabilitation centres;
  • Undertaking literature surveys of information materials on access issues and related public awareness campaigns; and
  • Organizing information sessions and seminars on access issues for the staff of the department or agency.
(d) Under the leadership of its Access Officer, each government department or agency should develop a long-term access action plan with a time frame that includes:
  • Specification of the needs of persons with disabilities and elderly persons in relation to the services and facilities of the respective department or agency;
  • Review of existing policies and programs of that department or agency and identification of those policies and programs which may discriminate against persons with disabilities or elderly people.
  • Establishment of department/agency priorities in the improvement of accessibility, e.g., through review of buildings, services and facilities, use of new technologies, publications policy and information formats, from the perspective of persons with disabilities and elderly people;
  • Identification of staff training needs concerning access issues and mobilization of resources to meet those needs;
  • Formulation of guidelines for inter-agency and inter-organizational cooperation that focus on supporting the improvement of accessibility;
  • Introduction of support of access concerns as a criterion for funding NGOs;
  • Initiation of pilot projects on access promotion and dissemination of outcomes; and
  • Barrier-free design as a feature of all new government buildings and renovations.
(e) Promote within the Government positive attitudes and good practice concerning the integration of persons with disabilities and elderly persons, to set an example to the rest of society.

2. Self-help organizations of people with disabilities

Self-help organizations of people with disabilities, by making available their experiences as users and giving high visibility to the issue, can play a useful role to improve accessibility. The Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities state that:

"Organizations of persons with disabilities should be consulted when standards and norms for accessibility are being developed. They should also be involved locally from the initial planning stage when public construction projects are being designed, thus ensuring maximum accessibility."
The organizations should take the initiative to form access groups at the community level, focusing on:
(a) Advocacy;
(b) Consultation and cooperation;
(c) Monitoring.
3. The role of elderly persons

(Contributed by Finlay Craig, Regional Representative, Asia, HelpAge International, Chiang Mai, Thailand.)

The active participation of elderly persons is critical to developing successful public awareness-raising campaigns on access promotion. The demographic trends demand that serious attention be accorded to addressing the needs of rapidly ageing societies in the ESCAP region. Furthermore, it is estimated that, out of the total number of persons with disabilities, at least half are elderly people.

Traditional Asian and Pacific social values emphasize respect for elderly people. However, in the process of rapid social and economic change, those values are being increasingly challenged. Barrier-free environments would enable many more elderly people who are frail or disabled to continue to participate in family and community life.

Organizations for and of elderly persons are usually well established and can facilitate the creation of barrier-free environments. These organizations often include articulate and educated elderly persons who have the knowledge and skills to bring about change.

4. Local-level access groups

A local-level access group should be composed of persons with diverse disabilities, elderly persons, architects, engineers, planners, building control officers, lawyers, environmental and health officers, local authorities and local business groups and trade unions.

(a) Start-up steps

The following steps may be followed in order to start a local-level access group:

  • Identify potential members from among community members with an interest in access issues, concerned government officials, and community leaders.
  • Call a meeting of potential members to discuss the formation of a local-level access group.
  • Sensitize the group to access issues by organizing:
  • a. Training workshops, including disability simulation exercises;
  • b. Group work to survey the accessibility of local areas and identify possible solutions;
  • c. The collection of information and materials on local area approaches to access promotion.
  • Develop communication and negotiation skills on access issues.
  • Identify priority issues and develop a media strategy.
  • Develop a plan for group action with targets such as the following:
  • a. Selected parts of the built environment in a locality to be made accessible within a specified time-frame, e.g., 50 per cent of primary schools, playgrounds and libraries to be made accessible to children with disabilities within a three-year period;
  • b. Installation of ramps and cutting of curbs on every pathway and road in a selected area within a specified period;
  • c. Amount of funding to be generated for achieving access targets.
  • Monitor and evaluate regularly the progress of the group action plan.
(b) Activities

Among the activities which a local-level access group may pursue are:

  • Consultations with the local authority on access issues. A successful local-level access group cooperates actively with its local authority officials. It assists in monitoring improvements to the local environment. It reports on hazards, places where new access features or maintenance work on existing ones may be needed, and violations of access standards and legislation.
  • Campaigns for improved access, particularly to existing buildings and public transport. Awareness-raising among the general public must be undertaken on a continuous basis. A local-level access group should use publicity as a tool to encourage the emulation of examples of good practice and to generate fear of negative press coverage. Group members should be trained to address civic organizations, schools and business associations on local access issues. The cultural bases of prevailing attitudes and patterns of behavior concerning persons with disabilities and elderly persons in the community may be examined. This will assist in developing appropriate local approaches to reducing social and physical barriers.
  • Advisory services to property developers on access matters. The local-level access group should find ways to encourage the incorporation of access features in the development of real estate in its locality.
  • Information exchange with other bodies working on access.
5. Associations of professionals

Architects, engineers, urban planners, landscape designers, transport planners and lawyers together determine the accessibility of the built environment.

Associations of professionals composed of members of these groups need to understand their responsibility for creating barrier-free environments that benefit all users.

The following initiatives are suggested for associations of professionals:

(a) Adopt a team-building or partnership approach in working with persons with disabilities and elderly people to improve the accessibility of the built environment.
(b) Organize joint outings for association members and user groups to highlight both good and bad examples of accessibility.
(c) Prepare audio-visual materials on inaccessible environments and examples of barrier-free designs for use in presentations.
(d) Ensure members have information on the criteria for access, templates of access design, as well as access solutions and guidelines.
(e) Facilitate direct exchanges between members and professionals with work experience on access promotion.
(f) Strengthen international networking on access issues among professional associations, including contacts between those in developed and developing countries.
(g) Actively encourage barrier-free design through the provision of fellowships, study opportunities and on-site technical exchanges between members and students.
(h) Generate discussion in professional journals, newsletters and conferences on the development of designs for accessible built environments in a variety of social, economic and political contexts.
(i) Provide training programs for members on designing and building for accessibility.
j) Organize competitions on access design, awards and public recognition of significant contributions to access promotion.
(k) Provide training opportunities for organizations of people with disabilities and elderly persons to strengthen their technical expertise on accessibility issues.
(l) Undertake, in collaboration with members, persons with disabilities and elderly persons, demonstration projects to illustrate the advantages of barrier-free design.
6. Higher education institutions

Many architects, engineers, building designers and town planners lack a conceptual understanding of access issues and technical knowledge of how access features should be incorporated into the built environment.

Education institutions directly influence the development of a sense of social responsibility among future professionals. There is an urgent need for these institutions in the ESCAP region to introduce into their curricula conceptual understanding and practical knowledge of access issues.

The following initiatives are suggested for education institutions:

(a) Organize diverse awareness activities to encourage interest in access issues.
(b) Provide opportunities for students to meet people with a range of disabilities and to hear and discuss first-hand experiences of mobility problems in the built environment.
(c) Integrate students with disabilities into classes and extra-curricula activities, not least by making buildings accessible to them.
(d) Include staff (full or part time) with disabilities in regular teaching programs.
(e) Encourage design projects for students which involve accessibility issues, and invite people with disabilities to participate both in briefings and feedback activities.
(f) Ensure that all relevant codes and associated design issues on accessibility are included in the teaching curriculum, and are taught in such a way as to make them meaningful to the developing mind.
(g) Include disability simulation exercises as an integral part of all courses concerned with the design of the built environment.
(h) Encourage postgraduate study and research into topics related to accessibility by seeking sponsorship or providing grants.
(i) Organize competitions or "live projects" on barrier-free design topics to encourage students' interest in accessible environments.
(j) Develop resource material, including audio-visual material and computer programmes, on access issues.<
(k) Encourage student unions or councils to address issues concerning those barriers faced by young persons with disabilities to education and to full participation in all aspects of life taken for granted by people without disabilities.

C. Promotion of Public Awareness: Principles and Strategies

1. Printed materials and alternative formats

It is imperative that access issues be promoted in ways that the public can easily relate to and understand. Printed materials should be tailored to suit specific groups and be written in concise, easy-to-read language. Large print publications, Braille publications and audio tapes should be made easily available to all who need them. This applies to publications from Governments, NGOs, and the private sector.

The following initiatives are suggested for accessible print materials:

(a) All print materials for public consumption, e.g., pamphlets, brochures, documents, letterhead paper, business cards and promotional leaflets, should be clear, concise and be written in simple language.
(b) Print materials should be easy to read. They should have good color contrast, suitable print size and font. Font size 14 points is recommended and fancy fonts should be avoided. Clear and simple diagrams should be used.
(c) Materials should also be available in Braille and audio formats as well as on computer diskettes and in large print. Materials in video formats should include subtitles.
2. Use of correct terminology

(This section is based on A Way with Words: Guidelines and Appropriate Technology for the Portrayal of Persons with Disabilities, Status of Disabled Persons' Secretariat, Department of the Secretary of State of Canada, Otawa, 1991, and Words with Dignity, Active Living Alliance for Canadians with a Disabililty, Ontario, Canada.)

Language can be used to shape ideas, perceptions and attitudes. Words in popular use mirror prevailing attitudes in a society. Those attitudes are often the most difficult barriers that persons with disabilities and elderly persons face. Positive attitudes can be shaped through careful presentation of information about them.

The following guidelines are suggested for government departments, the mass media and organizations which promote access issues:

(a) Describe the person, not the disability.
(b) Refer to an individual's disability only when it is relevant.
(c) Avoid images designed to evoke pity or guilt.
The following are examples of negative and positive use of words and expressions in the English language. The same principles may be applied in the case of other languages.


Instead of... Use...
The disabled, the handicapped, the crippled Persons or people with disabilities
Crippled by, afflicted with, suffering from, victim of, deformed Person who has or person with (name of disability)
Lame Person who is mobility-impaired or person with a mobility impairment
Confined, bound, restricted to or dependent on a wheelchair Person who uses a wheelchair or wheelchair user
Deaf and dumb, deaf mute Deaf person, person who is hard of hearing, hearing-impaired person or person with a speech impairment
The retarded, mentally retarded or mentally subnormal Person with an intellectual disability or person with a developmental disability
Spastic (as a noun) Person with cerebral palsy
Mental patient, the mentally ill, mental or insane Person with mental illness (specify illness if known, e.g., schizophrenia or depression)
The blind or the visually impaired (as a collective noun) Persons who are visually impaired or blind, persons with visual impairment, or blind persons

3. The mass media

Effective media involvement is critical to the success of public awarenessraising. A good public relations plan is essential. The following are suggestions for effective involvement of the mass media in access promotion:

(a) Develop a media action plan with a time-frame. The plan can include collaboration with the mass media in the organization of workshops on the role of the media in access promotion.
(b) Inform the media about events organized by local-level access groups and access coordination committees. Visit media managers, newspaper editors and television directors to underline the need for improvement of the quality of coverage of access issues.
(c) Disseminate a guide on media communication concerning people with disabilities. The guide should include appropriate terminology for describing persons with disabilities.
(d) Provide media personnel with:
(i) Information on the barriers encountered by persons with disabilities and elderly persons. Include information on persons with epilepsy, cerebral palsy, schizophrenia, deafness, developmental disabilities and physical disabilities;
(ii) Examples of the successful removal of barriers to the built environment (ramps for wheelchair users, audible crossing signals for blind persons and modified public telephones for persons with a hearing impairment);
(iii) Human interest stories on and profiles of persons with disabilities. The focus of these should be on abilities and human dignity, and not on disabilities These should be in a form that can easily be adapted by journalists or used by them to conduct interviews with the persons concerned.
(iv) Articles and feature items that question local superstitions and beliefs concerning disability, as a step towards improving attitudes towards persons with disabilities.
4. Forming a speakers' bureau in the community

(Based on Independence, That's Living!: Organisation Handbook, National Access Awareness Week: Integrating Disabled Persons, June 4-10, 1989, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, p.19.)

By visiting schools, civic clubs and local businesses and offices, organizations of people with disabilities and elderly persons can disseminate information on disabilities and barrier-free environments. The following suggestions may be pursued:

(a) Find out if there is a speakers' bureau representing organizations of people with disabilities in the community. If there is none, ask local organizations of persons with disabilities and elderly persons to propose members who have sufficient knowledge of access issues and who would be willing to speak on those issues. Compile a list of speakers from a variety of disability groups.
(b) Appoint a person to coordinate the speakers' bureau.
(c) Compile a presentation package, including slides, video clips, brochures and handbooks, for the speakers' use.
(d) Arrange for potential speakers to receive training in public speaking and briefing meetings.
(e) Prepare handouts and information kits on access issues.
(f) Discuss questions that may arise and appropriate answers.
(g) Contact civic clubs, schools, women's groups, business associations and other groups, to inform them of the availability of speakers.
5. Approach to the rural community

A considerable gap in the level of public awareness towards disability exists between the urban and rural areas. In the preparation of public awareness programs, consideration should be given to the diverse requirements of urban and rural communities. In the case of rural communities, the following strategies should be considered:

(a) Identification of opinion leaders at the village level such as administrative heads, religious leaders, primary school teachers and community workers, to sensitize them to the needs of persons with disabilities and elderly persons;
(b) Use of folk or traditional media (e.g., puppetry and shadow play in local languages and dialects) as campaign materials for the dissemination of messages on themes stressing the need for barrier-free environments in the rural areas, to dispel prevailing myths and superstitions about disability as punishment for sins committed, and encourage villagers to accept measures for the prevention of the causes of disability and the rehabilitation of persons with disabilities.
6. Launching a National Access Awareness Campaign

National Access Awareness Campaigns are aimed at encouraging government agencies, NGOs, private sector bodies and individuals to cooperate on access improvement.

The goal of a National Access Awareness Campaign is to provide an opportunity for individuals and communities to improve the quality of life of all citizens by identifying and removing the barriers that restrict access for some groups.

After setting up a National Access Awareness Campaign, activities must be sustained as part of a growing process (see Annex VI: National Access Awareness Week Campaign).

People with campaign experience and knowledge of access issues as faced by persons with disabilities and elderly people must be integrated into the structure of a campaign at all levels. Clear and realistic targets must be set at the start of a campaign, if full integration is to occur.

The national executive committee of a campaign should provide policy guidance and conduct public relations affairs. This committee should oversee all aspects of the access campaign and be the direct point of contact for sponsors and participants. The chairperson should preferably be a person with a disability who has technical competence on addressing access issues. The committee needs to consist of representatives from government agencies, NGOs, including organizations of persons with disabilities and elderly persons and the private sector.

National Access Awareness Weeks can be organized as part of the campaign process to give new impetus to long-term endeavours. Progress should be reviewed and new goals planned yearly.


D. Training on Access Issues

Continuous training is of critical importance to the long-term success of access promotion. Professionals who are introduced to access issues at college or university should attend periodic refresher courses to update them on current developments. New legislation and standards can be incorporated into these sessions. It is equally important for building maintenance staff and media personnel to attend these training courses.

Persons with disabilities must participate in the training courses. They can give first-hand accounts of their experiences and suggest improvements. Access training is always far more effective if the trainees can discuss issues with those who are directly affected by them.

Disability simulation exercises (The disability simulation exercise as described here is based on that developed by the Asia Training Centre on Ageing, HelpAge International, Chiang Mai, Thailand (see Annex VII: "Disability Simulation Exercise" for details).) can assist in improving understanding among non-disabled persons of how it feels to live with a disability in an insensitive environment which is not user-friendly. The length of time spent on a simulation exercise can vary. Overnight exercises can be especially beneficial for experiencing first hand a wide range of social and physical barriers encountered by persons with disabilities. Experiences can be discussed in detail the following morning. The exercise should be conducted or supervised by an experienced instructor.

When used during a public awareness event, simulation exercises can attract a great deal of media attention. It is especially beneficial if popular public figures take part in such events.


E. Regional Cooperation

Considerable imbalance exists in the degree of accessibility of the built environment in different parts of the ESCAP region and between the urban and rural areas within countries. Lack of information and awareness, especially in ESCAP developing countries, contributes to this imbalance. The present guidelines on the promotion of barrier-free environments have been developed as a tool to improve overall accessibility in the region. Close regional cooperation would greatly facilitate their implementation.

The following is a list of some regional organizations in the ESCAP region which could network and cooperate on access issues:


Regional NGO Network for the Promotion of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons
Secretariat: c/o Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons
1-22-1, Toyama
Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162
(Tel: 81-3-5273-0601, Fax: 81-3-5273-1523)
South Asian Network of Self-help Organizations of People with Disabilities
c/o Social Assistance and Rehabilitation for Physically Vulnerable
1/2, Kazi Nazrul Islam Road
Mohammadpur, Dhaka 1207
(Tel: 880 2327611, Fax: 880 2 819774)
National Federation of the Blind
2322, Laxmi Naraen Street
Pahar Ganji, New Delhi 55
(Tel: 91-11-521885; Fax: 91-11-7522410)
Disabled Peoples' International, Asia and the Pacific Regional Council
Regional Programme Development Office
20 Don Vincente Street
Don Antonio Heights, Commonwealth Avenue
Quezon City 1121
The Philippines
(Tel/fax: 63 2 931 0539)
Rehabilitation International, Office of the Regional Committee for Asia and the Pacific
c/o The Hong Kong Council of Social Service
Duke of Windsor Social Service Building
15 Hennessy Road, 12/F
Hong Kong
(Tel: 864-2929, Fax: 865-4916)
World Federation of the Deaf (Regional Secretariat in Asia and Pacific)
c/o S.K. Building
130 Yamabukicho, Shinjuku-ku
(Tel: 81-3-3268-8847, Fax: 81-3-3267-3445)
World Blind Union
Asian Blind Union: c/o President
V-E, 20/13, Mehar Manzil
Nazimabad #5
Karachi 74600
(Tel: 6681897, 6612391, Fax: 6681898, 7729935)
East Asia: c/o Hong Kong Association of the Blind
2 Flint Road
Kowloon Tong, Kowloon
Hong Kong
(Tel: 852-3384231, Fax: 852-3387850)
The Pacific: c/o Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind
39 George St.
Newmarket, Private Bag 99941
Newmarket, Auckland
New Zealand (Tel: 0-9-309 6333, Tel: Private: 0-9-523 1332, Fax: 0-9-366 0099)
HelpAge International, Asia Training Centre on Ageing
c/o Faculty of Nursing
Chiang Mai University
Chiang Mai 50200
Thailand (Tel: 66-53-221-294 and 221-122 Ext. 5045, Fax: 66-53-221-294 and 217-145)
Regional Network of Local Authorities for the Management of Human Settlements (CITYNET)
Secretariat: 5F International Organizations Centre
1-1-1 Minato Mirai
Nishi-ku, Yokohama 220
(Tel: 81-45-223-2161, Fax: 81-45-223-2162)
Network of Human Settlements Training, Research and Information Institutes in Asia and the Pacific (TRISHNET)
Contact: Human Settlements Section
Rural and Urban Development Division, ESCAP
UN Building, Rajdamnern Avenue
Bangkok, 10200
(Tel: 662-288-1234, Fax: 662-288-1000)
Asia Pacific 2000, Urban Management Program
Regional Coordinator, c/o United Nations Development Program
Wisma UN Block C
Komplek Pejabat Damansara
Jalan Dungun, Damansara Heights
50490 Kuala Lumpur
(Tel: 2559122-2559133, Fax: 2552870)
International Union of Local Authorities (IULA)
c/o Secretary-General, Asian and Pacific Section
8, Pahlawan Kalibata Street
Jakarta, 12740
(Tel: 62-021-7982659, Fax: 62-021-354447)
Architects Regional Council Asia (ARCASIA)
c/o 2nd Floor Prudential Bank Building
Ortigas Avenue, Greenhills
San Juan, Metro Manila
Philippines 1503
(Tel: (632) 7211661-62, Fax: (632) 7212518)

ESCAP Guideline contents

Chapter IV: Access Policy Provisions and Legislation


A. Introduction

The formulation of access policies and the enactment of access legislation are the most effective means to ensure the right of persons with disabilities and elderly people to use the built environment.

The Agenda for Action for the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, 1993-2002, recommends the:

Enactment of legislation aimed at the elimination of architectural and logistical barriers to freedom of movement for citizens with disabilities, including incentives, in order to encourage:

(a) Private and public sector involvement in improving accessibility of the built environment;
(b) Facilitation of the use, by persons with disabilities, of land, air and water transport systems.
Effective access legislation should result in the creation of more accessible environments. Legislation should stipulate a continuous and accessible path of travel around, to and within buildings, transport and other facilities used by members of the public.

Many buildings and transport systems, considered to be accessible, provide isolated accessible facilities, but this is not enough. This facilitates much greater ease of access for elderly persons and persons with disabilities.

Access legislation needs to cover persons with:

(a) Physical disabilities, ambulant or not;
(b) Sensory disabilities, including impaired vision and impaired hearing; and
(c) Intellectual, developmental and psychological disabilities.
All guidelines, standards and legislation should be developed and strengthened through consultation, monitoring and reviews on a regular basis and a time-frame for such reviews should be stipulated in the guidelines, standards and access legislation itself. Continuous revision of the relevant guidelines, codes and legislation is needed if a barrier-free environment is to be maintained properly.

Revision procedures should include consultations with Government, owners of buildings, owners of transport, persons with disabilities and elderly people. The establishment of Access Committees (see Annex V) to liaise between Government and community members is an effective way of encouraging the implementation of access legislation.

Concerning implementation of access legislation, consideration needs to be given to time-frames for achieving accessible environments and the relationship between access legislation and the wide and complex range of other built environment legislation. Efforts to resolve any conflicts that may arise between access legislation and policy provisions and safety regulations may be undertaken, aimed at avoiding misconception about access legislation as being opposed to safety regulations.


B. Defintions

The following terms are commonly used in relation to legislation and policies concerning the promotion of barrier-free environments:

Access legislation: An enactment passed either by national, provincial or State legislatures, or by any body empowered by the respective constitution to legislate, in order to provide people with disabilities and elderly persons with access to the built environment; it may cover the following areas: buildings, public facilities, roads and transport systems.

Anti-discrimination legislation: An enactment passed either by national, provincial or the state legislature, or by any body empowered by the respective constitution to legislate in order to provide people with disabilities and elderly persons with a legal right against discrimination on the grounds of disability or old age.

Access policy provision: An administrative order issued by the Government (national, provincial or State, and local), which stipulates concessions (e.g., tax deductions or travel concessions) or incentives (e.g., preferential treatment in the allotment of construction sites) to promote the accessibility of the built environment for people with disabilities and elderly persons.

Access standards: Specifications for means of access to buildings, public facilities, roads and transport systems.

Amendment: Modification of a law, by-laws, as well as rules and regulations, in the form of additions, alterations or repeals of provisions of such law, bylaws, as well as rules and regulations, e.g., building codes and building by-laws.

Bill: A draft law which is being considered by the legislature for possible enactment.

Building code: A document which specifies the basic features of and requirements for a completed building. It is approved by the supreme legislative authority of a country or territory and serves as the basis for the development of building standards and by-laws throughout the country or territory. A building code may be amended.

Building by-laws: Rules and regulations framed and approved by local Government, which specify the procedures for application for permission to build and certification of completion of building and readiness for occupancy; the rules and regulations also include specifications which are based on those contained in the building code and standards of the country or territory.

Building standards: Specifications (e.g., dimensions of approaches to buildings) for different features (e.g., fire safety measures or light controls) and parts (e.g., corridors) of buildings as contained in a building code.

Certificate of Fitness or Certificate of Occupancy: Permission for a building to be occupied.

Decree: An administrative or quasi-judicial order and/or a law issued either by parliament, ministries at different levels, local government or Head of State. Ministerial decrees (national or provincial), local government decrees and parliamentary decrees are policies and are, therefore, not enforceable by law. Presidential decrees are, in some political systems, legally enforceable.

Design guidelines: A policy document detailing accessibility features and building design criteria.

Enabling provisions: Rules and regulations formulated to implement and enforce an enactment.

Enactment: A law passed by national, provincial or state legislatures or a body empowered by the respective constitution to legislate.

Gazette: Notification of the contents of the law passed by the competent body and the date of its coming into force.

Government Order: This is issued by a local Government or ministry (national or provincial) for implementation of a policy or for internal administration (e.g., allocation of functions to diverse ministries and to sections within the issuing authority). A Government Order may also be referred to as an Executive Order.

Ordinance: A law promulgated by the Head of State, on the advice of the Cabinet, for temporary application (e.g., on an urgent basis when parliament is not in session) and subsequent adoption by the legislature for permanent application.

Rules and regulations: Mandatory rules and regulations are formulated to implement and enforce a law. Administrative rules and regulations are formulated to implement a policy.

Statute: A law which has come into force.


C. Approaches to the Promotion of Barrier-free Environments

1. Initiative approach

This approach focuses on increasing the sensitivity and responsiveness of various sectors of society to the access needs of persons with disabilities and elderly persons, so that these sectors may play an active role in access promotion. The various sectors include individuals, government officials, politicians, trade unions, private sectors and non-governmental organizations.

2. Social responsibility approach

Although social responsibility arises as part of public concern for commitment to the promotion of barrier-free environments, it is not the same as public awareness. This is because awareness of the need to create a barrier-free environment does not necessarily incorporate a moral obligation to do so. Moral obligation can be brought about by educating society about the difficulties faced by persons with disabilities and elderly people in an environment full of barriers. This approach emphasizes the fulfilment of the responsibility of various sectors of society to contribute to the elimination of barriers encountered by people with disabilities and elderly persons. Action taken in this regard is directed at publicizing good efforts through positive publicity and discouraging bad examples through negative publicity.

3. Good practice approach

This approach is closely related to the social responsibility approach, and shows that creating a barrier-free environment could be incorporated into everyday thinking in society. It is directed at generating positive examples of access promotion as a means of encouraging similar efforts on a larger scale.

4. Mandatory approach

This approach is based on pressure from legal instruments or administrative decrees. In the case of non-compliance, penalties such as fines or demolition of the building may be imposed.

5. Incentive-disincentive approach

In this approach the promotion of accessibility is encouraged by a combination of incentives, such as the awarding of government building contracts or soft loans for purchases, and disincentives, such as the withholding of permits or refusal to grant preferential rates for the purchase of construction sites.

6. Economic approach

This approach focuses on increasing the involvement of various sectors of society in the promotion of an accessible built environment for persons with disabilities and elderly people by publicizing the cost effectiveness and other consequential economic benefits of accessible built environments.

7. Combination of the above approaches in an overall strategy

An overall strategy for the promotion of barrier-free environments would include a combination of the above approaches. At different stages, a particular approach may be more useful, depending on the key person or organization whose participation is to be encouraged and the desired outcome obtained.


D. Development of Access Policy Provisions and Legislation


1. Objectives

The objectives of access policy provisions and legislation may include the following:

(a) The promotion of barrier-free built environments for all citizens; and
(b) The integration into the planning and design of built environments of the access requirements of people with disabilities, elderly persons, children and expectant and nursing women.
The involvement of grassroots organizations, concerned individual citizens, government agencies and the mass media is a prerequisite for the development of access policy provisions and legislation.

2. The main stages in the development of access policy provisions and legislation

The process for the development of access policy provisions and legislation may be envisaged in terms of five main stages:

(a) Pre-formulation: The mobilization of the support of grassroots organizations, parliamentarians, government officials, political parties, and establishment of linkages among grassroots organizations, professional associations and government agencies and the providers of community services.
(b) Formulation: The drafting of access policy provisions and/or legislation; ascertaining public opinion about the drafts; the revision and finalization of drafts; and promotion of public support and enactment.
(c) Implementation: The application of access policy provisions and/or legislation to create more accessible built environments.
(d) Enforcement: The award of incentives to encourage observance of access policy provisions and/or legislation; actions to discourage, through disincentives, or punish, through penalties, in the event of breaches or non-compliance;
(e) Monitoring: The review of the effectiveness of access policy provisions and/or legislation; and the proposal of amendment(s).
3. Pre-formulation

(a) Mobilization of grassroots support

Self-help organizations of people with disabilities and elderly persons have a critical role to play throughout in the process for the development of access policy provisions and/or legislation. In order to fulfil this responsibility, they should acquire basic technical knowledge of access issues and the skills for dialogue and cooperative action with the concerned sectors of Government and society.

A self-help organization may consider developing an access team drawn from its members and concerned professionals. Such a team may include prominent and skilled persons with disabilities who may play an important role in mobilizing grassroots support. The team's tasks would be to:

  • Develop training courses on access issues and the legal aspects of those issues for their constituents;
  • Serve as a resource for government initiatives to promote accessibility;
  • Advocate in diverse forums the need for access standards and their adoption by a statutory body;
  • Solicit the support of legislators for the formulation of access policy provisions and/or legislation.
NGOs which provide services should serve as a resource for and participate in information exchange.

(b) Role of key persons and organizations in the development of access policy provisions andlor legislation

The relevant government agencies should develop, in consultation with knowledgeable representatives of selfhelp organizations and professional associations, training courses on access issues for concerned government officials.

National bureaux or institutes of standards should, in consultation with concerned organizations, develop policy documents pertaining to access standards and design guidelines for barrier-free built environments.

Urban planners should include the access requirements of people with disabilities, elderly persons, children and expectant and nursing women in the preparation of plans for towns and cities.

Government officials responsible for rural planning and development should incorporate the access requirements of people with disabilities, elderly persons, children and expectant and nursing women into all areas and stages of their substantive and administrative responsibilities.

Government officials and legislators play a vital role throughout the process of developing access policy provisions and legislation at national, provincial or regional and municipal levels. The following actions may be taken by government officials to formulate access policy and/or legislation:

  • Identify, in close consultation with NGOs, including self-help organizations of people with ctisabilities and elderly persons, the access needs of diverse social groups.
  • Mobilize the concerned sectors of society for involvement in a committee to be composed of representatives of diverse disability groups, elderly persons, children and women, administrators, professionals (e.g., architects and urban planners) and service providers (e.g., transport). In the case of provincial and municipal governments, representatives of local authorities should also be committee members.
  • Request the committee to submit recommendations on access policy provisions and/or legislation. The tasks of the committee would be as follows:
    a. To confirm the purpose, task and scope of access policy provisions and access legislation;
    b. To clarify the access needs of persons with disabilities and elderly persons;
    c. To develop a list of the points to be checked through a community survey;
    d. To conduct a survey of access needs and consult persons with disabilities and elderly people on the validity of survey findings;
    e. To review the outcome of the survey and decide on the content of the proposed access policy and law;
    f. To prepare a draft report containing the survey findings and draft policies and/or legislation for submission to the concerned government official for approval and further action.
    g. To formulate a draft policy or law.
    h. To coordinate the review of the draft policy and/or law by concerned sectors of society.
    i. To finalize the draft policy and/or law.
    j. To submit the finalized draft law to the legislature for approval and adoption.
    k. To attend and defend the draft law in the legislature.
    l. To conduct a campaign to promote support for implementation using the following means: brochures or leaflets, video cassettes, seminars and training courses, as well as the mass media. The campaign would be directed at the general public, professionals, persons with disabilities, elderly people and other user groups, as well as service providers.
    m. To enforce the law through administrative procedures, which should include the issuance of building permits.
    n. To monitor continuously and review the law in consultation with all user groups.
4. Role of government officials and legislators

(a) Survey

Prior to the formulation of policy and/or legislation, a survey should be conducted. The purpose of the survey should be to identify obstacles in the built environment encountered by user groups. There are at least two approaches to conducting a survey: either an area within an approximate radius of 2-3 km from a public facility (e.g., a railway station) could be chosen for the survey, or the survey could be conducted in and around selected types of public facilities, such as community centres, government offices and shops.

The following check-list may be used as a survey tool to ascertain the extent of accessibility of the built environment.

Checklist for survey of accessibility of the built environment (Source: Konkkola, Maija (1980), Barriers in the Built Environment and their Elimination, Paper presented to ICTA Seminar on Accessibility, Winnipeg, Canada, 1980.)


Area Surveyed Features to be Checked
Routes width
Openings width
Stairs handrail
Ramps width
Tunnels and overhead walkways stairs, ramps
lighting (tunnels)
acoustics (tunnels)
Fixtures location
Fixed barriers, moving barriers, temporary barriers protection
Signs location
Pedestrain island directions
Pedestrian crossings border stones
Pedestrian crossing signs location
shape of post
Traffic lights duration of green light
walk light
sound signal
Other trafic signs location
shape of post
Bus stop and street car stops location
Bus stop platforms location
Taxi stations location
Parking connections
places for cars owned by persons with disabilities
Parks routes
Playgrounds routes
Squares routes
Public baths width
tap height
ingress provision
Public toilets width
tap height
ingress provision
height of urinals
Religious centers dimensions of doors
ramp gradient
Village markets width of the street
communication barriers
Causeways and gullies handrails
Wells parapet walls


The survey findings should be discussed in appropriate forums. For this task, a barrier-free environment survey committee could be formed. The committee could include the following: architects, local self-help organizations of persons with disabilities and elderly persons, relevant local authority officials and owners of buildings surveyed.

For the committee to be optimally functional, the number of members could be between 15 to 25. Subsequent to its deliberations on the survey findings, the committee should develop the necessary guidelines, codes and standards for the creation of a barrier-free built environment.

The guidelines, codes and standards would need to be periodically reviewed for the following reasons:

  • To enhance their comprehensiveness;
  • To address new needs and requirements that might emerge from time to time; and
  • To facilitate revision of their implementation and effectiveness.
5. Formulation

(a) Legal structure

The following are examples of the legal structures of three political systems in the ESCAP region, which could be adapted to suit the needs of individual ESCAP members and associate members:

Example I: A republican structure

Decree of Parliament
Government Regulations
Presidential Decrees
Ministerial Decrees
Other Decrees (Administrative Decrees)
Example II: A federal structure
Rules and Regualtions
State Enactments
Other Decrees (Administrative Decrees)
Example III: A socialist structure
Presidium Dcrees (Laws)
People's Congress Decrees
Other Decrees (Administrative Decrees)
The three examples above underline the legislative hierarchy within which a legal structure operates. The hierarchy of each example determines the division of subjects (e.g., transport, roads or buildings) among legislative bodies at different levels. As transport is a national subject, parliament or the president would be competent to legislate on matters concerning transport. Similarly, as buildings are a local subject, the provincial or state legislature, or local Government, has the competence to legislate on it.

(b) Formulation ot access policy provisions and legislation

With respect to access policy provisions and legislation, two options are possible:

  • Formulation of a separate access policy and/or legislation, as distinct from relevant policies and legislation; or
  • Integration of access standards and design guidelines into relevant policies and legislation like building by-laws.
The advantage of a separate access policy and/or legislation is that it could address in a comprehensive manner the access needs of all groups in society. However, the process for its formulation and implementation may be more lengthy and difficult than if access concerns were to be integrated into the relevant policies and legislation.

An integrated approach has the merit of more expeditious formulation, effective implementation, enforcement and monitoring through mechanisms that already exist for related policies and legislation. In the integrated approach, it may, however, be difficult to cover the special access needs of a particular group.

A consultative mechanism, e.g., an access committee, may be formed. Concerning policy and legislation matters, the committee would assist the Government in identifying access needs and in formulating policy provisions and legislation. The committee may be composed of representatives of diverse government agencies, NGOs and individuals in their professional capacity.

(c) Access policy provisions

Government agencies should consult with self-help organizations in the formulation and finalization of access policy provisions. Preparations should include the matching of access needs with related policy provisions and legislation.

Access standards and design guidelines are typical examples of access policy provisions. National access policy in its draft form should be circulated to all self-help organizations for their comments. Following consideration of the views received, the draft policy should be revised and adopted by the concerned ministry. An access policy should be presented to parliament for adoption in order to strengthen its morally binding force for implementation purposes.

(d) Access legislation

There may be policy provisions, e.g., access standards and design guidelines, which could be considered for enactment. Methods which are useful for creating a conducive milieu for enactment include:

  • Development of close relations with television and radio correspondents and print media journalists;
  • Lobbying with legislators, political parties, as well as community and religious leaders;
  • Submission of a public petition for enactment on meeting access needs to the speakers of parliament or state legislative assemblies;
  • Tabling of reports on a regular basis to parliament or state legislative assemblies on progress in the promotion of access to built environments by concerned ministers; and
  • Submission of memoranda to political, legislative and administrative forums at all levels, including their chief executives, e.g., prime minister, chief ministers, governors, mayors and village chiefs.
An enactment could be in the form of a government-sponsored bill or one sponsored by members of parliament or state legislative assemblies. Depending on the political system, such a bill would be discussed in either two or three stages. It is possible that a bill introduced by individual members of parliament or state legislative assemblies is not passed. Government-sponsored bills are usually passed. After a bill is passed, it is sent to the Head of State for assent. The bill becomes an Act only after its notification in the official Gazette of the date on which it comes into force.

In some cases, presidential or ministerial decrees could be passed to legislate on access issues. Similarly, decrees in the form of law could also be issued by local Governments. Thus, it is possible to have access legislation at national, provincial or State and local levels.

Consideration may be given to the enactment of access legislation in addition to but not in conflict with related legislation pertaining to the built environment. For example, if, in building bylaws, it is stipulated that ramp gradients should be 1 in 10, while in access legislation, it could be 1 in 20, this provision in access legislation should prevail over the corresponding provision of building by-laws.

To facilitate the application of access legislation there may be provision for exemption from implementation. However, such exemption should be granted only in exceptional circumstances, when it is difficult, either in the short term or in the long term, to introduce adaptation in accordance with the law. For example, in the case of a religious, cultural or historically significant building, if it would not be possible to adapt such a building to meet the requirements of the access legislation, without offending religious and cultural sentiments and without marring the historical significance of such a building, the granting of exemption may be considered.

(e) Scope and coverage of access policy provisions and legislation

Access policy provisions and legislation should address the access needs of all disability groups, elderly persons, children and expectant and nursing women. Those policy provisions and legislation should apply to:

  • Buildings (all types, new and old, including government- and private sector-owned);
Access policy and legislation should apply to new buildings from the planning to certification of fitness stage. In the case of old buildings, a reasonable moratorium period (e.g., two to four years), in accordance with local conditions, may be provided in access policy and legislation. However, no extension of such a moratorium should be stipulated.
  • Public facilities;
The term "public facilities" covers all places and amenities which members of the public have a right to use.
  • Roads and inland waterways;
Access policy and legislation may stipulate the statutory responsibility of concerned authorities to cover manholes, drainage and sewerage systems, as well as to regularly maintain roads, footpaths, walkways, pedestrian crossings, road dividers and overhead bridges.

Access policy and legislation should also stipulate a statutory obligation upon the concerned authorities to provide for access features on jetties and piers so that all social groups may use inland waterways.

  • Transport systems.
Policy and legislation should provide for access to all means of land, water and air transport systems. Vehicles which are in use should also be covered by such policy and legislation. A moratorium (one to two years) could be stipulated for introducing access features into those vehicles. For example, policy and legislation may stipulate either a phasing out of high-bodied buses within the moratorium or changing those buses into low-bodied ones, with provision for platforms at bus stops.

Each of the above subjects falls within the scope of different government agencies. It is possible that separate policy provisions and legislation may be enacted for each one.

Public facilities: examples


Nature of public facilities Examples
Educational Creche, kindergarten, day care centre, school, vocational training centre, library, college and university.
Work place Office, research centre, factory and workshop.
Administrative Parliament, State Legislative Assembly building, municipal office, Ministerial residence, government office, law court and prison.
Social service Community centre, youth centre, hostel or home, refugee camp, public toilet and bath-house.
Water sources Standpipe, water tank, well and community tap.
Health care Primary health care station, mother and child health care clinic, rehabilitation centre, hospital and private clinic.
Commercial Bank, post office, bazaar, shopping mall, supermarket, department store, launderette, stock exchange, hotel and restaurant.
Communications Telephone booth and system.
Cultural, religious, recreational and sports Art gallery, museum, fair, zoo,amusement park, public garden, cultural centre, theatre, cinema, places of worship, sports centre, stadium and swimming pool.
Traffic Road divider, traffic island, traffic lights system, walkway, footpath and overhead bridge; jetty, pier, port, car park, bus stop, railway station, subway station and airport.

6. Implementation

Access policy and legislation may, in the first instance, be implemented by existing agencies or authorities responsible for the implementation of building regulations, maintenance of public facilities, roads and inland waterways, and transport systems. Municipal officers and officials of transport corporations are examples of existing implementation mechanisms. It may, however, be useful to provide for supplementary implementation mechanisms, e.g., access committees under concerned government agencies, information services, as well as access officers, patrols and perhaps an ombudsman.

The incentive-disincentive approach may be helpful in the implementation of access policy. Many incentive schemes may be considered, e.g., government subsidies, soft loans, tax deductions, preferential treatment in the allotment of new construction sites and the award of government contracts in the event of satisfactory compliance.

Buildings, public facilities, roads and inland waterways and transport systems are regulated through a variety of procedures. One example of the procedure concerning building construction activity is that building plans and an application for permission to build are required to be submitted prior to any construction activity. The competent authority examines the building plans with reference to conditions set out in the building by-laws for the construction of that type of building. Permission to build is granted if the building plans are in accordance with those conditions. Upon completion of the building, but before it is occupied, a certificate of fitness is required to be obtained from the competent authority.

7. Enforcement

The methods of and mechanisms for enforcement of access policy and legislation may differ. This is because access policy does not have legal sanction.

(a) Access policy

The enforcement of access policy is distinct from its implementation. While implementation is the procedure for translating policy into action, enforcement is the procedure for ensuring its compliance through punitive measures. Punitive measures range from negative publicity of non-compliance to the imposition of fines. Enforcement authorities are the same as those responsible for implementation.

(b) Access legislation

An effective provision for enforcement should be included in access legislation. Such a provision may stipulate the right of all users of the built environment to take legal recourse in the event that there is a breach in the compliance of the legislation. Thus, consideration may be given to the inclusion of a provision for users to claim damages should there be a lapse or omission in the discharge of a statutory responsibility. In the event of non-compliance, the following punitive measures may be considered for inclusion in access legislation to deal with violations:

  • Disqualifying a builder from applying for a building permit, or a vehicle manufacturer from applying for an industrial licence;
  • Disqualifying a builder or vehicle manufacturer from obtaining government subsidies or loans;
  • Disqualifying a builder from participating in any government contract or tender;
  • Imposition of fines; and/or
  • Passing an order of demolition.
Courts of law may be an effective enforcement mechanism. The setting up of special courts for the enforcement of access legislation could also be included in access legislation. Consumer protection forums may be used for the enforcement of access legislation.

8. Monitoring and reviewing

To enhance and sustain the positive outcomes of implementation, regular monitoring of the results is necessary. Provision for periodic review of access policy and/or legislation may be included. Users and consumer associations should be involved in monitoring and reviewing. Paralegal education and training should be provided for those involved. Mass media campaigns should be used to support implementation.

9. Strengthening access policy provisions and legislation

Continuous improvements in the availability of technology and the changing needs of users of the built environment mean that access policies and legislation require continuous updating. This can be done with amendments, taking feedback generated from monitoring and reviewing into consideration. For access policies, there is no fixed procedure for amendment. It is, therefore, relatively easy to amend these. The constitutional procedure for amending an Act has to be observed for access legislation.

ESCAP Non-handicapping Environments contents

Annex I Requirements for Buildings and Related Structures

Promotion of Non-Handicapping Physical Environments

by ESCAP, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, 1995

(Sources: Accessibility Law and Its Implementing Rules and Regulations, National Council for the Welfare of Disabled Persons, Metro Manila, Philippines, 1990; Code on Barrier-Free Accessibility in Buildings-1990, Public Works Department, Building Control Division, Singapore; Barrier-Free Design: A National Standard of Canada, Canadian Standards Association, Canada, 1990.)

1. Classification of Components of the Built Environment


Category Purpose
1 Residential
2 Commercial
3 Industrial
4 Health Care
5 Educational
6 Community
7 Agricultural
8 Transportation

It is suggested that items listed under all categories comply with the access specifications for both government and privately-owned components of the built environment.

Category 1: Residential

(a) Single detached, single dwelling units and duplex units;
(b) Staff housing, multiple dwelling and high-rise residential units and tenements;
(c) Tenement houses, row houses, apartments, town houses;
(d) Hotels, motels, inns, guest-houses, boarding houses, private dormitories and other public lodging.

Category 2: Commercial

(a) Office buildings;
(b) Financial institutions;
(c) Shopping centres, supermarkets and public markets;
(d) Restaurants, dining and drinking establishments;
(e) General wholesale and retail stores;
(f) Amusement halls;
(g) Massage and sauna establishments;
(h) Funeral parlours, morgues and crematoria;
(i) Car parks.

Category 3: Industrial

(a) Factories and workshops using incombustible or non-explosive materials;
(b) Breweries, bottling plants, canneries and tanneries;
(c) Woodwork establishments and timber yards;
(d) Pulp and paper factories;
(e) Textile and fibre mills;
(f) Garment factories;
(g) Toys and games factories.

Category 4: Health Care Institutions

(a) Hospitals and sanatoria;
(b) Rehabilitation centres;
(c) Medical clinics;
(d) Psychiatric hospitals;
(e) Nursing homes;
(f) Homes for elderly persons.

Category 5: Educational Establishments

(a) Schools, colleges and universities;
(b) Vocational training schools;
(c) Seminar halls;

The above should include classrooms, libraries, common rooms, toilets and changing rooms, auditoria, lecture halls, assembly halls, theatres, concert halls, gymnasia and sports facilities.

Category 6: Community

(a) Theatres, cinemas, auditoria and convention halls;
(b) Concert halls and opera houses;
(c) Libraries, museums, exhibition halls and art galleries;
(d) Civic centres and cultural centres;
(e) Churches, temples, mosques and other religious buildings;
(f) Clubhouses, lodges and social clubs;
(g) Stadiums, sports complexes and arenas;
(h) Recreational centres;
(i) Camping grounds;
(]) Parks and gardens;
(k) Public show grounds;
(l) Information centres and booths;
(m) Orphanages;
(n) Police and fire stations;
(o) Law courts;
(p) Post offices;
(q) Social services/welfare centres;
(r) Jails, prisons and reformatories and correctional institutions.

Category 7: Agricultural

(a) Nurseries, orchards and vegetable gardens;
(b) Dairies and creameries;
(c) Granaries and rice mills;
(d) Fish ponds;
(e) Livestock/animal sheds.

Category 8: Transport

(a) Bus stops, depots and terminals;
(b) Taxi stops;
(c) Train stations;
(d) Under/overground train stations and terminals;
(e) Tram stops;
(f) Ports and harbour facilities, landing piers, sheds and ferry landing stations;
(g) Airport terminal buildings and heliports;
(h) Transport offices.

Both the "classification of buildings" and the "categories" are for guidance purposes and may be adapted to suit the users' needs and other social conditions.

2. Access Provisions for Selected Buildings in Categories 1 to 8

In addition to the specifications cited for categories 1 to 8, the following access provisions are suggested:


Type of Building Minimum Provisions
Single detached, single dwelling units and duplex units A minimum of 10 per cent of the total number of units to be constructed with barrier-free features.
Staff housing, multiple dwelling and high-rise residential units and tenements A minimum of 1 unit for every 25, plus 1 additional unit for every 100 units thereafter. Entrances and exits to be accessible.
Tenement houses, row houses, apartments and town houses A minimum of 1 unit for up to 150 units, and a minimum of 1 additional unit for every 100 units thereafter to be accessible
Post offices, banks and financial service institutions A minimum of 1 lowered service counter on the premises.

A minimum of 1 lowered automatic teller machine (ATM)I/cash disbursement point on the premises.

Stamp vending machine.

Shophouses and single-storey shops Accessible shopping area.
Places of worship Entrances and exits and main area of worship to be accessible.

Mosques: access to area for ablutions;

Churches: access to confessionals, fonts and chapels;

Temples: access to shrines and courtyards

Food centres A minimum of 1 table without stools or seats attached to the floor for every 10 tables.

A minimum of 2 tables without stools or seats attached to the floor for the whole premises.

Community centres, village halls, auditoria concert halls, assembly halls, cinemas, theatres and places of public assembly Accessible entrances, exists, aisles and main community or public gathering areas.

Accessible toilet facilities should be nearby.

Seating for persons with disabilities to be accessible from main entrances and lobbies.

Various seating/viewing choices to be provided for persons in wheelchairs throughout the main seating area.

A minimum of 2 wheelchair spaces for seating capacity up to 100 seats.

A minimum of 4 wheelchair spaces for seating capacity from over 100 to 400 seats.

A minimum of 1 per cent of the total for seating capacity exceeding 400 seats should be reserved for wheelchair users

Easily removable seats could be installed in wheelchair spaces

Audio loop system.

Department stores, supermarkets, arcades, public foyers and concourses Seats, possibly the "tip-up" type, should be provided for ambulant disabled persons who are unable to stand for long periods.

Space to accommodate wheelchairs should be provided.

Parking space Designated parking spaces for disabled drivers and passangers should be located as close as possible to main entrances to/exits from buildings.

The minimum number of accessible spaces to be provided is as follows:

  Total number of parking spaces in open car parks or car park buildings: Required minimum number accessible spaces:
  1 to 25 1
  26 to 50 2
  51 to 75 3
  76 to 100 4
  101 to 150 5
  151 to 200 6
  201 to 300 7
  301 to 400 8
  401 to 500 9
  over 500 2 per cent of total

3. Access Provisions for Public Transport


(a) Road transport


(i) Regulations should specify that new vehicles bought by public and private transport companies be acces-sible for people with disabilities. Studies indicate that buying a bus with lifts adds only 5 per cent to its cost.


(ii) Access regulations should specify modifications required for public buses which are already in use.


(iii) A minimum of four seats in all buses should be designated for persons with disabilities. Those seats should be near entrance/exit doors.


(iv) Adequate space for one wheel-chair should be provided in all buses.


(v) Parallel transport services for persons with disabilities who cannot use mainline systems are recommended.


(vi) Access regulations should be adapted to meet the needs OF rural com-munities.


(b) Rail transport (including local trains, under and overground trains and inter-city trains)


(i) Access regulations should stipu-late that new rail transport facilities must be accessible for persons with disabilities.


(ii) All mainline train stations must be modified to become accessible.


(iii) One car per existing train should be modified to incorporate access features.


(iv) A minimum of two seats per car should be designated for persons with disabilities. Those seats should be near entrance/exit doors.


(v) A minimum of one accessible toilet should be available near the above-mentioned seats.



(c) Sea and river transport (including ferries, as well as domestic and international passenger ships)


(i) Access regulations should stipulate that new sea/river transportation must be barrier-free.


(ii) A minimum of one deck in ferries and domestic and international passenger ships should be modified to incorporate access features.


(iii) Ramps, passageways, gang-ways, safety equipment and at least two berths or cabins must be modified to incorporate access features.


(d) Air transport (including do-mestic and international pas-senger aircrafts)


(i) Access regulations should stipu-late that new air transport facilities must be barrier-free.


(ii) A minimum of two seats near the entrance/exit doors in all domestic passenger aircraft should be available for persons with disabilities.


(iii) A minimum of one accessible toilet should be near the above-mentioned seats.

4. Access Provisions for Communications Systems


(a) Persons with hearing and speech impairments are often forced to depend on others in order to communi-cate by telephone. Access regulations should ensure that persons with disabili-ties have equal access to telephones and other modes of communication.


(b) All telecommunications services should include fax machines and telecommunications devices for deaf persons (TDD). A TDD can be used to send and receive non-verbal signals over telephone lines to other TDDs. The signals are received on paper and/or a display terminal.


(c) Direct access to emergency services should be available through fax machines or TDDs.


(d) Access regulations should en-sure that persons with impaired vision or hearing have easy access to information about the location of the above -mentioned services and facilities.


(e) Automatic indicator systems should be devised for persons with hearing impairment.


(f) Audio loop Systems should be installed for persons with hearing impairment.

5. Access Provision for Walkways, Roads and Highways


(a) Consideration must be given at all times to how pedestrians are to move around in the urban area. A comprehen-sive pedestrian system should be created to include the needs of disabled persons and elderly persons.


(b) Special attention should be given to the provision of effective pedes-trian links between bus and rail terminals.


(c) Pedestrian walkways should be as far as possible from vehicular traffic. Wherever possible, walkways should take the shortest and most level route as ramps may be difficult to use without assistance.


(d) At strategic points, walkways should meet the road network so that disabled persons and elderly persons can enter and leave vehicles easily and safely.


(e) The following list of facilities should be considered in barrier-free design plans:


a. Pedestrian crossings and walk-ways;
b. Footpaths, pavements and roads;
c. Off-street parking facilities;
d. On-street parking facilities for persons with disabilities;
e Transport stops;
f. Vehicular pick-up and drop-off zones;
g Dropped kerbs
h. Ramps;
i. Staircases and steps;
j. Audible traffic signals;
k. Tactile warning zones;
I. Tactile guide paths;
m. Colour-contrasted markings at pedestrian routes and crossings;
n. Signposts;
o. Street furniture;
p. Public telephones; and
q. Adequate gratings and covers for storm drains and manholes.

6. Design Requirements for Accessibility


(a) Criteria to be considered:

The types of disability and degree of frailty determine the various measures to be adopted to create an accessible environment for persons with disabilities and elderly persons. They may:


(a) Require the use of wheelchairs;


(b) Have difficulty in walking or require the use of braces, crutches, walking frame or other means of support;


(c) Have total or partial impairment of hearing or sight;


(d) Have poor or limited coordination of movement;


(e) Have a weak grip; and/or


(f) Suffer from other conditions due to old age.

The minimum and maximum dimensions for space in the built environment should therefore take into consideration the needs and conditions listed in (a) to (e) above. Considerations based on anthropometric and dimensional data may guide design.

The following criteria should be considered:


(a) Varying sizes of persons, the range of reach and vision in both standing and sitting positions;


(b) Data on the dimensions of assistive devices such as wheelchairs, the range of distance of crutches and other mobility devices; and


(c) Provision of adequate space for wheelchair mobility.


(b) Design elements

Design features for persons with disabilities and elderly persons should be given the same attention as fire regulations, structural standards and environmental control systems.

The following list of design elements needs to be considered when creating a barrier-free environment:


(i) Entrances to buildings;


(ii) Doors and thresholds;


(iii) Ramps;


(iv) Staircases and steps;


(v) Lifts (elevators);


(vi) Circulation and space within buildings;


(vii) Alarm signals;


(viii) Means of escape (in an emergency);


(ix) Sanitation facilities and fixtures;


(x) Environmental control facilities and fixtures, including fixtures;


(xi) Floor finishes;


(xii) Handrails or grab-bars;


(xiii) Windows and attachments;


(xiv) Information boards and signs;


(xv) Illumination;


(xvi) Communications facilities;


(xvii) Doors, covered handles, atches, taps and controls.

ESCAP Guideline contents