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Making it easier to get around

I always say, "No livelihood issue is too trivial." A month ago, when I attended the Question and Answer Session in the Legislative Council, I mentioned that during the district visits by me and my political team, many senior citizens asked the Government for lifts or escalators to be installed to help them get around. I believe that if more barrier-free facilities can be installed in all districts where necessary, such projects will respond to community aspirations and will benefit the people and be cherished.

Today I visited the footbridge across Connaught Road West starting from Eastern Street, Sai Ying Pun, where Central and Western District residents very much wish for a lift be added to help them get around. The footbridge connects the residential area to the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park and Swimming Pool Complex on the waterfront and the beautiful promenade. These are very popular amenities and recreational facilities for the local community.

I am glad to announce today that under the co-ordination of the Chief Secretary for Administration, three policy bureaux, namely the Transport and Housing Bureau, the Labour and Welfare Bureau and the Home Affairs Bureau, will work together to launch a new policy for an enhanced barrier-free environment to speed up the installation of facilities to offer more convenience to the community.

The Government has long provided barrier-free facilities like lifts and ramps at walkways of footbridges and subways in accordance with the law. The new policy will be a change from the current practice that gives priority to ramps. With an ageing population, we need to install facilities that are even more user-friendly than ramps for our senior citizens and the physically impaired.

Based on ongoing plans and requests from various districts, we have a total of 10 lift project items on hand that have started or are about to be installed. The Government has decided to add 160 items to the list. A further 60-plus project items are preliminary suggestions by District Councils and members of the local community. The footbridge connecting Eastern Street to Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park that I just visited is among these items.

These 230 items aside, we welcome further suggestions from the public on where lifts should be installed at walkways. Simply contact the Government 1823 Call Centre, use its mobile app, visit the relevant website or leave a wall post on the "1823 Online" Facebook Page on or before October 31, 2012.

The existing policy sees lifts installed only at walkways that do not have appropriate barrier-free access on a package-by-package basis subject to funding availability. Under the new policy, once approval is obtained from the Legislative Council Finance Committee to establish a dedicated funding source, a final prioritised list can be compiled in consultation with the relevant District Councils for early implementation. Compared to the existing policy, this is a huge breakthrough.

If some of the district requests for enhanced barrier-free access fall within the jurisdiction of the MTR Corporation Limited, the Link and, occasionally, private developments, I will appeal to these bodies to collaborate with the Government to provide an enhanced barrier-free environment.

August 21, 2012