The Supreme Court, in a fundamental rights application filed by a rights activist for the disabled, ordered further measures to be taken to provide easy access to public buildings for the disabled.
The application filed by Dr. Ajith C. S. Perera, the Chief Executive and Hony. Secretary General of IDIRIYA, a voluntary organisation promoting the rights of the disabled persons, was taken up for hearing on Wednesday before a bench comprising Chief Justice Asoka de Silva, Justices Saleem Marsoof and S.I. Imam.
The Court recognized that in terms of the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act and regulations made hereunder, no persons should be discriminated on the ground of disability and their mobility restricted in a manner which precludes or impedes them from gaining reasonable physical access to public buildings and facilities provided within such buildings, especially toilet facilities.
"Accordingly, the Court ordered that all new public buildings defined under the accessibility regulations No. 1 of October 17, 2006, should provide reasonable access in accordance with the design standards of regulations in force, to those who are physically challenged".
The Court further ordered that no building plan should be approved and no Certificate of Conformity for buildings issued by any local authority unless conforming to this court order. "Failure to comply would draw penal repercussions under the laws set out".
The court concluded that the proceedings are now terminated with a liberty to file a motion if there is any violation.
Dr. Perera, who appeared in person, complained to Court there is a continuing and ongoing discrimination affecting disabled people of Sri Lanka, thereby denying them productive opportunities as equal partners in national development.
Dr. Perera submitted that although the rights of the disabled have been guaranteed under the Protection of the Rights of Persons with the Disabilities Act No. 28 of 1996 and the Disabled Persons (Accessibility Regulations) Regulations No. 1 of 2006 these rights are yet not recognized and neglected at even new public places.
He pointed out that, contrary to the popular myth, it would not be expensive to establish these specified minimum design requirements at new buildings enabling the disabled easy access and furthermore eliminate common safety hazards even to all other people.
He said that there were a large number of disabled persons including armed forces members injured in the war who are inconvenienced by the continual failure to provide easy access in public places.
Dr. Perera earlier pointed out an estimated 16 per cent (three million) of the population are disabled with restricted mobility and require easy access to public buildings in day-to-day life. The petitioner had cited all Cabinet ministers and Chief Secretaries of Chief Ministers and the Urban Development Authority as respondents.
Deputy Solicitor General Indika Demuni de Silva assisted by Senior State Counsel V. Vigneswaran, appeared for the respondents at the hearings of the application.
Dr. Perera, a chartered chemist by profession and a former Test match panel cricket umpire, was injured when a large tree crashed on to the car in which he was travelling, resulting in him having to use a wheel-chair to get about.