Are Sri Lankan public buildings, hotels, banks and shopping centres falling below minimum accessibility standards for persons with reduced mobility? asked a corporate sector COO at a recent public function.
Pravir Samarasinghe, Chief Operating Officer of the Richard Pieris Group of Companies, posed this question at an awareness programme entitled ‘ACCESS ABILITY FOR ALL’ in Colombo by IDIRIYA, a non profit humanitarian service organization comprising a group of professionals in diverse fields working voluntarily towards empowering the physically disadvantaged in society who have reduced mobility.
The driving force behind IDIRIYA is Dr. Ajith C S Perera, a Chartered Chemist by profession, a former test match panel cricket umpire and a senior director in industry. He has been at the forefront of championing an enabling and modified environment at public buildings and places so as to open doors for the ‘disabled people’. A statement from Richard Pieris said that some public places have accommodated the needs of the ever increasing disabled sector of the population.
Arpico, with the guidance of IDIRIYA, has established facilities at Supercentres to cater to the needs of people experiencing restricted mobility. Ramps, wider shopping aisles, specially designed toilet facilities to accommodate wheelchairs and low check out lines are some of the features that are already in place at some of the Arpico Super Centres.
“Shopping is very much a part of day to day living and designers and builders of supermarkets and other places of public use should make a commitment to make their buildings, facilities and living environments more accessible and useable to all- customers, employees and all stakeholders alike - and thereby provide an equal opportunity for all to attend independently to their daily activities,” said Mr Samarasinghe.
Commenting on the need for further compliance, he noted that, although not noticed earlier, there is potential brand damage through lost opportunities associated with poor accessibility. Bad customer experiences in this area doesn’t get due attention of the senior decision makers nor does it trigger major brands into action.
He believes there is a return on this investment. Sri Lanka has a rapidly ageing population and a further increasing segment of the population with varying degrees of mobility restrictions - be they permanent or temporary in nature. Due to old age, deteriorating eye site, conditions like pregnancy and arthritis, illness and accidents, any one could encounter difficulties in mobility in their day to day lives and activities, he said.
Mr Pravir Samarasinghe speaking at the event