The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has written to the Ministry of Finance urging the Government to ensure the upcoming budget allocates funds for disability accessibility.
The Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Dr. Deepika Udagama, said in the letter that Accessibility Regulation No. 0l of 2006 requires that within a period of three years from the coming into operation of the regulations, all existing public buildings, public places and places where common services are available should be made accessible to persons with disabilities.
The decision of the Supreme Court in Dr. Ajith C.S. Perera v. Attorney General and Others, S.C. (FR) NO. 22112009 re-affirmed this right and stated that new public buildings or public places should be designed and constructed in accordance with the design requirements specified in the regulations in force thereby giving access to disabled
However, she noted that since even twelve years following the issuance of the Regulation the majority of public buildings and public transport in Sri Lanka are not yet disability accessible.
“We kindly request you to take necessary steps to ensure the allocation of sufficient funds in the upcoming budget pr the financial year 201912020, to renovate and make required structural changes to existing public buildings and transport to provide access facilities to persons with disabilities,” she said.
The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka noted that during the past three years the Commission has engaged in numerous activities to ensure persons with disabilities have access to public buildings and transport, such as conducting training programmes with the\ collaboration of the Human Rights Commission of Australia and conducting audits of public buildings to assess disability accessibility.
The Commission notes that the lack of access to public buildings can adversely impact a person’s life and education and livelihood opportunities, as in a complaint made to the Commission by an undergraduate who was unable to continue studying at the Institute of Indigenous Medicine, University of Colombo, due to the buildings not being disability accessible.
While Article 14 (i) (h) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka guarantees freedom of movement, Article 12 (4) of the Constitution makes provision for special measures to be taken for the advancement of persons with disabilities.
Also, Sri Lanka as a State Party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has undertaken international legal obligations to enable persons with disabilities to access, inter alia, facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas.