South China Morning News
25th September 2018
Are Hong Kong’s banks doing enough to help their disabled or elderly customers?
Given the extreme geography of the city, one step up may seem like the least difficult task of the day for many Hong Kong residents.
But, for the disabled, it can be an insurmountable barrier that keeps them from accessing the most basic of services.
The step – you’ll find it in the vast majority of shops and restaurants in the city – keeps water from heavy rains, such as those brought by Typhoon Mangkhut last week, from invading businesses and homes as it flows downhill.
That is the one of the many challenges for Hong Kong’s banks as they seek to catch up to their counterparts in other parts of the world and rework their branches and automated teller machine locations to make them more accessible for older and disabled residents in a city where extra space is often a luxury.
The city’s lenders have made progress – and are ahead of other Hong Kong businesses – but have a way to go before they are fully accessible, based on an informal survey of more than 100 locations carried out by South China Morning Post.
Nearly 90 per cent of the branches or ATM locations visited in Central, Causeway Bay, Mong Kok and Taikoo Shing required a step up to access a service counter or a banking machine.
More than half had no lifts or ramps, even temporary ones, to help wheelchair users access services.
Joseph Kwan, a Hong Kong architect who focuses on accessibility issues and works with the Hong Kong Federation for Handicapped Youth, said that step dates back to colonial-era rules that required a six-inch, barrier to prevent flooding and rot when stores and residencies had timber floors.
The step “is an archaic solution”, Kwan said. “There are many, many other solutions that are available. You go to other accessible places, like Vancouver or Japan. They can do it well. I say, if they can do it, why can’t we?”
Kwan said Hong Kong’s rules can make it difficult for businesses with limited space to build a ramp: the allowed slope for a one-foot rise would require a ramp 12-feet long.