Disability rights advocacy groups yesterday accused Vice Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) of lying during a protest outside the Ministry of the Interior’s Construction and Planning Agency (CPA), because the agency failed to fulfill a promise Jiang made during his term as interior minister to require all restaurants to have wheelchair-accessible facilities.
Holding up signs accusing Jiang of lying and chanting slogans asking the government to help protect their rights, about a dozen people — most of them in wheelchairs — protested outside the agency’s headquarters in Taipei.
“In January last year, when a group of people in wheelchairs protested outside a fast-food restaurant in Taipei because there were stairs leading to the restaurant’s entrance, Jiang, who was minister of the interior at the time, promised to make all restaurants accessible [to people in wheelchairs] within a year,” said Chen Ming-li (陳明里), a project manager at Access for All in Taiwan.
“A year has passed, Jiang has been promoted to vice premier and yet we’re not getting what he promised,” Chen added.
On Monday, the agency announced a new change to the Building Technical Regulations (建築技術規則), which stipulates that all new buildings — regardless of classification — should be equipped with accessible facilities, while existing buildings that are classified as “public spaces” and with a surface area of 90 ping (300m2) or above would be required to have accessible facilities.
“When I take my daughter out, I always have to check a few days in advance to see if there are accessible restaurants where we are going,” said Chou Shu-ching (周淑菁), mother of a wheelchair-bound nine-year-old daughter.
“Sometimes we have to go hungry and wait until we get home to eat when there’s no such restaurants around. Even if we do find accessible restaurants, it often happens that these restaurants don’t have accessible restrooms and my daughter has to hold it until we get home,” Chou added.
Liu Yu-chi (劉于濟), a young man in a wheelchair, said that since most restaurants are not wheelchair-accessible, his girlfriend and he have few choices when they go out.
“This morning, I had to have my breakfast outside a McDonald’s because it is not accessible,” Liu said. “Most convenience stores affiliated with the four major convenience store chains in the country are wheelchair-accessible. I don’t understand why a restaurant chain like McDonald’s cannot do it.”
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康), who took part in the protest in support of the groups, said most restaurants that are 300m2 in size or bigger are usually more expensive dining establishments.
“This would add a burden to people with disabilities, who mostly carry heavy [financial] burdens already,” he said. “If the Ministry of the Interior insists [on enforcing accessibility regulations on large restaurants only], I propose that the ministry subsidizes dining costs for people in wheelchairs.”
CPA official Yang Che-wei (楊哲維), who received the protesters, explained that the final objective of the agency is to require all restaurants to be equipped with accessible facilities.
“The problem now is that it would be too big a task to inspect all restaurants, large or small, at once,” Yang said. “We are starting with restaurants that are 300m2 or larger, because these restaurants are already being periodically inspected for public safety and it is easier to start with them, for now.”