|LCQ14: Arrangements for mobility-handicapped persons on polling day
Following is a question by the Hon Fred Li and a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (October 20):
It is learnt that out of the 501 polling stations set up for the Legislative Council elections held on 12th of last month, only 287 (i.e. 57%) are fully accessible to mobility-handicapped persons, including wheelchair-bound persons "accessible polling stations". In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the reasons for the authorities' failure to provide accessible polling stations throughout the territory;
(b) of the measures or arrangements put in place to facilitate mobility-handicapped persons' access to those polling stations which were not fully accessible; and
(c) given that Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides that every citizen shall have the right and opportunity to vote at periodic elections, whether the authorities have assessed if their failure to provide accessible polling stations throughout the territory, thereby causing inconvenience to mobility-handicapped voters or affecting their motivation to vote, has violated the spirit of the above provision; if they have, of the assessment results?
Taking the question raised by the Honourable Fred Li as a whole, our reply is as follows:
Under the laws of Hong Kong, there is no distinction between disabled persons and other persons in terms of voting right. To facilitate disabled persons in casting their votes, the Registration and Electoral Office (REO) has made every effort in past elections to identify venues accessible to the mobility-handicapped or wheelchair-bound persons for use as polling stations. If a venue is not readily accessible to disabled persons, the REO would try to provide, where practicable, special facilities such as temporary ramps to make the venue an "accessible polling station" suitable for use by disabled persons.
However, in some cases, no suitable "accessible" venues in the neighbourhood of voters' places of residence are available for use as polling stations, and providing special facilities such as temporary ramps may not be feasible for certain polling stations due to environmental constraints. As a result, not all polling stations are accessible to disabled persons. Of the 501 polling stations set up for the 2004 Legislative Council election, a total of 287 (including 10 which were converted into accessible polling stations through the provision of special facilities by the REO) were "accessible polling stations" suitable for use by disabled persons, representing 57% of the total number of polling stations. The number of polling stations with such access is 71 more than that for last year's District Council election.
REO designates all "accessible" polling stations suitable for use by disabled persons as special polling stations. It is provided in the electoral legislation that if a person with a disability is allocated to a polling station unsuitable for his use, he may make a request, not later than five days before the polling day, to the REO for re-allocation to a special polling station in his constituency.
A map showing the location of the polling station to which an elector is allocated is attached to every poll card issued by the REO. The map will indicate whether the polling station allocated to the elector is suitable for use by disabled persons. For all polling stations which are unsuitable for use by disabled persons, the REO will specify on the map that an elector with a disability may apply to the REO for re-allocation to a special polling station in the same constituency.
When making arrangement to re-allocate a polling station for disabled persons, the REO will take the initiative to ask them if they need Rehabus service for commuting to the relevant polling station. The REO will then forward the list of electors in need of the service to the Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation to arrange for free Rehabus service.
The above arrangements should provide the necessary convenience to disabled persons to enable them to cast their votes. Thus, there should be no question of the arrangements violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The REO will continue to make every effort to identify venues accessible to disabled persons for use as polling stations in future elections.
Ends/Wednesday, October 20, 2004