August 29, 2013

City Buildings Found Wanting On Accessibility Standards

Up to 95% of public buildings in Kampala Central Business District (CBD) do not meet accessibility standards, three years after the introduction of guidelines to make them accessible to people with disabilities (PWDs).

In 2010, the Uganda National Action for Physical Disability (UNAPD) formulated standards that were later adopted to inform architects and engineers when drawing plans for new buildings.
In 2010, the Uganda National Action for Physical Disability (UNAPD) formulated standards that were later adopted to inform architects and engineers when drawing plans for new buildings.

This was revealed in a survey that was aimed at establishing the extent to which property developers and constructors adhere to the 2006 PWDs Act, and Article 9 of the 2008 UN Convention of the Rights of PWDs. The legal entities require the State and all players in the construction industry to construct building and facilities that are easily used by every person especially persons with disability.

In 2010, the Uganda National Action for Physical Disability (UNAPD) formulated standards that were later adopted to inform architects and engineers when drawing plans for new buildings. Only plans that adhered to the new guidelines were to be approved.

But the survey which covered hospitals, schools, banks, local authority, courts and police stations, hotels and places of worship shows priority has only been given to people with physical disabilities as compared to those with poor hearing and visual impairments.

George Kiyingi, UNAPD Acting Executive Director, told local media that once the building control standards Bill comes into law, it will be easier to prosecute offenders.

Most of the old buildings in Kampala were supposed to be upgraded to include specific aspects such as signage, ample parking, ramps, squat toilets with grab bars, and tactile markers to guide people with visual impairments among others.

Architect Phyllis Kwesiga of K.K Architects, Interior and Landscape Designers, who carried out the survey, says that the standards do not particularly benefit PWDs.

Mosques registered a noticeable improvement, they have ramps but they are located at the back of the main building or far from the stairs and parking. Corridors are wide to allow easy entry for persons on wheelchairs. At the old Kampala Mosque, the entrance is wide and painted in different colours, a signage for people with canes, but steps at the entrance are steep for people with physical disabilities to mount.

At Makerere University, ramps have been added to old buildings, but buildings lack markings on stare cases to aid the visually impaired people.

Hellen Grace Asamo, a Member of Parliament Representing PWDs in Eastern Uganda, like Moris Buwembo, a former student of Makerere and Angela Bulabo, the Executive Director Spinal Injury Association narrate their ordeal in accessing some of the public buildings.

According to the survey, Centenary Bank showed improvement after PWDs in Hoima sued its management for having inaccessible buildings, high counters and stairs leading to ATM machines.

Mulago Referral Hospital is accessible at the main entrance; however there was no signed parking for PWDs. The closest parking spot near the entrance to the hospital is occupied by the School of Public Health. Toilets for PWDs are on the 6th Floor and most of them have to crawl on cracked and chipped pavements. The Hospital has new beds for pregnant mothers with disabilities, but the attitude of care givers was said to be wanting.

The Central police Station was described as hard to access building, with steep stairs to different floors.

But MP Asamo is concerned that even as the building control bill is awaiting presidential assent to become law, most new buildings that are coming up in the CBD come short of the accessibility standards.

In the transport sector, buses were reported to be extremely inaccessible, with PWDs having to be lifted on board, while some stages or bus-stops had high pedestrian pavements.

Transport motorcycles commonly known as Boda boda were described by the report as the most difficult form of transport for PWDs since they could not climb on motorcycles or alight with their wheelchairs.

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