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Government Gazette

‘Designing for inclusion of all people’:

Accessibility an indispensable investment

“It is good business sense to ‘design for inclusion of all people’ since it is a wise investment that will immediately start paying rich dividends. Businesses that have

Ajith C.S. Perera

the vision and the will to embrace and manage ‘Diversity of the Community’ will enhance their business performance, fulfill customer delight and will soon prosper.

On the other hand, physical obstacles to access goods, services and facilities, send an unintended but a big message of unwelcome,” said Chief Executive/Secretary-General, Chartered Analytical Chemist Ajith C.S. Perera.

He is a former senior manager in the pharmaceutical industry, a voluntary disability rights activist and a component advisor on designing for ‘Equal access for all’, promoting, advising and working towards constructing public buildings and places.

“In reality, and contrary to the widely held belief that accessibility is costly and non-essential or unnecessary expense, it is often an indispensable investment with good financial and social returns, especially at a time we all, especially the business community, have a moral duty towards the productive re-integration into society of our heroic soldiers who have sacrificed their limbs towards protecting all of us and mother Lanka,” he said.

“Soon, nearly fifth of our population will become senior citizens. A wide range of medical conditions and the alarming rise of man-made disasters (Ex: road accidents) lead to an increased number of people becoming debilitated,” he said.

“As such, in any collection of human beings, differences in mobility are inevitable, vary widely and hence are normal. An estimated 16 percent of people in our country (more than three million) already find their mobility curtailed to varying degrees, either for short time or long time,” Ajith said.

“It is also paramount to recognize the fact that ‘disability’ is not just about visible conditions such as people in wheelchairs or using crutches. There are more people, rapidly increasing in numbers with debilitating conditions that are not seen easily and thereby go unrecognized. They too have disposable income, which any business would like to tap into,” he said.

He said, “No company in today’s highly competitive business environment can afford to leave out anybody who wants to do business with them, as every customer lost is a business opportunity lost. I have seen, especially in the banking sector, loss of one customer due to ability limitations often leads to the loss of several other customers, their family members in particular.”

“Accessibility to public buildings, their facilities and services is a fundamental right already made mandatory by law. As such, observing the law should be your business’s moral duty. It is an illegal and an inhumane act, to violate the law on accessibility.

To oppose such violation, at least with new buildings coming up, should also be your business’s moral duty in the larger interest of the society with which you do business. There is an injurious myth generated and promoted by those who have no real practical knowledge about this subject, such as, establishing accessibility is too costly.

If the ‘right measures are incorporated rightly’ at the design stage as an integral part of the development of the construction, the cost incurred will be minimal and adds less than three percent to the cost of construction. However, right things must be done rightly ‘first time’ without any margin for error,” he said.

“The Tourist Board in our country has embarked a new project called Narabamu Sri Lanka which is more a family affair with the main intention of empowering the tourism industry in Sri Lanka. As we know, the world population is becoming an aging population rapidly.

Therefore, an industry such as tourism needs to have the facts and figures of how many elderly people are visiting Sri Lanka with their families and what are the accessible facilities; especially toilets and wash rooms for them in our hotels.

We should not underestimate the ageing tourists who are visiting our country because they have the money, desire, and time since they are not bounded by any responsibilities. Therefore, it is a lucrative potential group we have yet left untapped ” Ajith said.


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