‘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
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.”
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.