Ombudsman probes government regulation of rehabilitation transport services to persons with mobility difficulties
20 November 2014
The Ombudsman, Ms Connie Lau, declared today (November 20) a direct investigation into the Administration’s implementation of the policy formulated in 2007 on provision of special transport services to persons with disabilities who cannot use public transport, and any measures against unauthorised operations of rehabilitation transport services to protect the safety and interests of persons with disabilities.
According to a feature article about persons with disabilities or chronic diseases published by the Census and Statistics Department in 2009, there were about 187,800 persons with physical disabilities in Hong Kong in 2007. Currently, barrier-free access facilities are available on some forms of public transport for persons with disabilities. Nevertheless, for those who cannot use public transport, provision of special transport services such as Rehabus and other personalised transport services of acceptable standard is very important.
In 2007, the Rehabilitation Advisory Committee released the Hong Kong Rehabilitation Programme Plan and set out the policy objectives to facilitate the integration of persons with disabilities into the community, which included its proposal for the Government to provide a barrier-free environment on access to facilities and public transportation as well as to provide special transport services to those who cannot use public transport. In 2013-14, there were, however, only about 135 Rehabuses operated by the Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation, providing special transport services to persons with disabilities. With excessive demand, there are tens of thousands of unsuccessful bookings for Rehabus services every year. Although some personalised transport services for people with disabilities are provided by a few organisations, there is still a serious shortage of special transport services. As a result, transport services for wheelchair users provided by unauthorised operators using altered vehicles (unlicensed rehabilitation vehicles) are not uncommon.
The Office of The Ombudsman has noticed that many people with disabilities resort to unauthorised rehabilitation transport services because they cannot use the legitimate special transport services. However, whether the facilities and installations on the vehicles meet the standard requirements and whether the safety of passengers with disabilities can be ensured and their interests protected remain questionable.
In this connection, The Ombudsman considers it necessary to examine the implementation of the policy on special transport services, the follow-up action on the problem of undersupply of such services, and any measures taken by the departments concerned against unauthorised operations of rehabilitation transport services.
Ms Lau said, “With an ageing population in Hong Kong, the number of persons with mobility difficulties is expected to increase, thus further aggravating the problem of inadequate special transport services. If they have to resort to unauthorised rehabilitation transport services owing to the undersupply of special transport services, we should be alert because the safety installations on the vehicles used, the special training of drivers on serving passengers with disabilities and the vehicle insurance coverage are all open to question. We decided to initiate a direct investigation into this topic to identify areas for improvement in order to assist the Administration in taking preventive measures.”
This direct investigation will cover:
(1) progress on the implementation of the policy on special transport services and the follow-up actions regarding the problem of undersupply of such services; and
(2) the measures taken by the departments concerned against unauthorised operations of rehabilitation transport service.
The Ombudsman welcomes public views and other information on this investigation. Comments in writing should reach the Office of The Ombudsman by December 19:
Address: 30/F, China Merchants Tower, Shun Tak Centre
168-200 Connaught Road Central, Hong Kong
Fax: 2882 8149
Office of The Ombudsman
20 November 2014