Disability access facilities at Parliament

Dr. Ajith C. S. Perera presents copies of his recent publication: ‘Accessibility for All - Why You’ (left:) to the honourable speaker Mr. W. J. M. Lokubandara and (right:) to the Secretary-General of Parliament Mr. Dhammika Kitulgoda. Also in the two photos is Professor Bhathiya Jayasekera who accompanied Dr. Ajith Perera

Enhancing accessibility and usability of existing facilities for increasing numbers of persons requiring assistance with mobility, has been an important concern of the Parliament of Sri Lanka. Members of Parliament, VIPs, staff and the public have different entrances and other facilities situated on different floor levels.

Restricted mobility can result from a wide range of different conditions. Many of them are not readily apparent and also, as life unfolds, inevitable. All people, irrespective of their positions and possessions, run equally risks of such experiences, either for a short-time, a long-time or even a lifetime. A wide and diverse range of our population, estimated at over 15% (i.e. Three Million), are disadvantaged in accessing and using buildings.

An eye opener

As such, the initiative taken here by the Secretary-General of Parliament Mr. Dhammika Kitulgoda is most appropriate, timely and highly appreciated.

He said: "Improving accessibility of built environments will benefit a wide range of people affected by ageing or debilitating medical conditions, or injury. It is our moral duty and an act of justice to ensure this happens."

We hope that these endeavours by Parliament will encourage others also to create environments that are accessible and enabling to everyone equally, so that we become closer to establishing a society that does not marginalise or discriminate against people with reduced mobility.

Dr. Ajith C. S. Perera visited the Parliament building last week at the invitation of the Secretary General and completed an audit of facilities at identified key areas of this complex that extends over twelve acres. Dr. Perera was accompanied on this visit by Professor Bhathiya Jayasekera.

Ability within disability

Mr. Kitulgoda further said: "Parliament, unlike many public buildings, has high security systems and procedures in place. Its construction also has splendid architecture. Hence we required the expertise of a person with proven experience and wide practical knowledge to receive the right advice and guidance, as to how best to make the necessary improvements."

Dr. Perera, a Chartered Chemist by profession, is the Chief Executive of IDIRIYA, a registered organisation that’s exceptionally responsive towards ‘Designing for Inclusion of all people’.

A wheelchair user since 1993, he is a writer, speaker, presenter and a voluntary disability activist who has been a pioneer campaigner in Sri Lanka and also a consultant for user-friendly public buildings.

Many organisations have already benefited from Dr. Perera’s expertise, including HSBC and HNB banks, the Taj Samudra, Taj Airport Garden and Galadari hotels, the British Council, the Sri Lanka Standards Institution (for establishing the first SL Standard in building construction), Astron Limited, Mount Lavinia Post Office, Dehiwala Municipal Council, Dehiwala Central Library and the Urban Development Authority at ‘Sethsiripaya’ Battaramulla.

On this visit to the Parliament, Dr. Ajith Perera was also afforded the opportunity to meet and welcomed by the honourable Speaker Mr. W. J. M. Lokubandara at his chamber. Dr Perera presented the Speaker with a copy of his recent publication ‘Accessibility for All - Why You’ - a consciousness-raising ‘mind opener’ on ‘Accessibility to Built Environments’.

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