1. Mainland China
China’s Law on Protection of Disabled Persons, upon amendment in 2008, includes a chapter of 7 articles which require the State and society to adopt measures to construct barrier-free facilities and promote barrier-free information exchange “so the disabled may participate in social life on an equal basis”.
In 2012, the new Regulations on Construction of A Barrier-Free Environment (“Regulations”) came into operation. The Regulations require local governments to construct public facilities (including all urban, newly-constructed, altered and extended roads, public buildings, public transportation facilities, residential buildings, and residential communities) to accommodate persons with disabilities. The Regulations aim to create accessible and barrier-free environments inter alia to enable persons with disabilities and other members of society to participate equally in social life (Article 1).
“Construction of barrier-free environments” refers to construction activities to facilitate access by persons with disabilities to roads, entrances and exits of buildings, public transportation, exchanges of information, and community services in an independent and safe manner (Article 2).
Regarding rural areas and works already built which do not satisfy the new standards, the Regulations specify that the standards in such areas must be “gradually reached” (Article 9). The Regulations also require medium to large-sized public parking lots and parking lots in large residential communities in cities to designate barrier-free parking spaces for the exclusive use by physically-disabled persons (Article 14). The Regulations also require governments at various levels to promote barrier-free designs in information exchange (for example by providing examination papers printed in Braille, electronic examination papers, or staff assistance to attendees with visual disabilities at state-operated examinations) broadcast news programs with sign language at least once per week on state-run TV stations, and supply voice and written warnings and other information exchange services in public places in sign language and Braille (Articles 20, 21, and 24). Further, publicly distributed video products, including movies and TV shows, are required to include subtitles (Article 21).
British Columbia (Superintendent of Motor Vehicles) v. British Columbia (Council of Human Rights)
Court: Supreme Court of Canada
Date Decided: 16 December 1999
Case Synopsis: This case concerns the right to reasonable accommodation. Terry Grismer, a mining truck driver, filed a complaint to the British Columbia Council of Human Rights (“Council”) in 1994 as his license was cancelled by the British Columbia Superintendent of Motor Vehicles (“Superintendent”) on the basis that he had homonymous hemianopia (H.H.) and his field of vision was less than 120 degrees . The Council ordered the discrimination to cease. Subsequently, the Superintendent brought a petition for judicial review. The case went up to the Supreme Court of Canada whereby the Council’s decision that Mr. Grismer (who had already passed away by that time) should have been entitled to individual assessment was reaffirmed. Further, the Supreme Court awarded nominal damages of $500 and held that the Superintendent should have considered whether the restriction on Mr. Grismer’s license was necessary.
A detailed case summary is accessible here. The full case is accessible here.
Eldridge v British Columbia (Attorney General)
Court: Supreme Court of Canada
Date Decided: 9 October 1997
Case Synopsis: The appellants, Robin Eldridge and John and Linda Warren were born deaf. They preferred to communicate through sign language. After the Western Institute for the Deaf and Hard Hearing (a non-governmental organization) ceased to provide free medical interpreting services for the deaf, the appellants had to pay for sign language interpretation services to effectively communicate with their doctors. Evidence showed that in the absence of sign language interpretation services, miscommunication between deaf patients and their doctors could lead to misdiagnoses. At the Supreme Court, the appellants sought a declaration that the failure to provide sign language interpretation services as an insured benefit under the publicly funded Medical Services Plan violated s.15 (1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”), particularly the following:
“Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination … based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability”.
The Supreme Court accepted that effective communication was an integral part of medical services and concluded that the absence of a publicly funded sign language interpretation services violated the appellants’ equality rights under the Charter. The violation takes the form of denying the appellants equal benefit under the provincial health care system and barring them from enjoying the same quality of medical services provided to persons without such hearing disability.